The Merchants Tale

A Story of Love and Deciept


This tale begins with the opinionated statements of the Merchant, and his bad experience with marriage. He enlightens on the fact that he is already miserable in marriage after a couple months, and sarcastically praises his wife. He starts the tale, explaining how an old Knight seeks for a maiden to pronounce an heir and fulfill God's wishes, as he asks his friends for advice. Justinius, the righteous man, advises the knight not to marry, for the unfaithfulness of women. Placebo, the more flattering friend tells the Knight that the decision should be his. The knight, a seasoned old man named January, ends up marrying a young woman named may. One of Januarys advisors falls so deeply in love with May that he becomes ill. As May takes care of him, they exchange love letters and May gives the ailing boy a key to Januarys Garden so that they can be together. When January becomes blind, he requests that May follow wherever he may go, never leaving his side. Meanwhile the God Pluto and his wife debate on who should be helped, coming to the conclusion that January will be given back his sight to catch his deceitful wife, although she is given a righteous excuse. As the previously ill boy is waiting for May atop a pear tree within the garden, May and January enter. May says she would like a pear so she climbs the tree and makes love with the young advisor. Just then, Pluto gives January his sight back, and catches his wife in the act. She simply tells her delusional old husband that his eyes fault him, just as they do when waking from a deep sleep. With a perfect excuse, January knows not of what actually happened in the tree, and life goes on undisturbed.

Broken hearts Left Unscarred

With January, the dead, white month representing the old knight, and May representing the fruitful young wife, this story characterizes the faulty meaning of love during the Medieval age. By the faults of both partners, the value of love is portrayed in this tale. Needing a woman only to fulfill his wishes, January does not search very hard for his soulmate. With May, a young woman, to take the place of his wife, january can have an heir to his assets and satisfy himself. SInce there never was true love between the two, it is only natural for this young maiden to want a real lover.As old and feeble as January is, he assumes that May will obey his every desire. As told by the Merchant, and the character Justidius, women are known to be un loyal. What these men fail to realize is that no woman wants to be subject to a lack of romance and young charm. Although his wife is promiscuous, the old man's lack of judgement is what allowed it to happen all together. The miscommunication between two entirely different lovers ends up with no damage done at all, thanks to some divine intervention.

Essential Questions

What factors provide a fault in the love of January and May?

Does love have any outside influences besides what the heart wants?


forsaken-to quit or leave entirely; abandon; desert

exalted-to raise in rank, honor, power, character

prudence-wise or judicious in practical affairs

somber- gloomily dark; shadowy; dimly lighted

steadfast-firm in purpose, resolution, faith, attachment


For this tale, I did not understand the relationship between the names January and May. Of course I knew that they were months but it took some research and analysis to realize their true meaning. The characterization of names into months was a very important part of the tale. Like the month, January was dead and white, whereas May was lively and exuberant

The Merchant

He was a proud man with a forked beard and a beaver hat. His clothes were made from various trades, and he made well for himself in this business. If he had it his way, all waters would be guarded to allow for safe trade. No one would ever know the merchant was in debt nor would he let them.