Get help from the best in academic writing.

Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales – The Modern and Mediaeval Merchant’s Tale

The Modern and Mediaeval Merchant’s Tale

“The Merchant’s Prologue and Tale” is mainly concerned with the infidelity of May while she is married to Januarie. Infidelity is undoubtedly a popular topic for discussion in modern times and is often the subject of magazine or television stories. Despite the concern with marriage and the status of men and women within such a relationship keeping the story applicable to the audience even more than 600 years later, there are many elements of the Prologue and Tale which root them in a mediaeval context. The reasons to marry and the opinions cited show the attitudes of the mediaeval period as do the references to mythological figures such as “Ymeneus, that god of wedding is”.

Symbolising how the mediaeval and modern aspects of the Tale can be easily combined is the story of Pluto and Proserpina. Although Pluto captures his wife, she is able to spend much of the year away from Hades. This is symbolic of the greater liberty that many women can enjoy in the modern world. Opposing this modern link is the relationship between Januarie and May which is shown to have followed mediaeval tradition to a greater extent concerning the actual marriage and the mercantile nature in which it is brought about. Rather than the freedom for Proserpina agreed between herself and Pluto, Januarie desires a wife of “warm wex” that he can control, ultimately causing May to betray him.

Januarie’s reasons for marrying are seen as improper both in the mediaeval and modern contexts. He wishes to be married simply because he is old and society seems to say that he should. There is no consideration of love, only of lust as he declares, “I wol noon oold wyf han in no manere”. A mediaeval audience would have been aware that an emphasis on carnal pleasure was displeasing to God, while this would be less of an issue to a modern audience. As marriage was considered by the mediaeval audience to be an embodiment of Christ’s devotion to the Church, the theme of infidelity would be apparent to the modern audience, but without the ironic details obvious to the earlier audience. In addition to this, the simple fact that Januarie’s friends are prepared to find “to whom [he] may be wedded hastily”, rather than let Januarie look for himself roots the Tale in a mediaeval context as such an idea is almost inconceivable in the year 2000.

Essay on Faust and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein comparison compare contrast essays

Faust and Frankenstein Still the wretched fools they were before Goethe in Faust and Shelley in Frankenstein, wrap their stories around two men whose mental and physical actions parallel one another. Both stories deal with characters, who strive to be the bermensch in their world. In Faust, the striving fellow, Faust, seeks physical and mental wholeness in knowledge and disaster in lust. In Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein struggles for control over one aspect of nature and disastrously, through the monster, nature controls him to a much greater degree. Many powers are much too mighty for mortal souls, a lesson that Frankenstein and Faust learn by the end of their tales. While voluntarily excommunicating themselves from society, both characters accomplish a portion of their goal and yet they remain unhappy because they never control the “perfect” life they have built for themselves. In Faust, the intelligent gentleman Faust, seeks spiritual wholeness in knowledge. Through years of hard study, Faust becomes knowledgeable in math, sciences and religion and yet he becomes inept and incapable of having any romantic or physical relationships with the outside world. As Faust strives to become the “over man” through knowledge, he realizes that books will not satisfy his curiosity and that maybe sensual pleasures will. Therefore, in the process of creating his new life, Faust, becomes distant and unconcerned with all reality and humanity around him. Do not fancy anything right, do not fancy that I could teach or assert what would better mankind or what might convert. I also have neither money nor treasures, nor worldly honors or earthly pleasures; no dog would want to live this way!(p. 95) Obviously, Faust has fallen into a inhumane state of living, through the pursuit of the unattainable. He becomes greedy, desperate and feels justified in whatever it takes to achieve a position of the over man. At that time, Christians and society in general considered his pursuit for lust immoral, unjust and irresponsible. When Faust sets his sights on an object, whether knowledge or women, he demands nothing less of himself than that which will get it. In many situations dedication to an act is reputable; education, sports, career. It seems then, that to become the bermensch and pursue excellence, one must stay dedicated to one’s goal and dismiss the world around him. In the process of creating his monster, Victor Frankenstein ignores the outside world; The summer months passed while I was thus engaged, heart and soul, in one pursuit. It was a most beautiful season; never did the fields bestow a more plentiful harvest, or the vines yield a more luxuriant vintage: but my eyes were insensible to the charms of nature. And the same feelings which made me neglect the scenes around me caused also to forget those friends who were so many miles absent…(p.53) Frankenstein becomes so wrapped up in his curiosity of creation, that he utterly ignores the outside world. Therefore, Faust and Frankenstein’s desire to create, lead them to withdraw themselves from society. Faust desires to create love and possess a woman, so that he can feel all that the world has to offer. Frankenstein, desires to create life and become a motherly figure which supersedes any other emotion or need. Although, the characters have different desires their actions and thoughts are similar. Even after successfully of creating what they anted for themselves, Faust and Frankenstein remain unhappy. This unhappiness causes Faust and Frankenstein to commit acts far more evil than ever before. In this unhappiness, Faust’s emotions become irrational and immoral towards Gretchen and Frankenstein ignores his “beautiful” creation. When Victor’s creation transforms itself from idea to reality, Frankenstein immediately looses control over it and himself. …but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart. Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room, and continued a long time traversing my bedchamber, unable to compose my mind to sleep.(p.56) This example communicates not only the lack of maturity of Frankenstein but also the thoughtlessness that he has toward his creation. Frankenstein reveals, through his running, fainting and the coma that he had not thought of the ramifications and responsibilities that his creation entailed. Before they created, Faust and Frankenstein thought that the mere creation and use of powers would immediately bring joy to their lives. However, when their magical creations became reality and brought them more pain they removed themselves from the situation. It can be seen then that using these powers in order to gain material objects is destructive

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.