Januarie sees Maye Essay

Published: 2021-06-30 23:55:05
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Money and possessions are continually resurfacing themes in The Merchant’s Prologue and Tale. The Merchant’s Tale has a subtle mind behind the narration, as an audience we are never sure whether the tale is being narrated by the Merchant or Chaucer himself. In the general Prologue the portrait of the merchant is unfavourable; the Merchant an ignorant, misogyist who is obsessed with money and financial gain, his insensitivity in this regard permeates the tale in his belief that everything has a price tag tied around its neck.
Januarie’s reasons for marriage are entirely self-serving; concern for his soul and a desire for a youg, beautiful wife who will satisfy his needs with minimum maintenance, both achieved in one fell swoop. Januarie treats the acquisition of a wife like the purchase of property “Thanne is a wyf the fruyt of his tresor” he constantly brings in financial imagery, the recurring economic motive reveal Januarie’s view of marriage as a financial contract or animal passion, but as nothing of greater value.
From a linguistic perspective Januarie’s lexis persistently contains economic undertones “‘Ne Take now wyf,’ qoud he, ‘for Housbondrye,’, As for to spare in household thy dispense”, here Januarie uses wordplay to state the benefits of marriage, such as to economise household expenditures. Husbandry is polysemous, in this context it means domestic economy, however it could also mean the act of being a husband. This pun shows the correlation between marriage and money.
According to scholastic definition, a Merchant buys goods only to sell them again, just as he received them, at a higher price. Hence by definition a merchant is rarely interested in the object he is selling but rather what it will bring and what its worth. In allegorical terms it can be argued Januarie is a merchant. Januarie buys Maye for Heaven on Earth “So delicat, withouten wo and stryf, That I shal havemyn hevene in erthe heere”, he is not only interested in her as a sexual object but what she will be bring and what she is worth.
Ultimately Maye’s role in the tale should be irrelevant ,in line with medieval attitudes towards women, the absence of her name and her taciturn nature up until Januarie’s blindness cast her as nothing more than a piece of Januarie’s property, Maye is window dressing, a trophy wife to compensate for Janruarie’s “stooping” age. Maye is viewed by Januarie as merely “moebles”; personal property. From a biblical perspective she is nothing more than a “yifte”; a gift from God. Women in medieval terms are viewed as chattel, an article of movable personal property or a slave.
Januarie talks of Maye as “A wyf to laste unto his lyves ende, for thanne his lyfe is set in sikernesse” here, women are equated with property. “If I yow tolde of every scrit and bond, by which that she was feffed in his lond, or for to herken of hir riche array” The field from which the language is drawn is almost contractual and legalistic this reflects the terms in which Januarie sees Maye, Januarie finally condescends to buy Maye: emphasis is placed on the fact this purchase does not come cheaply.
Later on in the tale Januarie asks Maye to think how he decided to choose her “noght for no coveitise, doutelees” he chose her for love not because of wealth. Januarie selects a woman without property or status, thinking this will guarantee his control over her. This reflects the social and cultural and an attitude of the time where title is equated with nobility and personal wealth is tied with respectability. When looking for a wife January literally ‘shops’ for the girl who will be fortunate enough to become his bride.

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