Chaucer's 'The Merchant's Tale': Marriage & relationships

Lesson Rationale

'The Merchant's Tale' can be viewed as one of the 'marriage' tales in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. Students can use this series of activities to explore how Chaucer portrays marriage, men and women and relationships through the narrative of the Merchant, and the characters, imagery and settings of the tale.

Key questions

  • How is the theme of marriage introduced through the character of the Merchant?
  • What is revealed about January's attitude to marriage?
  • How does Chaucer's portrayal of May both challenge and engage our sympathies?
  • How does imagery and the use of settings affect our view of relationships in the tale?
  • How does the introduction of the gods Pluto and Proserpina affect our understanding of marriage in the tale?