Obviously there are any number of possible extracts from the tale – we are looking for around 40 lines of poetry which can clearly be used to discuss character or thematic development. Here are a few to work with – all students should be finding their own and working out the key features of any passage to assist with answering the essay question. DO NOT LEAVE IT TO CHANCE.
L 1-48 (“… and his wyf) My thought here is to link the prologue to the tale, possibly by exploring the links between The Merchant and his male protagonist.
L99 (“… a wyf is Goddes yifte) – 149 (“wol the rede”) This section introduces Januarie’s attitude to marriage and will set up numerous discussions about what actually happens and open the discussion of irony.
L173 (If thou lovest thyself) – 210 (greet forage) One of my favourite sections with plenty of characterisation and the use of Auctoritas and Exempla in the writing. Still focused on Januarie’s lust-driven search for a young wife.
L217-257 Again, focused on the issues around youth and marriage
L349 (“trusteth me”) – 387 Justinus’ advice is ignored as a prelude to a discussion of Januarie’s character. We also see Chaucer’s own voice possibly intruding at the end of this section: “love is blind allday and may nat see”.
L427 (“I have, quod he”) – 461 This section looks at Justinus and his character as well as allowing a discussion of Januarie and the ironic outcome of this advice which Januarie ignores.
L538-580 Looking at Januarie’s character at the (very short) wedding.
L609-650 The description of the love-making could be sed to develop discussion of both Januarie and May. Whilst the content might make it less likely to be used this summer, this is a key passage for useful quotations showing broad knowledge of the text.
L662-704 A useful passage to consider the characters of Damyan and Januarie. Plenty of typical irony here!
L721 (“This fresshe May”) – 764 (“I wole holde my pees”) Focuses on May and Damyan as well as extending the plot. Students should be mining this area of the text for Fabliau-type comments about Courtly Love.
L783 (“This gentil May”)- 825 (“under a laurer alwey greene”) Much here on setting – The garden/Eden links, use of the tree as a phallic image, plenty of irony given what will happen.
L885 (“upon the other side…”) – 912 establishes the love-triangle and allows any of the three characters to be discussed at some length. There is also a short Exemplum using a Classical Auctoritas – highly typical of Chaucer’s writing and here it is short enough not to detract from the passage.
L973 (“This fresshe May…”) – 1018 possibly not to be used since it is a little disparate, but I want to draw attention to the wonderfully heightened poetry at LL1007-1012.
L1116 (“this fresshe May that is so bright and sheene”)-1155 Looking at the build up to the cuckolding and to the actual event itself.
L1150 – 1199 is discussed here: model response
I hope these help – find your own and practice working the passage toyour advantage – you need to know the whole text and should be able to discuss language, structure and form in this question.
Merchant’s tale extracts a powerpoint by Alistair (y12) in response to this post.