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The Merchant’s and The Franklin’s Tales

The Merchant’s and Franklin’s Tales continues the central theme of marriage and divine providence. The stories reflect souls that know themselves well and those souls that do not. The unexamined life is not worth living. In the Merchant’s Tale, old January is a lusty man, but cannot commit fornication. So he reasons to fulfill his passions in marriage to young May. It is marriage for the wrong reasons. He has found a loophole in God’s law. It is a sham marriage. The husband goes blind and cannot see he is being cuckolded. His sight returns and she tells him not to believe what he sees. He remains blind, both spiritually and emotionally. He does not know himself. The Franklin’s Story is about courtly love, a popular story of the time. A knight falls in love with a lady. He sails off and she worries he will die on the rocks of the coast. A squire in town falls in love with her, promises to remove the rocks to win her favor. He does. The knight returns safe, she must keep her promise, the squire says no. They all follow the new commandment: just be nice. They do not know themselves.

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