In fact, the figure of the aged or feeble lover is frequent in literature of all ages.
In this tale, as in others, the reader assumes that the older man will be cuckolded by a younger, handsomer, more virile man, especially because the older man has difficulty coping with his young wife in bed.
A marriage between a decrepit old man and a young maiden is commonly referred to as a January-May wedding, taken of course from this tale.
While this tale is the most original of Chaucer's, the trick played at the end on the old dotard — often referred to as the "Pear-Tree episode" — was found in many popular tales of the time.
He bitterly regrets that he is tied to her for life but hopes no one will mention it because women have ways of finding out.
Analysis Even for those who have never read The Merchant's Tale, the concept is widely familiar.She "went up into the tree, and Damian / Pulled up her smock at once and in he thrust" ("Damian / Gan pullen up the smok, an in he throng").At this moment, while the couple is in amorous bliss, January's sight is miraculously restored.We realize his decision is less the result of holiness than his dotage and his desire for an heir (only in marriage can a man sire an heir to his lands and castles). Theophrastus (Theofraste) the author of a book on nuptials and sometimes quoted by St. Rebecca, Judith, Abigail, Esther biblical women noted for their good advice or actions.Solomon (Salomon) the author of the Book of Proverbs.placebo anything easy to swallow, pleasing, and acceptable, as is Placebo's advice to the Knight.Zion the land in and around Jerusalem; by Chaucer's day, it also meant the heavenly city.His reasons are clear enough: He wants to fulfill God's wish that man and woman marry, and he wants a son to inherit his estates.January calls many of his friends together to listen to his plans and to offer him advice.In his tale, however, the Merchant offers such high praise of marriage and such praise for the role of the wife that his guests are confused as to whether he is sincere or being sarcastic.In The Merchant's Tale, January, a wealthy, elderly knight, decides to marry.