Adapting the Merchant’s Tale

I remember a few years ago in college one of my English teachers set us the task of taking a section from the Merchant’s tale and adapting it to a genre. I was given fantasy (or in reality I took fantasy), I wrote it up and had to read it out in class and I won the competition. Unfortunately I have since lost that piece for which I’m gutted. I’ve been searching for it and hopefully I’ll find it. But I thought it might be cool to adapt the whole story, you know, for fun. So Section by section I shall post the story until it’s complete along with the original. I’ll aim to do this every week if I remember.

But for now, here’s the first part:

The Merchant’s Prologue:

On continued the journey to the sacred site, trudging forth the change in scenery was gradual but the change in conversation was constant. The end of the Clerk’s tale brought with it much chatter. The only one who spoke not was the brooding Merchant. Misery consumed him until it forced him to speak.

“A life of sorrow belongs to me. In my head I wail and weep,” said the Merchant. “Married life is not for me for my wife is worse than the devil.” At this there was much wincing, to take the devil’s name in vain would surely summon him from the depths of his fiery abode. Magic he could wield in abundance and peasants, like those who travelled the dreary path to Canterbury, had not a wisp of the ethereal power to protect them.

“The woman is malicious and no better than a shrew. Why I married her I do not remember but regret is with me every day. There is much difference between my wife and the Clerk’s.” As the Merchant paused once more for breath he noted the incredulous looks on the faces of his companions. They found him hard to believe and this only angered the Merchant more. “What I say is the truth; the gods should shield men from this hell. These past two months have been the worst.”  

 At this laughter rumbled throughout the peasants. How can a husband of two months be any judge of married life? When the mirth had faded attention had turned back to the story-telling competition. So far the Miller had garnered the most support and many were curious to know if it could be beaten. Troubles were forgotten in the midst of the tales and with each story the sacred site felt closer, despite the miles that still separated them.

Emboldened by their attitude the Merchant yelled: “I will tell you a story. I will show you what marriage really is. I will show you what fools you are. For I tell you now of an old knight, entrusted with the power of magic, named Januarie and a wicked young maiden called May.”


‘Weping and wailing, care and oother sorwe

I knowe ynogh, on even and a-morwe,’

Quod the Merchant, ‘and so doon other mo

That wedded been. I trowe that it be so,

For wel I woot it fareth so with me.

I have a wyf, the worste that may be;

For though the feend to hire ycoupled were,

She woulde him overmacche, I dar wel swere.

What sholde I yow reherce in special

Hir hye malice? She is a shrewe at al.

Ther is a long and large difference

Bitwix Grisildis grete pacience

And of my wyf the passing crueltee.

Were I unbounden, also moot I thee,

I wolde nevere eft comen in the snare.

We wedded men liven in sorwe and care.

Assaye whoso wole, and he shal finde

That I seye sooth, by Seint Thomas of Inde,

As for the moore part, I sey nat alle.

God shilde that it sholde so bifalle!

A, goode sire Hoost, I have ywedded bee

Thise monthes two, and moore nat, pardee;

And yet, I trowe, he that al his live

Wyflees hath been, though that men wolde him


Unto the herte, ne koude in no manere

Tellen so muchel sorwe as I now here

Koude tellen of my wyves cursednesse!’

‘Now,’ quod oure Hoost, ‘Marchaunt, so God

yow blesse,

Sin ye so muchel knowen of that art

Ful hertely I pray yow telle us part.’

‘Gladly,’ quod he, ‘but of myn owene soore,

For soory herte, I telle may namoore.’    


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