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Day 8 – The Eternal Bachelor

Posted by Amanda Jane on April 22, 2015

Selected Readings Goal: 1350 | Started: 1 | Finished: 0 | Remaining: 1350

Currently Reading: The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

Today’s Reading: The Merchant’s Prologue, The Merchant’s Tale, Epilogue to The Merchant’s Tale, | Pages: 410-442


*sigh* Bachelor no more George Clooney and his new Mrs.

Ahhh, the eternal bachelor.  The wild stallion, forever young, that many of us would give anything to tame.  (Are you listening, George? I was available too, you know!) Will there come a day when this stallion will trade worldwide adventures for the comparatively quiet life of domesticity? (apparently, yes)

The time for settling down came to a noble knight named January, at the age of sixty.  In The Merchant’s Tale, we learn about his decision to settle down, his picking of a young wife, who ultimately cheats on him with another, and how the domestic life he imagined didn’t turn out to be as carefree and jubilant as he believed it would be.

At the beginning of the story, January calls his friends to confer with them as to whether taking a wife is the right thing to do, for:

“[as Solomon said] Do everything by counsel…and then thou has no cause to repent thee” (417).

Some think it’s a good idea, while some disagree.  Here, according to January’s friends, are “Points to Consider Before Abandoning Eternal Bachelorhood.”


  • Freedom isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Being free from the fetters of domestic responsibility might surely sound desirable to some, but after living a life where no one is there to help or comfort you because it’s not their job, or there is nothing in it for them, it would be a joy to have someone be there when the world beats you down.

Whereas these bachelors do but sing “Alas!”/When they fall into some adversity

In love, which is but childish vanity./And truly, it is well that it is so

That bachelors have often pain and woe;/On shifting ground they build, and shiftiness

They find when they suppose they’ve certainness./They live but as a bird does, or a beast,

In liberty and under no arrest,/Whereas a wedded man in his high state

Lives a life blissful, ordered, moderate,/Under the yoke of happy marriage bound; (412).

  • A wife will be there to comfort, serve, and provide you with children.

Leaving aside the fact that every woman is imperfect, the same as every man, overall, the responsibility of a married couple is to be there for each other.  It is such an important part of the marriage state that is clearly set forth in the marriage vows: “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health,” etc.

For who can be so docile as a wife?/Who is so true as she whose aim in life

Is comfort for him, sick or well, to make?/For weal or woe she will not him forsake.

She’s ne’er too tired to love and serve, say I,/Though he may lie bedridden till he die (412).

And also:

“Let him take a wife whose quality he’s known/For lawful procreation of his own

Blood children, to the honor of God above” (416).

  • Woman was created to be Man’s helpmeet.

He quotes biblical passages on the creation of Eve, then goes on to describe the wonder that is Woman.

A wife is a man’s help and his comfort,/His earthly paradise and means of sport;

So docile and so virtuous is she/That they must needs live all in harmony…

How may a man have any adversity/Who has a wife? Truly, I cannot say…

If he be poor, why, she helps him to swink;/She keeps his money and never wastes a deal;

All that her husband wishes she likes well;/She never once says “nay” when he says “yea.”

“Do this,” says he; “All ready, sir,” she’ll say” (413).

Yeah, sure she will.  I prefer Seneca’s description, personally.

“There is not a pleasure so superlative…as a humble wife can give.

Suffer your wife’s tongue, Cato bids, as fit;/She shall command, and you shall suffer it;

And yet, she will obey, of courtesy./A wife is keeper of your husbandry;” (414).


  • A woman is too expensive and will put a strain on your wallet.

Oh, come on, we’re not all princesses.  Nonetheless, here’s the argument from Theophrastus:

“Take not a wife,” said he, “for husbandry,/If you would spare in household your expense;

A faithful servant does more diligence/To keep your goods than your own wedded wife.

For she will claim a half part all her life;” (412).

  • Women cannot always be trusted. You have to be careful of her motives.

Wise Justinus, friend to old January, had this to say about marrying a woman:

“…a man ought well himself advise/To whom he’ll give his chattels or his land.

And since I ought to know just where I stand/How much more well advised I ought to be

To whom I give my body; for alway/I warn you well, that it is not child’s play

To take a wife without much advisement” (418).

  • What if she changes colors and turns out to be different than you thought. You’d be stuck.

Justinus continues advising his friend:

“Men must inquire, and this is my intent,/Whether she’s wise, or sober, or drunkard,

Or proud, or else in other things froward,/Or shrewish, or a waster of what’s had,

Or rich, or poor, or whether she’s man-mad./And be it true that no man finds, or shall,

One in this world that perfect is in all…With any wife, if so were that she had

More traits of virtue that her vices bad;” (418-419).

These just barely scratch the surface as to what kinds of things a man needs to consider before taking a wife.  It kind of puts me in mind of an article I wrote for engaged couples for my event design company about how to get to know each other better before making the ultimate decision.  Here is the printout of the Partner Survey exercise for your benefit and amusement. 🙂

I’ll end with this cheeky but wise retort:

“A wife is God’s own gift, aye verily;/All other kinds of gifts, most certainly…

…pass away like shadows on the wall./But without doubt, if plainly speak I shall,

A wife will last, and in your house endure/Longer than you would like, peradventure” (413).


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