Domestic Opportunities: The Social Comedy of the Shipman's Tale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


The Shipman's Tale and its comic equation of sex and money have long been read as a commentary on the late medieval merchant. Gardiner Stillwell and Albert H. Silverman saw the Tale as "a satire upon the merchant's serious, sober, business-like manner of living." V. J. Scattergood thought that it is pervaded by a mercantile ethos, which is being exposed as limited and worldly. Others have taken the view that it portrays the merchant's business practices as dubious and the impact of commerce on individual souls as damagingly sinful. At the same time the Shipman Tale's depiction of late medieval bourgeois life and mercantile practices has been praised for its realism and made the subject of detailed economic analysis. Although such analyses often recognize the merchant's wife as the most interesting character in the tale, much less attention has been paid to her situation -- either as it functions within the narrative or insofar as it reflects the Tale's historical context. The closest analogues to the Shipman's Tale, Boccaccio's Decameron 8.1 and Sercambi's Novella 19, end with the adulterous wife tricked out of payment for sex by her lover's double-dealings, humiliated by him...
Translated title of the contributionDomestic Opportunities: The Social Comedy of the Shipman's Tale
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138 - 162
Number of pages25
JournalThe Chaucer Review
Volume41 (2)
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Bibliographical note

Publisher: Penn State University Press


Dive into the research topics of 'Domestic Opportunities: The Social Comedy of the Shipman's Tale'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this