There once lived a wealthy Knight called January, in the town of Pavia, Lombardy.
He was aged sixty and lived a life of debauchery and lust and he now wished to settle down and marry a beautiful young maiden who lived in the city. He had always thought that it was God’s wish that men and women should marry, and he also needed a son to inherit his estates.
The Pilgrims notice that there is a suggestion of sarcasm entwined within the Merchant’s tale.
January decides to marry a young girl named May, but before marrying the maid, he consults with his friends concerning a dilemma he has. He wants to ensure that May is the right wife for him because to choose the wrong mate, would mean living a life of hell here on earth.
One of his friends, Justinius, advises against the match, but January proceeds. After the wedding, January becomes impatient with his guests as he wishes to enjoy his wedding bed. After the Priest had blessed the marriage bed, he consummated his marriage.
Now there was a young servant in the household named Damian, who fell in love with May at first sight. He soon became ill over his unrequited love and was taken to bed. January was concerned over his servant’s poor health, and sent his wife and other women of the court to tend to him. Damian took the opportunity to pass a love note to May, and she acknowledged his desires.
Suddenly, January was stricken with blindness and consumed with jealousy over his wife, insisted that she remain by his side at all times. Nevertheless, May and Damian arrange to meet in the garden. He would go first and climb up a pear tree.
The Merchant takes us from this earthly scene to heaven where the gods discuss the situation. Pluto is angry at May’s deceit, and decides that he is going to restore January’s sight, but his wife Proserpina decries men for being lecherous and will provide May with an excuse. May and January sit underneath the pear tree, and May offers to climb the tree to get her husband a ripe pear. The love-struck couple are soon locked in an amorous clinch, and just then January’s sight is restored. He bellows with rage at the sight of the couple, but May accuses him of seeing things and asks January to wait until his sight is restored fully. She then jumps down from the tree and clasps January in a fond embrace.