Despite a recent tendency to consider the Merchant's Tale outside the dramatic context of its prologue, and to read it primarily as a broadly humorous, if discordant, piece of anti-feminism, the tale is actually unified by a consistent narrative point of view that successfully accommodates the apparently incongruous themes, tones, and styles of the poem. The final effect, moreover, is not comic at all, but rather sardonic, a dark and unsettling view of an aspect of man's experience. The Merchant's Prologue, though probably written after the tale, is carefully adjusted to the climate of the tale, and must be considered in any critical account, especially since it is through the strong, viable presence of the narrator that the tale is held together. Two features characterize this narrator, one tonal, the other attitudinal. The first is the cool, acidulous voice we hear narrating the story, the expression of an ironic intelligence deeply at odds with the world. The second is the narrator's heightened awareness of sex, particularly in its more grotesque and violent forms, which gives the tale its unsavory atmosphere. These marks of a single unified narrator, together with the ironic finale of the plot, result in a literary mode that is not finally comic, but which suggests comparison with the so-called “problem comedies” of Shakespeare.