The Canterbury Tales AP Literature & Composition October 7, 2009

A fabliau is aptly categorized as a scandalous tale meant to satirize the bourgeois through the depiction of bourgeois characters. This is the genre Chaucer writes “The Miller’s Tale,” from his The Canterbury Tales, in so he can distinguish the social class levels of the people on the pilgrimage. Chaucer shows us the differences by paralleling then transforming certain aspects of this fabliau with the same elements of the chivalric romance of the “Knight’s Tale.” Fabliaux are salacious tales driven by elements such as deception to acquire money or possessions, to get sexual gratification, or to get revenge on somebody for a past wrong. The fabliau hinges upon an elaborate trick, set up with huge care in the story, contains the climax of the tale, and ends abruptly as the story itself ends. It is actually unknown whether the initial purpose of such a tale was for the nobility to mock the non-aristocrats with whom they competed for status, or whether the bourgeois told fabliaux as an act of self-mockery, to show how much the middle class has risen. In the Miller’s prologue, we can infer that the Host wants the chronology of the storytelling to follow the levels of class; thus the reason why he solicits the Monk to tell a story after the noble Knight. The Host wants the Monk “repay the Knight a little for his tale,” but the inebriated Miller volunteers to “pay the Knight his wages.” (86, 87) From the context, it appears that the Miller interprets the Host’s request to “repay the Knight” as an invite to get revenge upon the Knight; thus, setting up the contrast between the parallelism with contrast between the Knight’s Tale and the Miller’s Tale. (86) One of the main elements from the “Knight’s Tale” that the Miller parallels but

In the Knight’s Tale.transforms is love. the “Miller’s Tale” perverts the concept of courtly love. giving a sort of similar . other elements and themes between the “Knight’s Tale” and the “Miller’s Tale” are paralleled but transformed. grabbed Alison and begged her to have sex with him. this is evident with Arcite and Palamon. As is common with the fabliau genre. who is cuckolded and ultimately made a fool at the end. but also has inner feelings that cannot be directly revealed. In courtly love. In the “Miller’s Tale. the knight utilizes fundamental chivalric rules. He is the only character who somewhat practice courtly love. As the pilgrims are going on a religious pilgrimage.” John the carpenter. However. romance is usually an element that is mocked. In the “Knight’s Tale.” but when Nicholas gives John a chance to find out what one these secrets supposedly is John wholeheartedly accepts this offer. saying “unless I have my will of you I’ll die of secret love. In addition to love. Another way that courtly romance is being made fun of is through the character of Absalon. says that “God has some secrets that we shouldn’t know.” human misery and anguish is questioned but is ultimately decided as something that mere mortals are unable to comprehend and are part of God’s plan. We are told that Nick. it would make sense for the storytellers to infuse their tales with some sort of religious factor. he is not as frank in his wants. (95) Another element in both stories is that of a love triangle. when dealing with the lady with whom he is infatuated. but rather he is the type of lover who plays a guitar and sings to the object of his affection. Instead we are shown the forthright and graphic sexual tendencies among non-aristocrats. in which courtly behavior is mocked. courtly love is a major element for the coherence of the story.” (91) Such an action would have been extremely rebuked by the nobility because it is essentially the antithesis of courtly love. the tenant of the house.

This is an example of the Miller mocking romantic love. the Knight uses florid imagery to illustrate her beauty. who both fall in love with Emily. They are ultimately the source of the story. the “Miller's Tale” involves a love triangle between Alison. while Alison is promiscuous and only superficially religious. Arcite and Palamon try to love Emily from afar.” Emily is portrayed as pure and fresh. In the “Knight’s Tale. In the “Knight’s Tale. . But because both of them are the objects of completion in their respective love triangles. He uses of the chivalric romance for the “Knight’s Tale” and the fabliau for the “Miller’s Tale” point to the differences between social status in the group. the way that they are presented are different because one story is a chivalric romance told by a knight and the other is a fabliau told by an inebriated miller.structure to both tales. Emily and Alison are very different. However. The Miller portrays Alison as sensuous and vivacious. Both Emily and Alison are able to arouse fervent passion among men. ultimately obtaining what he wants.” Arcite and Palamon are cousins. he also utilizes metaphors to accomplish his description. Character wise. Likewise. the way that the characters behave in these love triangles make them different. whereas Nicholas simply seduces Alison directly. such as “her body as slender as any weasel’s. However. Nicholas and Absolon. and as soft and tender” to give a fairly good idea of her image. One of the most important juxtapositions that can be made between these two stories is that of Emily and Alison. He uses animal similes. without them there would be no plot. Chaucer uses the fabliau to portray the bourgeois. they both share the same role. with Emily being chaste and religious.

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