The Canterbury Tales begin with The Knight’s Tale; which chronicles the tragic love triangle of Palamon, Arcite and Emilye. The following tale, which is told by the Miller, is also a love triangle, and is in many ways similar to the Knight’s tale. However, the Miller’s tale sharply contrasts the Knight’s, almost parodying it. The Knight’s tale is a tragic of nobility, heritage and focuses heavily on mythology and astrology, whereas The Miller’s tale is a comedy, focusing on the common-man and his less civilized, and bawdy lifestyle. The two stories mirror one another in many ways, but are presented from completely different sides of the spectrum. When the two tales are looked at closely, it doesn’t seem to be a coincidence that they occur back-to-back to one another as there is a stark contrast between the two.
The stories core elements are love, specifically focusing on love at first sight. The Knight tells of Palamon and Arcite, two prisoners of war, who fall for Emelye. Palamon and Arcite, who as cousins were once as close as sworn brothers, turn on one another after merely catching a glimpse of Emelye. Palamon’s love for her is so strong, that he breaks out of captivity in an attempt to find her, putting himself in great danger. Arcite, who was freed from prison by the favor of Perotheus under the condition he never return to Athens, takes his love to extremes as well, disguising himself as Philostrate, and taking up work as a page in Emelye’s chamber, just to be near her. This all culminates in the mass battle in which the winner between Arcite and Palamon will receive Emelye’s hand in marriage. The Knight’s account of love is pure and virtuous, with no hint of anything but true love.
The Miller does not share these qualities in his account, instead focusing on lust, trickery, vulgarity and adultery. Nicholas’ love at first sight is nothing more than sexual lust for Alison, who is another mans much younger wife. Nicholas does not share Palamon or Arcite’s passion for true love, and comes up with a simple hoax to trick Alison’s unintelligent husband John into leaving he and Alison alone for a night. The Miller’s story continues to stray from the Knight’s as a third luster is presented for Alison’s affection; Absalon, a parish clerk. As opposed to an epic battle for courtship, the story devolves into slapstick humor, with Absalon kissing Alison’s rear, and burning Nicholas’ in attempted revenge.
The balance of the love triangle is also thrown awry in the Miller’s tale. Not only if a fourth man present, Alison’s wife John (who is not even included in any form of romance throughout the tale) but Alison’s affection seem to only be for Nicholas. She is easily seduced by Nicholas and has little, to no romantic interest in Absalon, fooling him into kissing her rear and then laughing about it with Nicholas. These elements merely add to the Miller’s tale of perversion, distancing and parodying itself from the Knight’s tale of honor and true...