Foreshadowing the Miller's Tale
In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Chaucer the author and Chaucer the pilgrim are both quick to make distinctions between characters and point out shortcomings. Though Chaucer the pilgrim is meeting the group for the first time, his characterizations go beyond simple physical descriptions. Using just twenty-one lines in the General Prologue, the author presents the character of the Miller and offers descriptions that foreshadow the sardonic tone of his tale and the mischievous nature of his protagonist.
Though the descriptions in the beginning of the piece may seem trivial at first glance, the physicality and basic background of the Miller gives us insight as to what motivates his farcical story. We are told "his nosethirles blake were and wyde./A swerd and bokeler bar he by his syde./His mouth as greet was as a greet forneys./He was a janglere and a goliardeys,/And that was moost of synne and harlotries./Wel koude he stelen corn and tollen thries;/And yet he hadde a thombe of gold, pardee" (557-563). If you were to analyze the Miller's succinct description line by line, you would find an abundance of information that would contribute to your reading of "The Miller's Tale." For example, the description of the Miller's "blake" and "wyde" nostrils may cause you to think of him as a disgusting man, but this character trait can also be associated with lechery. Chaucer explicitly illustrates that the Miller is a dishonest man who is accustomed to "stelen corn and tollen thries" (562), but he seems to justify the Miller's actions by alluding to the idea that dishonesty is deeply rooted in the Miller's occupation by referencing the "the thombe of gold" (563); a commodity only honest millers possess. This fluctuating morality will certainly come in to play later.
Furthermore, we know that the Miller has a large mouth like "a greet fomeys." This foreshadows the Miller's drunken interruption after "The Knight's Tale" where he puts his big mouth to work. Though he is drunk and belligerent he insists "by Goddes soule...that wol nat I,/For I wol speke, or elles go my wey" (3132-34). Whether the group likes it or not, they have no choice but to listen to...