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Literary Genres Of Canterbury Tales Essay

946 words - 4 pages

Within William Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, many familiar medieval literary genres may be found. A very common tale that Chaucer uses is the fabliau, which is best portrayed in "The Miller's Tale." Another comedic genre, the beast fable, creates a moral through the use of animals instead of humans. In the Nun's Priest's Tale, Chaucer uses this fable to great effect. A third type of tale, the Breton lays, uses "The Franklin's Tale" to bring out the nobility of love. All three of these tales bring comedy and structure to a somewhat corrupt and violent clash of characters in William Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales.

"The Miller's Tale" is characterized as a fabliau because it follows certain requisites. Just like any other true fabliau, "The Miller's Tale" focuses on the vulgar or lower class. The main character, a carpenter, and his new wife are simple individuals and are certainly not well educated. The old man's tenant, a student from Oxford named Nicholas, is well educated but has very little money and therefore his social class is no higher than the carpenter's. Similar to the social status of the characters, their involvement with each other fits the classic fabliau standard. The old carpenter, a gullible man blinded by his love for his young wife, is humiliated and duped by the young student. Nicholas, whose chief talent was "making love in secret," seduced the old man's wife right under his nose. Though the carpenter had been faithful and follows Nicholas' plan only to save his wife, he is later scorned, abandoned, and humiliated by her and the rest of the town. This unjust conclusion follows the fabliau's tendency to scorn conventional morality and favor the most skilled and cunning instead. The wife, who was the most faithful, is in no way punished for her infidelity, but rather is rewarded with a young lover and possible new husband. Chaucer uses the fabliau to create a funny if farfetched tale by the Miller.

Another comedy called "The Nun's Priest's Tale" is very clearly defined as a beast fable for three general and definitive reasons. What make up a tale of any sort are the main characters. And unlike most other stories, the beast fable's primary characters are not humans, but animals. In "The Nun's Priest's Tale" these main animals are Chanticleer the cock and his "wife" Pertelote, who is a hen. These two characters replace humans in a complete way because they are able to act in an almost identical fashion. Their marriage is surprisingly strong for a cock and a hen. Pertelote, since she was very young, "held the heart of Chanticleer" and he loves her unconditionally still, though they often bicker like every other human...

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