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The True Face Of Unethical Humor

873 words - 3 pages

Following Chaucer’s description of the Miller in the General Prologue, The Miller’s Tale reveals that the Miller is more complex than his appearance initially suggests. Given its bawdy and humorous nature, the Miller’s story consists of events of “cuckoldry,” “foolishness,” and “secrets” (1720, 1718, and 1719). As the teller of such a tale, the Miller would immediately be classified as a crude man, interested only in the physical appeal of women. However, as the tale unfolds, it imparts the Miller’s unexpected empathy as he commiserates with Alison, who is trapped by the norms of society. The Miller’s story portrays not only the Miller’s expected vulgar and deceptive characteristics but also his surprisingly sympathetic nature.
In his attempt to surpass the Knight, the Miller sacrifices decorum for the sake of entertainment, demonstrating his coarse and rebellious nature. The bawdy imagery the Miller provides gradually becomes more descriptive as the tale progresses. For example, when first traveling with the Miller, Chaucer listens to the Miller bellow “his ballads and jokes of harlotries” and describes him as a “sow” (1712). These facts exemplify that the Miller is a person more of body than of mind. Moreover, Chaucer’s juxtaposition of the Knight’s noble tale and the Miller’s appalling tale confirms the Miller’s “low-born” thinking (1719). Verifying these expectations, the Miller’s tale features many scandalous scenes of the “so graceful and so slime” Alison, who cheats on her husband, John, with his student, Nicholas (1720). The Miller intentionally calls Nicholas “hendë,” a word which implies not only “ready to hand” but also a person who grasps women, since Nicholas “held [Alison] by the haunches,” an action which illustrates the Miller’s ignoble nature and his physical inclinations (1721). Thus, the Miller’s sexual proclivities further debase him in comparison to the spiritual Knight. The Miller then describes how the parish clerk Absolom, although he utilizes every method to win Alison’s heart, ends up kissing her “bare bum” whereas Nicholas sleeps with her (1730). The Miller displays complete apathy for the norms of society through his satire of the metaphysical Knight and clergyman. Furthermore, the Miller’s bawdy nature progressively worsens as he initially begins with his songs of prostitution and later describes a woman’s private areas, an action of atrocious audacity and low thinking, but he asserts is “noble” (1718). Thus, in his bawdy rebellion, the Miller solely focuses on his lewd tale, disregarding the norms of society.
The Miller’s deceptive qualities influence the characters’ actions in his story. During his pilgrimage with the Miller, Chaucer discovers the habits of the...

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