Title: "Medieval Life Illuminated." This Essay Analyzes The The Miller's Tale In The Canterbury Tales Which Reveals Medieval Attitudes About Class And Courtly Love.

1245 words - 5 pages

In Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, particularly in "The Miller's Tale," an illustration of common medieval life is illuminated. Chaucer's use of coarse, ordinary language and his detailed descriptions of the characters in "The Miller's Tale" allows for readers to catch a glimpse into medieval society. While Chaucer's "The Knight's Tale" was full of pomp and romanticized chivalry, "The Miller's Tale" parodies "The Knight's Tale," as well as offering a moral to his story: the beguiler will be beguiled back. In his tale, Chaucer's storyteller the Miller reveals the medieval attitude about class, beguiling, and love.The Miller begins with introducing the characters to his tale. He begins with the typical "Whylom," or "Once upon a time," to which has become a staple to fairy tales passed down through the generations. The Miller continues, "there lived at Oxford /a rich churl who boarded paying guests; /he was a carpenter by trade. /At his house lived a poor scholar" (Chaucer 151). Chaucer is noting the carpenter's class with the label "churl," which is a word which describes a tradesman of lower class. Chaucer has the Miller describe the carpenter John's wife Alison, who is the symbol of obsession for the poor clerk Nicholas. "This carpenter had recently married a wife /whom he loved more than his life; /she was eighteen years of age" (Chaucer 151). The Miller then continues his introduction of Alison, describing her flawless beauty and style, to which Chaucer is foreshadowing the troubles Alison causes to lusty, medieval men. Later in "The Miller's Tale," the Miller introduces Absalom - "He well knew how to let blood, to clip hair, and to shave" - a barber in town who the Miller describes as "lively and playful" and "was a little squeamish /about farting and prim in his speech," indeed a unique character from Chaucer's observation about real merchant class individuals (Chaucer 157).As expected, the poor carpenter Nicholas sets his sights on conquering Alison, the carpenter's wife. Nicholas pursues to woo Alison, to which she accepts, but warns Nicholas of her husband's jealousy, "'My husband is so filled with jealousy /that, unless you are on guard and keep it a secret, /I know for sure that I'm as good as dead'" (Chaucer 155). Nicholas assures Alison that he will be able to beguile the dimwitted carpenter saying, "'No, don't bother about that,... /A clerk would certainly have spent his time poorly /if he couldn't fool a carpenter'" (Chaucer 155). Chaucer is noting the medieval difference between John and Nicholas; John is a dimwitted tradesman who can be easily beguiled by the intelligent scholar Nicholas. Also Chaucer has the Miller point out that carpenters are easily beguiled, which is a stab at a fellow pilgrim in The Canterbury Tales. Also Chaucer is noting how the reality of marriage and affairs; in "The Knight's Tale" the Knight speaks only of romance and chivalry. The Miller, on the other hand, is noting the lower class' approach to...

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