What Is The Importance Of The Description Of Alison In The Context Of The Miller?S Prologue And Tale?

810 words - 3 pages

In “The Miller’s Tale”, the poet Chaucer depicts the tale of a “hende” man and his attempt to tempt the “primerole” Alisoun to commit adultery and therefore render her husband, John a “cokewold”. The Miller’s Tale is just one story amongst a collection of greater works known collectively as “The Canterbury Tales”. The placing of this tale is significant becomes it comes directly after the Knight’s Tale revolving around nobility and chivalry and forms a direct contrast due to the fact it is bawdy, lewd and highly inappropriate. The tale is a fabliau, a versified short story designed to make you laugh; concerned usually with sexual or excretory functions. The plot often involves members of the clergy, and is usually in the form of a practical joke carried out for love or revenge and fabliaux are often viewed as a lower class genre.
     One of the central characters in the poem is that of Alison, a woman who is married to an older man called John the carpenter, “this carpenter hadde wedded newe a wyf”. Alison's attractions are suggested primarily by animal similes and she is described as radiant “ful brighter was the shining of hir hewe”. Alison’s beauty cannot be separated from her animation and vitality. This, with a hint of naivety, is suggested by the comparisons to "kide or calf" and (twice) to a colt. Alison is soft as a “wether's wolle” and her voice is like the swallow's. A supple, sinuous quality of her figure is suggested in the simile of the weasel, which is clearly chosen to stress her sexual attractiveness. This is an interesting simile because a weasel has connotations with slyness and deception, both of which we later find out are qualities of Alison. We are also invited to think of Alison as a sexual being in the line “upon hir lendes (loins)” We can also infer that Alison is somewhat promiscuous (and therefore John has a right to “[hold] hire narwe in cage”) because we are told that her shoes were laced on “hir legges hye” and we would only know that if her skirt was hitched up. Short skirts in those days had connotations with prostitutes, the same as they do today.
     The appropriate attitude for a man to take to such a woman (the Miller thinks) is shown by such terms as "popelote", "primerole" and "piggesnie", for which we can readily find modern equivalents....

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