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Literary Genres of Canterbury Tales Essay

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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...


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...is supernatural feet is another example of a breton lays' tale, and throughout "The Franklin's Tale" there are many events and tendencies that are characteristic of just such a literary genre.

The Canterbury Tales brings many distinct types of stories and characters together to create one, well structured and sensible collection of poetic tales. One of genre that is used numerous times with great success is the fabliau, which scorns morality. "The Miller's Tale" is just one many to send this decadent message. "The Nun's Priest's Tale" however does have a witty and decent message, to fit the beast fable structure. Finally, in "The Franklin's Tale," the breton lays genre brings the honorableness of true, courtly love a new twist. The Canterbury Tales contains a great blend of tales that bring semblance and unity to a robust and corrupt group of weary travelers.


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