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Summary and Analysis of The Miller's Tale

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Summary and Analysis of The Miller's Tale

When the Knight had finished, everybody decided that he had told a noble story. The drunken Miller claims that he has a tale as noble as the one the Knight had told. The host tried to quiet the Miller, but he demanded to speak. He claims that he will tell the tale of a carpenter and his wife. His tale will be one of infidelity. The narrator attempts to apologize for the tale that will follow, admitting that the Miller is not well-bred and will therefore tell a bawdy tale.

Analysis

It is in the prologues to the various tales that Chaucer comments on the tales that his characters have told. This serves as an internal critique of the tales that Chaucer has written. In this prologue, the Miller constructs the author's reaction to the Knight's Tale. The Miller mocks the noble messages of the Knight's Tale, and prepares to tell a tale that he finds equally uplifting. The tale that will follow is unreservedly bawdy and lowbrow, a necessary antidote to the oppressive sense of epic honor that permeates the stodgy Knight's tale.

The Canterbury Tales offer Chaucer an opportunity for experimentation, for he has created characters who create their own stories. Therefore the stories are not simply an extension of Geoffrey Chaucer's imagination. The story of Palamon and Arcite is a tale that a man such as the Knight might tell; the inflated pomposity of the tale is a deliberate move by Chaucer, purposely adhering to the Knight's personality even at some dramatic and narrative expense. This also affords Chaucer the opportunity to engage in forms of disreputable humor, as the Miller's Tale will demonstrate. Chaucer even separates himself from the tale that the Miller has told, claiming th...

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...s into taking tubs onto the roof. Only Nicholas does not suffer for his romantic pursuits. He does not court Alison ­ rather, in his first encounter with her Nicholas grabs her crotch before even speaking. Nicholas only receives a form of punishment when he attempts to trick Absolon with a 'kiss' for the second time, and in this occasion Nicholas suffers not because he has broken any moral codes, but because he was foolish to try the same trick twice. Only Alison escapes any form of retribution, for she is the one who is consistently cunning and wily. She receives no punishment for her infidelity, while the characters who are the most overtly virtuous (John and Absolon) are the ones who suffer the most. The Miller's tale thus prizes the characters who are the most shrewd rather than those who hold more sentimental emotions or obey traditional standards of behavior.