The Miller's Tale and The Wife of Bath's Tale feature two characters that, though they may appear to be different, are actually very similar. They both seem to confirm the anti-feminine beliefs that existed at the time Chaucer wrote his Canterbury Tales. However, they go about it in different ways. Alison, the woman in The Miller's Tale, tries to hide the fact that she has a passion for men other than her husband, and keep her position as an upstanding citizen intact. The Wife of Bath, meanwhile, has no qualms about displaying herself as she really is. She is not ashamed of the fact she has married five times, and is about to marry again. She hides nothing. While Alison differs from the Wife of Bath in appearance and the way she conducts herself in public, inside they are more alike than Alison would probably care to admit.
At the beginning of The Miller's Tale, there is a rather lengthy description of Alison's appearance. She looks beautiful from the outside, true, but throughout the description, Chaucer drops little hints that things are not always what they seem. At the very beginning of his description, he compares her body to that of a weasel's ["Fair was this younge wif, and therwithal As any wesele hir body gent and smal." (Miller 103)], and, since a weasel is not one of the more favorable animals to be compared with, he immediately, albeit subtlely, implies that Alison is not as decent as she would have people believe. Chaucer continues in his ostensibly favorable description of Alison, but concludes the paragraph by implying that Alison would have little qualms about sleeping with a man other than her husband ["She was a primerole, a pigge...
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...Miller's Tale, it is uncertain whether the Wife of Bath would applaud the fact that Alison got herself out of a jam, or would chide Alison for hiding her true colors. What is certain, though, is that Alison and the Wife of Bath are really two very similar characters. They just have different ways of expressing their similarity.
Works Cited and Consulted
Chaucer, Geoffrey. "The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale," The Riverside Chaucer. Gen. Ed. Larry D. Benson. Third Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987. 105-22.
Evans, Joan. The Flowing Middle Ages. New York: McGraw Hill Book Company, 1966.
Hallida, I.E. Chaucer and His World. New York: Viking Press, 1968.
Fuller, Maurice. Chaucer and His England. Williamstown: Corner House Publishers, 1976.
Williams, David. The Canterbury Tales, A Literary Pilgrimage. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1987.
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