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The Miller's Tale - The Canterbury Tales - Chaucer

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Hannah Kocur

on 21 October 2013

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Transcript of The Miller's Tale - The Canterbury Tales - Chaucer

The Miller's Tale - The Canterbury Tales - Chaucer
Presented by Sarah, Chisha, Hannah, Jordanna and Jon

Historical Context
This tale takes place in and around the 1380's in Oxford, England. Oxford
was a university town, and since at the time only men could attend university, there was a much higher ratio of men to women.

Politically, Richard II was king at this time, and had created a tax that sparked
the peasants revolt a year later. This tax was imposed to assist in paying for the
major expensive hundred years war with France, that was in its 43rd year.
Summary and Themes
After the Knight has finished sharing his tale, the Miller interrupts the Host so he may tell his story instead of the Monk. Thus, instead of sharing their tales in descending social class, the order of the pilgrims’ stories is mixed up.
Major Allusions - Continued
Allusion to the Bible’s Song of Songs, a book in the Old Testament that celebrates sexual love.

Explanation of the Major Historical and Biblical Allusions
Allusion to the Bible: On Good Friday when Christ died, He gathered the souls of the good who were in hell and had died before him.

Summary and Themes - Continued
Alison's second admirer, the vain clerk Absolom, is introduced. He tries to buy and sing his way into Alison's heart, but she already loves Nicholas.

The two lovers concoct a scheme so they can spend a whole night together. They pretend Nicholas has fallen ill. Upon hearing this, the carpenter ends up visiting Nicholas, who says he has had a vision from God: that a terrible flood is coming and they will die if they do not do exactly as he says. John goes to Alison to explain what must be done to save them, and Alison pretends to be equally panicked.
The carpenter, John, and his wife, Alison
Summary and Themes - Continued
A year earlier, New College, a constituent
college of the University of Oxford, was
founded by William of Wykeham. It was
originally "The College of St. Mary of
Winchester in Oxford", but is now most often referred to as "New College".
An image of Oxford today --->
The Miller (above)
The Miller begins his tale, introducing first a rich, ignorant carpenter, John, and his boarding resident, the poor studious clerk, Nicholas. The carpenter is married and disturbingly possessive of his young wife, Alison. Nicholas becomes infatuated with Alison, and approaches her in secret. Initially she rejects his advances, but the two quickly enter a love affair.
Nicholas's instructions dictate that John tie three tubs, each loaded with provisions and an axe, to the roof of barn. Then, on Monday night, the three of them--Nicholas, Alison and John--will sleep in the tubs and be able to hack their way out of the barn and float to safety. Nicholas also states that God does not want them to speak--only pray.
Everything goes according to plan with the carpenter--he does as Nicholas tells him out of fear for his life and his wife's. When Monday night arrives, Nicholas and Alison are able to slip away when the carpenter falls asleep. They sneak back to the clerk's bedroom, right as Absolom decides to stop by and press his luck with Alison.
Summary and Themes - Continued
Alison tricks Absolom, getting him to kiss her "naked arse" instead of her lips, since he cannot see in the darkness. Furious, Absolom gets hot iron poker and returns. When Nicholas sticks his rear out the window to continue the joke, Absolom strikes him with the poker. Nicholas howls, "Help! Water! Water!" The carpenter, hearing him, thinks the flood has come and hacks his bathtub loose, breaking his arm in the fall. Townsfolk gather to see what the commotion is about. The carpenter tries to explain about the flood, but Nicholas and Alison feign ignorance and proclaim John a madman.
This tale deals with themes of deception,
such as the secret affair between Nicholas and Alison, which is the main focus of the story, as well as manipulation and jealousy. All of these themes are displayed with each main character, through their actions.
Major Allusions Continued
Satirical Content & Techniques
Irony –

General instance of irony within each character’s personification, such as corruptness of their actions, in contrast to otherwise respectable titles (i.e. deceitful wife, lustful parish clergymen, etc.). This may be seen as Chaucer’s own criticism of the Catholic church in the form of different characters.

In the prologue, the Miller advises his audience that “A husband should not be too inquisitive about God’s private matters, nor of his wife’s,” [lines 3263-3165]. Contrarily, he proceeds to portray a tale of a man who becomes a cuckold due to his lack of inquisitiveness.

Satirical Content & Techniques - Continued
‘‘–I shall never utter it to man, woman or child, by Him That harrowed hell!’’ (pg 4)
Satirical Content & Techniques - Continued
Humour –

Absolom is determined to receive a kiss from Alison. In night’s darkness, rather than placing her head out of her windowsill, she sticks out her ‘naked arse’ for him to kiss instead [pg. 6, lines 3727-3739]. Depiction of the common fabliau or satirizing of the upper-class.

The French term, "fabliau", refers to the instance of comic sexual obscenity within a piece of literature . Tales featuring fabliaux became popular among medieval European literature for their ability to add realism to a story. A refreshing break from the usual chivalry-filled happy ending cliché.

Realizing Alison’s antics, Absolom seeks to “repay” her actions. He borrows a hot coulter from a blacksmith, to strike her behind with it the next time. Nicholas, thinking it would be humorous to repeat Alison’s actions himself, does so, only to be burned by a hot iron blade [pg. 7, lines 3798-3815].
Nicholas convinces John that an approaching flood will consume the Earth that same night. John is naïve enough to trust Nicholas’ “prediction” and follows instructions to build escape system [lines 3513-3521]. A parody of the events that take place in the story of Noah’s Ark (The Bible: Genesis chapters 6—9)
1. Do you believe there is moral to the Miller's tale?

2. Who do you think the protagonist and antagonist were? Why?

3. What do you think Chaucer was alluding to with the character of the Miller and his story?

4. Do you think there was any one character "at fault" in this tale? If so, who?

5. Do you think each character got what they deserved? Why or why not?
By definition, such an affair would be extramarital. This aspect is what attracted the medieval European audiences, as reasons for a marriage typically did not extend beyond acquiring wealth or political status.
Traditionally, the foundation of the two partners' relationship is the fact that the rest of the world is unaware of the affair, save for very few.
Couples would engage in the exchange of gifts, and tokens of their affairs. Women would especially be wooed, and were often the recipients of songs, poems, bouquets, favours, etc.
As the name implies, courtly love was practiced by noble men and women, their proper environment being the royal palace, or court.
Allusion to the Bible: Solomon was a king who was acknowledged for his wisdom.
He was also an author of
literature regarding wisdom.
Allusion to the Bible: Noah’s Ark (Genesis chapters 6–9), was the narrative of a man named Noah who built an ark after being told by God that the world was to be flooded as punishment for humankind’s evilness.

‘‘For thus says Solomon,
and he was right
trustworthy...’’ (pg 5)
Major Allusions - Continued
Allusion to the Christian Trinity. Specifically, the tradition of drawing a cross over a person or object in the air while saying ‘‘in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.’’

Major Allusions - Continued
Reference to Almagest, which was a mathematical and astronomical guide in the 2nd-century used for astronomy.

Major Allusions - Continued
Reference to Distichs of Cato, the most popular medieval text used to teach Latin. It was also used as a moral guideline.

‘‘Awake, think on Christ’s passion; I cross thee...’’ (pg 4)
‘‘His wit was rude, and he didn’t know Cato’s teaching that instructed men to wed their equal.’’ (pg 2)
‘‘His Almagest and other books great and small...’’ (pg 2)
‘‘What do you, sweet Alison, honeycomb? My fair bird, my darling! Awake, sweet cinnamon and speak to me.’’ (pg 6)
"1380s in England - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1380s_in_En>

“Almagest.” Princeton University – Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2013. <http://www.princeton.edu/~almagest/opensource/>.

“Canterbury Tales: The Miller’s Prologue and Tale – Summary & Analysis.” SparkNotes.com—When your books and teachers don’t make sense, we do. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2013. <http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/canterbury/section7.rhtml>

“CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Harrowing of Hell.” NEW ADVENT: Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2013. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07143d.htm>.

“Cato, The Distichs (Monostichs) (Latin and Modern English) (moral precepts).” FAS Web Hosting. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2013. <http://sites.fas.harvard.edu/~chaucer/special/authors/cato/cato-mon.html>.

“‘Clerk’, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” Wikipedia.com—Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., February, 2012. Web. 10 Oct. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clerk>

Day, Lauren. “The Canterbury Tales: Chaucer’s Respectful Critique of Church Officials and Their Abuse of Power.” Salve Regina University—Dissertations and Theses. N.p., 14 July, 2011. Web. 10 Oct. 2013. <http://digitalcommons.salve.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=

Hooke, S. H.. The Bible in basic English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982. Print.

Kenny, Bob. “Chaucer’s Criticism of the Catholic Church in The Canterbury Tales.” Yahoo Voices—Share your voice with Yahoo. N.p., 27 May, 2008. Web. 13 Oct. 2013. <http://voices.yahoo.com/chaucers-criticism-catholic-church-canterbury-1478087.html?cat=37>

“Miller.” Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, "Miller’s Prologue and Tale," (ca. 1380-1400). N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2013 <http://faculty.goucher.edu/eng211/miller.htm>

Nordquist, Richard. “Satire.” About.com—Do more: Education - Grammar & Composition. N.p., 5 Oct. 2013. Web. 9 Oct. 2013. <http://grammar.about.com/od/rs/g/satireterm.htm>

“Profiles of Faith: Solomon – Lesson from a Wise King – Good News Magazine | United Church of God.” United Church of God. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2013. <http://www.ucg.org/christian-living/profiles-faith-solomon-lesson-wise-king>.

“Satirical Techniques Definitions.” ReadWriteThink.org. N.p., n.d./2006. Web. 9, Oct. 2013. <http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/lesson_images/lesson936/SatiricalTechniques.pdf>

Simpson, David L.“Chivalry and Courtly Love.” DePaul University—The School for New Learning. DePaul University, Chicago, IL. 60604, N.d./1998. Web. 10 Oct. 2013. <http://condor.depaul.edu/dsimpson/tlove/courtlylove.html>

“The Trinity Explained.” EveryStudent.com – Exploring Important Questions about Life and God. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2013. <http://www.everystudent.com/forum/trinity.html>.

"The Miller's Tale - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Oct. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Miller's_


Narrative and outcome of the tale mock popular ideals of romance in medieval European literature, such as ‘courtly love’ (“l’amour cortois”), a conceptual affair between a knight and married noblewoman.
Literary and Rhetorical Devices:
When analyzing the literary and rhetorical devices found within the Miller’s tale, we are given an insightful rendition towards a dynamic and comically emphatic style of writing and form of diction. The style of writing, specifically the positioning of the tale subsequently to the knights tale, proclaims great significance towards an underlying message, inevitably aiming to be conveyed.

The fact that the Miller, who as we are told, is of low social standing, had insisted upon attempting to portray a tale more worthy and thus more amusing than that of the Knight’s tale. This eventually plays a fundamental role towards the decent of social hierarchy. The clothes each character is described as wearing symbolizes the hierarchy present during that time period.
Literary and Rhetorical Devices
The common belief and ideology regarding intelligence during Chaucer’s time period, had initially followed a hierarchical system within itself; where those of high social status were believed to exhibit exceptional intelligence and those of low social standing were thought to have a conspicuously inferior amount of intelligence than that of their societal superiors.

Nevertheless; we are introduced to an avid amount of irony projected within the Miller’s prologue, primarily towards such a distinguished approach. The Miller had suggested he could surpass the Knights tale, however he did not only surpassed it, he had managed to perpetrate a mockery out of the knights heart filled tale. As well, the ending of the Miller's tale is said to be one of Chaucer's "cleverest" endings.
Literary and Rhetorical Devices Continued:
The Miller's tale is mostly told through the paraphrasing of actions by means of narration and dialogue. Elaboration within the stream of consciousness of each character is not provided, therefore the strongest literary device used within the Miller's tale would have to be imagery.

We are given an avid description of each characters characteristics and their actions within the story.
Ex: (imagery description of appearance.)

"Her mouth was sweet as honeyed ale or mead, or a hoard of apples laid in the hay or heather. She was skittish as a jolly colt, tall as a mast, and upright as a bolt" (pg. 2)

Ex : (imagery narration of actions.)
"And so it happened that the carpenter had gone to Oseney, and gentle Nicholas and Alison had agreed upon this, that Nicholas would create a ruse to beguile this poor jealous husband." (pg.3)

"She sprang back like a colt in the halter." (pg.2)
"love me now or I shall die."(pg.2)
The clothing everyone had been described in,was to matched their personalities and social status.
The fact that the Miller had been drunk while telling the story was to leave an amused impression upon the reader.

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