The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Miller's Tale Analysis

Drunk and belligerent, the Miller is the “perfect gentle” Knight’s opposite in many ways – and though he promises a “noble” tale to match the Knight’s, his tale is also the opposite of the Knight’s in many ways. It is, in fact, so bawdy that the narrator warns us before the tale begins that readers who are easily offended should skip ahead.

Although the Host asks the Monk to go first, the Miller intrudes, insisting on telling his tale immediately after that of the Knight. By doing so, he brings the social tensions in The Canterbury Tales to the fore. According to rank, the Monk should rightly follow the Knight. When the Host asks the Monk to “quite,” or repay, the Knight’s tale, the Miller announces that he can “quite” the Knight’s tale on his own – but he uses a slightly different connotation of “quite,” one that means not only “repay” but “revenge.” True to his word, the Miller provides as tale that “revenges” itself upon the courtly love traditions apparent in the Knight’s Tale by twisting them to meet much bawdier ends.

Like the Knight, the Miller tells a tale that befits both his social rank and his personal character. While the Knight’s tale is a classic romance of courtly love and chivalry, the Miller’s tale is much more coarse and draws on images from rustic farm life. Instead of elevating romantic love, it focuses on crude sexual humor and literal fart jokes.

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