The Miller Requites the Knight In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, differences between characters and connections between the tales themselves produce humour and irony.
One of the best examples of irony and humour between figures’ in the Canterbury Tales is in the parallels that exist between “The Miller’s Tale” and “The Knight’s Tale. ” The Miller tells the audience he will “requite” “The Knight’s Tale” (Chaucer 3119). The Miller requites the Knight not only in the form of his tale but also in the similarities that exist between the two tales.The Miller seems to attempt to show the Knight a more realistic version of the Knight’s tale of an epic romance.
Through examining both similarities and differences between the two tales, one can show “The Miller’s Tale” as a social commentary against “The Knight’s Tale” of courtly love. Page 2 In “The Miller’s Tale”, a love triangle exists between Alison, Nicholas and Absolon with the added element of John, Alison’s husband. Although the love triangle that exists in “The Miller’s Tale” is more traditional in terms of a marriage being involved, the subject matter of this courtly love proves a point to the Knight. The Miller’s Tale” is a fabliau, a short humorous narrative genre popular in France starting in the thirteenth century. A fabliau unlike an romance, are characterized by greater realism; a setting in the “here and now”, and ordinary Page 3 Page 4 Another parallel between the two tales exists between the women involved in the stories. In Emelye, we find a proper example of what noble women should be.
She is accommodating, proper; in fact she barely speaks at all, except to tell Diana that she does not want to be anyone’s wife and wants to remain alone for her life.She is blonde haired and demure in stark contrast not only physically but also in personality to Alison. Alison is a fiery young woman; she is dark haired adventurous and mysterious. Jerome Mandel maintains that it is through the dialogue of Alison that we see the paradox between courtly love and the fabliau told by the Miller. Mandel notes that her responses are weighted with hard realistic language, language that a “real lady” would not use (Mandel 283). Alison is also portrayed as an easy” woman; although she tells, Nicholas to wait she also allows him to touch her genitalia and ends up in bed with him without any protest of love for her husband.
Emelye on the other hand is obedient yet an independent woman who finds herself promised to two men she would rather Page 5 not be marrying. These tales also include a clash between the two lovers fighting for the love of the women. In the Knight’s tale, the battle is an epic one fought in a specially built arena with hundreds of knights fighting for the honour of Arcite and Palamon.It is on this battlefield that Arcite wins but because of the intervention of Saturn, Arcite is injured and soon passes away and it is then that Palamon gets to marry Emelye. In the Miller’s Tale, the battle is fought through Alison’s door with a “hot coulter” and “thonder dent” (Chaucer 3807). The seriousness of these two battles is clearly very different, in the Knight’s noble tale the men are to fight to the death where in the Miller’s tale the two men are simply trying to humiliate one another, not necessarily fighting for honour and the love of Alison.