the light fantastic

vague ramblings re: early british lit

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Miller's Prologue and Tale

The Miller spends a good 35 lines just to describe the carpenter's young wife, which makes it seem as though this story is personal to him. But it is hard to place him within the story, since as a tradesman like the carpenter, he is more likely to relate to the husband than the poor scholar. Still, if he had been cheated upon, then he wouldn't relish telling this story which shows him to be the cuckold husband. The Miller's detailed description of the scholar's room is ambiguous, since he could have been describing his own decor, proudly including all the accessories (that is, books, astrolabe, abacus, etc.) of a studious person or he could be condemning the room that was filled with 'intelligent' props to help impress and seduce maidens.

The simple mindedness carpenter in the story is quite remarkable. He at first cannot trust his wife, even as soon as he married her. Then, he merely comments that Absoloun (the parrisher) is serenading under their bedroom and doesn't suspect his wife of cheating on him with Absoloun. Or especially his belief that he is the next Noah and that he could survive a world flooding by using a bathtub.

The Miller's tale ends with embarrasment for all three parties, each with their own shame and punishment, but the Miller is an unlikely person to be telling a moral since he is drunk as he tells the story. It could be just a gossip story, such and such happened in my town, and that would offset the Knight's heroic and tragic story of love and chivalry and etc. Still the evidence of detail and the particular scheme to use Noah's Ark to trick the carpenter gives a hint that there was something more beneath the story. Maybe the Reeve's reluctance to have the story told means that the Reeve was one of the characters involved? Or his motive to stop the Miller to have been as same as the Host's, that is, to preserve a more polite society in the pilgrimage.


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