Canterbury Tales - Comparison of the Miller's Tale and the Knight's Tale

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A Comparison of the Miller's Tale and the Knight's Tale It is common when considering The Canterbury Tales to discuss how some tales seem designed to emphasise the themes of others. Two such tales are the Miller's Tale2 and the Knight's Tale3. At first glance these two tales seem an incongruous pairing. The Knight's Tale is told by an eminent person, is an historical romance which barely escapes a tragic ending, and its themes are universal: the relationship of individuals to providence, fortune and free will. The Miller's Tale is told by a drunken "cherl" (MT 3182), is a farcical fabliau, and has "a plot, not themes"4. And yet, in my opinion, there is much to be gained by reading the Miller's Tale with the themes and…show more content…
In this section the carpenter is: ironically fooled by his wife; used as a comparison in order to cast ridicule on Arcite's and Palamon's fervent love of Emelye; an example of the folly of age, rather than the wisdom that was developed in Theseus; and, of course, set up as the climax's 'fall guy'. Farce is the most obvious form of humour in the Miller's Tale, but I think irony is the most important. Chaucer plays off text against text to great ironic effect, both inter and extra-textually. In fact, the carpenter is a perfect ironic antidote to the Miller's advice of the Prologue. We read there that the best way for husbands to escape the humiliation of being cuckolded is that: An housbonde shal nat been inquisityf Of Goddes pryvetee, nor of his wyf. (MT 3163-3164) Yet it is the carpenter's lack of inquisitiveness that not only makes him a cuckold, but leads to his public humiliation. If he had been a little more inquisitive of his wife's secrets, and if he had known a little more of "Goddes pryvetee" first hand he would have been saved humiliation! He is, however, a complacent, ignorant man. In the opening lines of our extract it becomes clear that he is oblivious to Alisoun's agreement with Nicholas, and he sees nothing incongruous in the casting of himself as a pseudo-Noah. The crowning irony of this scene is in the
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