The True Face of Unethical Humor

854 Words4 Pages
Following Chaucer’s description of the Miller in the General Prologue, The Miller’s Tale reveals that the Miller is more complex than his appearance initially suggests. Given its bawdy and humorous nature, the Miller’s story consists of events of “cuckoldry,” “foolishness,” and “secrets” (1720, 1718, and 1719). As the teller of such a tale, the Miller would immediately be classified as a crude man, interested only in the physical appeal of women. However, as the tale unfolds, it imparts the Miller’s unexpected empathy as he commiserates with Alison, who is trapped by the norms of society. The Miller’s story portrays not only the Miller’s expected vulgar and deceptive characteristics but also his surprisingly sympathetic nature.…show more content…
The Miller displays complete apathy for the norms of society through his satire of the metaphysical Knight and clergyman. Furthermore, the Miller’s bawdy nature progressively worsens as he initially begins with his songs of prostitution and later describes a woman’s private areas, an action of atrocious audacity and low thinking, but he asserts is “noble” (1718). Thus, in his bawdy rebellion, the Miller solely focuses on his lewd tale, disregarding the norms of society. The Miller’s deceptive qualities influence the characters’ actions in his story. During his pilgrimage with the Miller, Chaucer discovers the habits of the “golden thumb” Miller and describes him as a “fox” (1712). The Miller would cheat people by “steal[ing] corn and charg[ing] for it three times” (1712). The Miller’s characters also use guile as frequently as the Miller does. In their affair, both Nicholas and Alison devise a plan to trick the jealous John. While speaking to John alone, Nicholas warns him of a flood to come and states he “must not waste words on the wise;” however, Nicholas tricks the so-called “wise” carpenter and has intercourse with John’s wife after John falls asleep (1727). Furthermore, Absolom begs for a kiss from Alison, but she “beard[s]” him, another instance of bawdy deceit (1730). Thus, the Miller’s disposition of treachery propels his characters in their misdemeanors, exemplifying his immoral nature; however, every apple on the tree is not rotten.
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