The Place Of Courtly Values In Chaucer's "The Miller's Tale"

1112 words - 5 pages

In The Miller's Tale, we see the idea of courtly values being mocked. Courtly values are generally seen as the binding behaviour by which knights were meant to show courtesy, as understood in medieval times; act chivalrous, by showing courage, loyalty and mercy; and to uphold the idea of troth, by maintaining honour and integrity (Shea, Sep. 18). Unlike the preceding "Knight's Tale", "The Miller's Tale" values different attributes in it's characters. While the adherence to courtly values is usually what is hoped for in the gentility, and admired in the lower classes, we see that "The Miller's Tale" mocks those who obey traditional standards of behaviour. As we can see by the outcome of ...view middle of the document...

Absolon's foolish behaviour and indiscretion result in his humiliation, falling victim to Alison's trick.Alison's husband, John is much older than she. The Miller disapproves of this relationship, saying "A man should marry someone like himself/A man should pick an equal for his mate." The marriage is an inappropriate one, which leads to Alison's dissatisfaction, and is the first issue that John is duly punished for. The second matter that John is punished for is the fact that his love for Alison is so blinding to his sensibilities (Chaucer 89), that he allows himself to be tricked so that Nicholas could sleep with his wife. We see John's strong devotion to his wife when he responds to Nicholas's awful news of the flood: "The carpenter exclaimed, 'Alas, my wife!/My little Alison! Is she to drown?'/And in his grief he very near fell down." (Chaucer 97). This overriding love for Alison causes John to act foolishly, thus making him eligible for the punishment he receives at the end of the tale.Nicholas's character also parodies courtly behaviour. On page eighty-nine we are told that examples of Nicholas's gallantry can be seen by his talents for making love, his indefinite dependence on his friends for money, and his quest for Alison's love. However, what sets Nicholas apart from both Absolon and John is the fact that he is more clever than both of them. We are told that Nicholas studied a lot, but we see that he also sees the importance of being cunning when he says to Alison, "A student doesn't have to stir/His wits so much to trick a carpenter," (Chaucer 91). Unfortunately, he over-estimates his intelligence when he acts foolishly by trying to play the same trick twice on Absolon.Alison is the only character to be spared from punishment because she renounces all the ideals of courtly behaviour. She is unhappy in her marriage (Chau...


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