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The Miller's Tale

    Stories such as this were rather common in the inns of Chaucer's time. The tale has its bawdy moments, but it is funny to see the stupidity of the jealous carpenter fall for Nicholas' preposterous flood rather than the ends for which the trick was devised.  The carpenter is cuckolded and has a broken arm because of his extreme jealousy. Nicholas has a severely burned rear end. Absalon has been mistreated in another way. Destiny or poetic justice played an important role in the tale. Vision and astrology play a role, too. The contrast between the noble Knight and the burly Miller is made prominent by the type of story each chose to relate. The type of story the Miller tells is still popular today. Any time a very old man marries a young girl, there will be jealousy and the wife might take on a love. Miller.gif (25145 bytes)

Study Questions on Chaucer II
   On "The Miller's Tale":

6. What kind of imagery does Chaucer use to describe Alison? Is she a well-rounded character or a type? Why?
7. What are we supposed to think of the final "justice" in the end of "The Miller's Tale"?
8. What do you think about the Miller and the Miller's Tale?
9. Is there any relationship between the Miller's appearance and the content of his tale?
10. Who is the winner in "The Miller's Tale"?  Justify your answer.

The Wife of Bath's Prologue

And Tales

  • To justify her five marriages and to suggest that the thing women most desire is to complete control over their husbands. 1. A defense of her marriage 2. A confession of her techniques and a plea for certain reform for women. She uses two basic arguments: 1. If women remained virgins, there would be no one left to give birth to more virgins, 2. the sex organs are to be used for pleasure as well as function. The W of Bath can quote scripture to prove her points. Her prologue refutes the popular theory that women should be submissive, especially in matters of sex. And her argument is against the authorities of the church and state and that she is a woman who prefers experience to scholarly arguments.
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The Wife of Bath's tale


Study Questions on Chaucer II
On "Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale":

11. According to the anti-feministic theologians in the medieval church, what are the characteristics of women?
12. What metaphor does Wife of Bath use to describe the situation when man and woman are put together?
13. Why does Chaucer have such a long detailed prologue for the Wife of Bath?
14. Give a character sketch of the Wife of Bath.
15. In Wife of Bath's Tale, what is the point of telling us at the beginning of the story about the supernatural creatures and their disappearance later?
16. What do you think about Chaucer's arrangement of the change of the old wife's appearance and the happy ending?
17. What is special about the Wife of Bath's appearance and personality? Is there a connection between her personality and the story?
18. How does Chaucer use humor in the tales of the Miller and the Wife of Bath? Is there any difference in how he uses it in the two?

The Pardoner's Prologue and Tale

The prologue starts out with a confession--because he is with strangers and will not see them again The Pardoner is also an exhibitionist (in words): a clever hypocrite exploits Christian principles in order to rich himself.
"The love of money is the root of all evil"--the center of his preach/tale--used most effectively in order to frighten his hearers into a generosity that will fulfill his own rapacity (cupidity)/greed.
Exempla (exemplum): stories that illustrate concretely the sermon's point; give example to illustrate
Consistency is in the general prologue and in the introduction to the pardoner and the tale.


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Study Questions on Chaucer II
On "Pardoner's Prologue and Tale"

19. What are the three biblical examples that the Pardoner uses to illustrate "The luxur is in Win and dronkenesse" (l.196)?
20. What do you think of the Pardoner's tale?  Is the tale consistent to the story teller's character?

Relevant Links

Canterbury Tales:  It is offered in Middle and Modern English , with illustrations.
Canterbury Tales Project:  In Sheffield, Oxford and Brigham, people transcribe all manuscripts from photographs into computer readable form.
Chaucer's Canterbury Tales:  annotated version
Geoffrey Chaucer Page:  John Dryden (1631-1700)-Dryden was an admirer and translator of Chaucer.  Included are three translations from Canterbury Tales.
Labyrinth Library:  Middle English texts including works of Chaucer.


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