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The Miller’s Tale. Chaucer in the House of Fame. From “Fame” to “Tidings”. With that y gan aboute wende , For oon that stood ryght at my bak , Me thoughte , goodly to me spak ,    

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Chaucer in the house of fame
Chaucer in the House of Fame

From “Fame” to “Tidings”

With that y ganaboutewende,For oon that stood ryght at my bak,Me thoughte, goodly to me spak,    

And seyde, "Frend, what is thy name?Artow come hider to han fame?""Nay, for sothe, frend," quod y;"I cam noghthyder, graunt mercy,For no such cause, by my hed!  …

"But what doost thou here than?" quod he.Quod y, "That wyl y tellen the,The cause why y stonde here:                           1885Somme newetydynges for to lere,Somme newethinges, y not what,Tydynges, other this or that,Of love, or suchethynges glade.For certeynly, he that me made                         1890To comenhyder, seyde me,Y shuldebothe here and se,In this place, wonder thynges;But these be no suchetydyngesAs I mene of." "Noo?" quod he.                         1895And I answered, "Noo, parde!

From noble story to churl s story
From Noble Story to Churl’s Story

The millere is a cherl, ye knowewel this;

So was the reve eek and othere mo,

And harlotrie they toldenbothe two.

Avysethyow, and put me out of blame;

And eek men shalnatmakenernest of game.

(end of Miller’s Prologue)

“Whan that the Knyght had thus his tale ytoold,

In al the route nasther young ne oold

That he ne seyde it was a noble storie

And worthy for to drawen to memorie,

And namely the gentilseverichon.” (Miller’s Prologue)

“I kan a noble tale for the nones,

With which I wol now quite the Knyghtes tale.”

“Thus swyved was this carpenteriswyf,

For al his kepyng and his jalousye;

And Absolonhath kisthir nether ye;

And Nicholas is scalded in the towte.

This tale is doon, and God save al the rowte!

(end of Miller’s Tale)


“Now telleth ye, sir Monk, if that ye konne,

Somwhatto quite with the Knyghtes tale.”

(the Host to the Monk, Miller’s Prologue)

Quit: respond to, finish, avenge, leave behind

Miller’s Prologue

“I kan a noble tale for the nones,

With which I wol now quite the Knyghtes tale.”

Reeve’s Prologue

“‘So theek’, quod he, ‘fulwelkoude I thee quite 3864

With bleryng of a proud milleres ye,

If that me listespeke of ribaudye.”

“And, by youreleve, I shalhym quite anoon” 3915

“Thus have I quyt the Millere in my tale.”

Cook’s Prologue

“Be thou natwrooth, er we departenheer,

Though that my tale be of an hostileer.

But nathelees I wolnattelle it yit;

But er we parte, ywis, thou shalt be quit.”

Structural parallels across fragment a
Structural Parallels Across Fragment A

Egeus and Theseus are combined into John, Saturn and Jupiter into Joseph (we might find room for God the Father too?). John is then “quited” by Simkin. In the Cook’s Tale’s, this figure is separated again, into “Maister” and “Compeer.”

Hippolita and Emily are combined into Alisoun then separated again into the Miller’s Wife and Duagher, then combined again in the Cook’s Tale’s Wife. Juno and Diana reappear as the Mrs. Noah and the Virgin Mary.

Arcite and Palamon reappear first as Absolom and Nicholas then as Alan and John before merging in the nauseating person of Perkin.

Knight’s Tale


Jupiter (Juno) (Pluto)

Mars Diana Venus



Arcite Emily Palamon

Miller’s Tale


PAST Herod Mrs. Noah/Mary Gabriel

PROFANEJohn (Gervase)

PRESENT Absalom Alisoun Nicholas

Reeve’s TaleSimkin Wife

John Daughter Alan

Cook’s Tale “Maister”

“Compeer” WifePerkin

Taking the miller s tale to pieces
Taking The Miller’s Tale To Pieces

Fabliau: comic, often obscene story, usually in urban or village settings, with sex, ambition, money, revenge etc. the explicit motives for action. Stock characters include Dirty (or Feeble) Old Men, Sexy Young Wives, Students, Apprentices and other unattached males.

Comic justice is about who wins, not who deserves in any moral sense

Despite the “churls” who tell Chaucer’s fabliaux, it’s often in practice a “low” aristocratic genre

Motifs 1: Old Man Young Wife (cfTheseus?)

“Men sholdenwedden his similitude”

PLUS: “A legend and a lif/Both of a carpenter and his wif”

Motifs 2: Two Boys One Girl (cfArcite/Palamon)

PLUS: Herod and the Angel Gabriel

Motifs 3: Tale of Three Tubs (cf Temple Prayers)

PLUS: Noah’s Ark: The Flood Returns

Motifs 4: Misdirected Kiss (cf death of Arcite)

PLUS: The Last Judgment

Denouement: Simultaneous resolution of all four

Giotto the nativity c 1300
Giotto, The Nativity (c. 1300)

Joseph, an elderly carpenter, is off to the side while all the action takes place without him. The sacred version of the Old Man marries Young Woman motif from the fabliau.

Unexpected themes
Unexpected Themes

1. Learned versus Lewd, in Love and Theology

2. The Power of Rhetoric

(Alisoun’s description)

3. Modernity: How the present uses the past; how traditional stories and ideals are reflected in the present (cf General Prologue)

“A clerk haddelitherlybiset his whyle,

But if he koude a carpenter bigyle.” (Nicholas, 3299)

“Ye, blessed be alwey a lewed man

That noght but oonly his bilevekan!” (John, 3455)

“For every clerk anonrightheeld with oother.

They seyde, the man is wood, my leeve brother;

And every wightganlaughen at this stryf.” (3847)