The Miller’s Prologue

February 2, 2011

After the beautiful tale of the knight, which adhered in many ways to the generic conventions of both the chivalric epic and the courtly romance, the host who is serving as judge declares the tale an excellent beginning to the competition and invites the monk to present his tale next. The miller, a stout and homely man who is drunk on ale, rudely interrupts and declares that he has a tale to tell. The host asks him to wait and declares him inebriated, but the miller threatens the host and the company and his wish to give the next tale is granted. The miller then gives us a taste of what is to come: the miller’s tale will concern itself with a carpenter who is made a cuckold when his wife cheats on him with a clerk, a student at Oxford. The reeve becomes upset at this idea of a tale because of the aspersions it will cast on wives and women generally. The miller assures the reeve that there are many good wives out there and also declares that he believes his wife is faithful to him, although he doesn’t probe the answer to the question with much depth or sincerity and recommends a similar course of action to all men. Lastly, Chaucer the poet warns us that the miller’s tale will be bawdy and that we should not blame Chaucer for reprinting it, which is his rightful job as the honest and accurate reporter of the Canterbury pilgrimage.

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