• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

By examining the different elements of humour in The Miller's Tale, show how Chaucer makes the comic tale work on different levels.

Extracts from this document...


By examining the different elements of humour in The Miller's Tale, show how Chaucer makes the comic tale work on different levels. The principal reason for the vast difference in style of humour in The Miller's Tale is derived from the fact that there was such a vast audience that Chaucer was catering for when writing these tales. There would have been great difference in the levels of intellect in the audience, so Chaucer needed to present a large degree of difference in the humour in order to appeal to the different types of audience. Essentially, there are two platforms from which the varying degrees of humour are delivered, and each caters for a different type of audience. One is Chaucer, the intellectual with a higher level of humour who presents the tale to us, and the Miller, the "janglere" and "goliardeys" who tells us the tale. We know there is a distinct difference between the two and the type of humour they present to us from when Chaucer sets himself apart from the Miller and his tale in The Miller's Prologue, and apologises for what is to be said, "Aviseth yow, and put me out of blame; And eek men shal nat maken ernest of game." ...read more.


For example, "hende Nicholas" at the start of the tale suggests a useful, courteous and kind gentleman to John, but ironically by the end it suggests Nicholas skilful, lustful and successful advances to Alison. This shifting of nuances creates an ironic tone as the exact same language changes the audience's inference of what is being said, especially in the case of "hende" Nicholas. The tale is full of dramatic ironic moments, which would appeal to a wider audience, not just the more intelligent audience; these are based on events that occur in the narrative so little previous knowledge of generic conventions or a high grasp of linguistic knowledge is required on the audiences part, simply a reasonably close following to the narrative. This is why this humour opens up the comedy of the tale to a wider audience. Moments of real dramatic irony in the tale include Alison's response to Nicholas initial advances, "I wol nat kisse thee, by my fey!" This turns out to be highly ironic as Nicholas obtains his sexual desires only soon after this idle threat of chastity. Another, more humorous example of this arises from Nicholas' duping of John, through heavily ironic flattery to John, "Thou art so wys, it needeth thee nat teche." ...read more.


The theme of crudeness and innuendo is also a form of humour that would typically be appreciated by the less intelligent audience, and this features frequently in the tale through the platform of the Miller. The tale is littered with coarse and sexual language, the use of the word "queynte" at the end of successive lines with very different meanings. This crudeness would be welcomed with shocked hilarity to the audience of the day. The less intelligent, more common audience would generally have appreciated the coarse and vulgar language more. In conclusion, it is evident that there is a vast variety of humour in the tale, which appeals to the vast audience. These are essentially given to us through two platforms, the Miller and Chaucer, the Miller usually providing laughs for a less intelligent audience whereas Chaucer provides humour for a more intelligent audience. For some of the humour to work, it relies on an attentive audience, for example the more intellectual humour such as the literary parody and the irony, it expects some previous knowledge in order for it to be appreciated; however, some of the crude slapstick humour only requires a loose following of the narrative. The vast type of humour all works on different levels in order to appeal to great diversity in the audience, so there is humour for everyone in this tale. Chris Russell 13AnB ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Geoffrey Chaucer section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Geoffrey Chaucer essays

  1. "Cat In The Rain" by Ernest Hemingway

    That is to say that "Hills..." could be argued to be the sequel. We have traveled on to Spain somewhere between Madrid and Barcelona. Again we meet an American couple. This time around the man (nameless) is the aggressor and has the control. Compared to George there seems not to be no other difference between the two than natural development.

  2. The Merchant's Tale -summary

    January is not blinded by anger, but by the deception of his wife. The real irony exists in January's statement to May when he invites her into his garden: "No spot of thee ne knew I al my lyf". The contrast between his ugly passion and the romantic imagery...matches the

  1. How Is The Character Of Nicholas Presented In 'The Miller's Tale'

    Despite the more absurd aspects of the scheme, like Nicholas insisting on separate tubs for Alison and John to ironically ensure that 'bitwixe yow shal be no sinne', John remains unaware of the real reason, showing his na�vety. Upon his discovery of Nicholas in a state of mental disturbance, John

  2. "How does Chaucer use or adapt the literary conventions of fabliaux and courtly romance ...

    Courtly romance is a narrative that describes the conventional, refined behaviour of aristocratic lovers in high chivalric romance. In courtly romance the would-be lover woos the lady with different arts and would try to win the lady over in tournaments.

  1. How Does Chaucer Present The Miller To Become Such A Vivid And Vibrant Character

    Chaucer describes the miller's beard as sow's ear, suggesting that the hair is coarse; however this could be hidden symbolism for him as a person being coarse. Quote; 'Reed as the bristles of a sowes erys'. (Translated as 'Red bristly hair as if it were a sow's ear'.)

  2. The Miller's Tale: Lines 364-489

    story of Noah, hence is not a noble character as he is clearly not religious. Again, blasphemy of the church occurs when Nicholas is telling John that, when he is in the barrel, he should "ne clepe, ne crie but be in his preyere".

  1. Taking together the portrait of the Miller in the 'General Prologue' with the framing ...

    Having placated the Host, the Miller then quarrels with the Reeve, after promising a tale of the cuckolding of a carpenter. The Reeve objects to the Miller's Tale as he is of a similar trade to that of the carpenter in the tale, and so believes that the tale will project the idea that all craftsmen are cuckolds.

  2. Discuss Chaucer's use of variety in The Merchant's Prologue and Tale.

    However, when May is unfaithful and even laughs at her husband's age and pathetic nature, the reader's sympathies swing towards Januarie. Yet before "the naddre in bosom sly untrewe" (l. 574) enters the marriage, Januarie has treated May as a business-like purchase.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work