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

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Introduction

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.

Middle

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.

Conclusion

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.

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