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It is impossible to feel either sympathy or admiration for any of the characters in 'The Miller's Tale'. Discuss.

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Introduction

English Literature 'The Miller's Tale' - Geoffrey Chaucer It is impossible to feel either sympathy or admiration for any of the characters in 'The Miller's Tale'. Discuss. Chaucer's 'The Miller's Tale' is one of the most recognised forms of fabliaux, a short story written in verse about people of lower class, in which the common plot of a love triangle between the stereotypical characters of a cunning young student, a jealous old husband and his young beautiful wife is contained. The characters that fulfil these roles in the Tale are Nicolas, John and Alison, as well as Absolon, the character who takes a shine to Alison, is tricked and later seeks revenge, adding humour and irony to the Tale. When reviewing the characters in the Tale, it is recognisable that there are events that merit the reader's sympathy, however, though we are aware of their suffering, Chaucer presents the characters in such a way that amusement, rather than sympathy, is provoked. Few of the characters and their actions deserve admiration; however certain qualities of the character's personalities can be seen as admirable and it is these that will considered later in greater detail. In 'The Miller's Prologue' the reader is promised a tale of a carpenter who becomes the laughing stock of his town when a young student cuckolds him, "a clerk hath set the wrightes cappe". At this point, the reader will become aware of the ensuing Tale's connections to fabliaux after the Miller promises to tell "a legende and a lyf...of a carpenter and of his wyf" including the reference to a student who outwits the elder male character. ...read more.

Middle

Although Nicholas is worthy of admiration, the reader feels no sympathy for Nicholas's painful encounter at the end of the Tale. His experience of having an "iren hoot...amidde the ers" can be seen as a just punishment for tricking John and sleeping with Alison, especially as he feels no remorse. It is arguable that the reader may feel Nicholas's outcome is just, owing to his behaviour; however, though this is debatable, it is unlikely that the reader will ever feel compassion for Nicholas's situation. Alison is the definitive object of femininity for the reader since Chaucer introduces her as the "yonge wyf" of the carpenter, through her physical attributes and clothing, deliberately withholding her name. Her supple and sinuous figure is likened to that of a weasel's, emphasising her sexual attractiveness whilst also hinting at her sly nature, which Nicholas later exploits, and the turn that the Tale will take later on. It is through her clothing that Alison is presented to the reader; her skirt "broiden al bifoore", embroidery on her collar "withinne and eek withoute" and "hir filet brood of silk", implying her to be of an affluent background. The more attentive reader will be aware that her rich clothing is a product of her marriage to the carpenter, whom she arguably married for his wealth. In Nicholas and Alison's first encounter, it is unclear to the reader why Alison initially plays so hard to get, claiming that her "housbonde is so ful of jalousie", however, they are aware that after calling her "lemman" and crass advances, she is won round with unseemly haste. ...read more.

Conclusion

The fact that Absolon's song reaches the wrong set of ears initially implies his failure and as there is a companionable recognition of who it is singing between John and Alison it is indicated further that neither of them take him very seriously. Unfortunately for Absolon, Chaucer uses him to provoke humour for the reader and though he is worthy of sympathy in certain circumstances, the reader never regards with true compassion. Playing the part as victim of ridicule throughout the Tale makes it hard for the reader to ever respect him. It is notable that Absolon is only ever the subject of admiration from the reader when he seeks revenge of Alison after humiliating him, however, revenge is in reality not a quality to be admired in someone. Owing to his position in the love-triangle of the Tale, his vanity, his immaturity and vengeful personality, Absolon is never truly empathised with, but his determination and wilfulness make him a creditable, if a times laughable, character. John - foolish, marriage, jealousy Ignorance - religious knowledge about flood Story telling nature Miller states he needs, and is deserving of punishment Possessive, line 124 Gullible Speaks like an old man - garrulous Miller tries to get back at Reeve Nicholas - vain Blasphemous No remorse No guilt of consequences Just desserts Alison - eager to deceive Chose to deceive a man who genuinely loved her Sly, line 126 "as any wezele" Understandable that she deceives her husband Lines 114, 126, 136 Things to consider: * No one gets off Scott free! * Robust medieval attitude to sex * Put yourself in their situations Joanna Lowe Page 1 Mrs Edwards ...read more.

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