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Throughout the 'Canterbury Tales' the theme of marriage occurs and generates discussion among the pilgrims. From your reading of 'The Miller's Tale', what do you think they might find interesting or provocative?

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Introduction

Julia Cloke 12JMW Throughout the 'Canterbury Tales' the theme of marriage occurs and generates discussion among the pilgrims. From your reading of 'The Miller's Tale', what do you think they might find interesting or provocative? In 'The Miller's Tale' the sanctity of marriage is played upon heavily, as during Chaucer's time all marriages were respected in the eyes of the Church and contained a very religious theme. We also see how jealously in a marriage can bring about conflicting ideas and actions, which can often lead to one person taking the other for granted. The whole foundation of marriage is questioned in 'The Miller's Tale' as Chaucer reveals both the good and bad in a married couple. Contrary to 'The Knight's Tale' which contains a story of courtly romance, of the ideal fantasy, 'The Miller's Tale' reveals to opposing side to marriage. Where as courtly love is all about wooing your future partner, showing off your airs and graces, the marriage in 'The Miller's Tale' is very much based on reality. Chaucer deliberately placed these two stories side by side to show just how contrasting they are and how one is based purely on fantasy, while the other is based on reality. Chaucer tries to show through the characters of Alisoun and John that marriage isn't the fairytale that it has been portrayed as for hundreds of years, but a relationship that contains both happy and sad experiences, makes us smile and cry. ...read more.

Middle

John, "heeld hire narwe in cage," because of this fear and hoped that no one would take an interest in his wife. For she was, "likerous," and, "ful smale ypulled," which would be tempting for any man. So good looking and young she was, as well as being, "a primerole, a piggesnie," which describes how lively a character Alisoun was through the crisp sounding letters in both the words. John has obviously not made a very wise choice in Alisoun, as, "man sholde wedde his similitude," meaning that John should have married someone who was older and his equal. In a way, this phrase is inadvertently saying to the reader that Alisoun is too pretty to be married to a mere carpenter. Summing up what Alisoun is really like, Chaucer says that she is something, "For any lord to leggen in his bedde, Or yet for any good yeman to wedde." This means that someone of social standing such as John would look to make her his wife, but someone who is higher up in society would simply want to take her to bed. We must remember that at this time in history there had been the Black Death, which had killed so many people. It had wiped out many people, leaving a gap in society to form a new social class. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is not just the actions of Alisoun and John that show us how, for some, marriage has little or no meaning. Absolon, a man of the clergy makes advances towards Alisoun, knowing full well that she is a married woman. "Thanne kisse me, " says Absolon, after Alisoun says that, "I love another." Even a kiss is a form of cheating, something, which as a member of the clergy, Absolon should respect. In the eyes of the church cheating is considered a sin, a sin on both the part of the married person and the other one. Absolon should not, "caste...a lovely look on hem," when he is collecting money in Church, but he still does. Nicholas too, treats Alisoun as an object of desire, rather than a married woman. He shows no respect for their marriage when he has sex with Alisoun under the same roof as John, but continues to cokewold him. Throughout 'The Miller's Tale' we see how marriage is abused and manipulated to people's advantage. I feel that Chaucer is making the reader deliberately aware of how easy it is to cokewold someone and how quickly you can caught in a trap where there is no escape, just like John. If there's one thing you should take on board from this poem its that, "man sholde wedde his similitude." ...read more.

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