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Chaucer's use of biblical material in ‘The Miller’sTale’.

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Introduction

CHAUCER'S USE OF BIBLICAL MATERIAL IN 'The Miller's Tale' The biblical references and implications in 'The Miller's Tale' mockingly inter-relate the tale's sexual and vulgar content and its religious elements. It is a parody on and critique of the Church, mocking all sacred: the stories from the Bible, the saints, even the Holy Family. The 'dronken' miller commences his tale in 'Pilates voys', implying that the story will be condemning Christianity, since Pilates, according to the Bible, has condemned Jesus with his words. As the scholar clerk Nicholas and parish clerk Absolon represent St. Nicholas and Absalom, Son of David, miller sinfully compares two saints with two lustful and immoral men, who are concerned more with secular than the spiritual matters. Since carpenter John metaphorically represents Joseph and Noah, and his young wife Alison therefore represents Virgin Mary and Noah's wife, the miller this time immorally correlates Joseph/Noah and Virgin Mary/Noah's wife with a madman and a promiscuous, sly wife, when the Church forbids promiscuous behavior and implies that mad behavior is associated with the Satan. Further religious mocking is portrayed by the actions of Nicholas in the tale, as he does exact the opposite of what St. ...read more.

Middle

Nicholas further states that his plan will work because a clerk can fool a carpenter any day - a class distinction and condescension in contrast with the teachings of the Church. The entire scene encompasses several sins. First, the whole story is a lie and thus a sin. Lust, another sin, serves as the driving force behind this lie. Finally, Nicholas and Alison's intercourse out-of-wedlock for pleasure serves as the sinful result of the story. The miller therefore contorts the most holy image of Noah into a dreadful satanic scene of the tale. The fact that a man such as Nicholas sings 'Angelus ad Virgenum' is itself mocking of the Church. Carpenter John's wife Alison portrays promiscuous behavior almost continuously throughout the tale; from the sinful encounter with Nicholas, agreement to deceit her husband to her indulge in adultery. When Nicholas tells her to sleep with him immediately, or he will 'spille' (l.170) so 'God [him] save', it is another pun on religion as this 'spille' could perhaps mean 'waste the seed', God forbid, as opposed to depositing it with Alison's 'mercy' (180). Right after she and Nicholas made a plan how to arrange their next adulterous encounter, Alison goes to church, juxtaposing the profane and the sacred in the same way. ...read more.

Conclusion

Nicholas gets his punishment, and as he screams, word 'water' triggers the double action of John cutting the rope that suspends his tub as he thinks the flood came, and Nicholas acting to soothe his pain. While the Church (Catholic Church, Jewish synagogue, etc.) teaches respect for authority, ultimately invested in God, the Father, to whom the Jesus, the Son, submits, it regards adultery as a mortal sin, and teaches prudence and severe restraint in sexual matters. 'The Miller's Tale' is the opposite, as the father figure, John, is overthrown by youth, Nicholas, and ironically, by the invocation of God's authority. From a pious point of view, this story laughs at the belief that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps the miller is insinuating that Jesus was conceived by Mary's unfaithfulness to Joseph, not by any Holy Spirit. As an added pun, if Absolon also symbolizes the worshippers, as he worships Alison, then the wind Nicholas passes in Absolon's face is the award for any pilgrim, worshipping 'true' beliefs in the Holy Tale of Conception and Sanctity. The miller further implies that Church's preaching against greed, blasphemy, gluttony, adultery and all things related to the Satan is hypocritical, as he parodies the sacred discipline and Church by showing characters representing the Church, behaving in all the forbidden and blasphemous manners. 3 ...read more.

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