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

The Knight's Tale and the Miller's Tale. There is no more reason for Arcites death than for Alisons triumph, both are just random events. Discuss.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

'There is no more reason for Arcite's death than for Alison's triumph, both are just random events.' Discuss. The sense of random happenings and arbitrary choices that pervades The Canterbury Tales applies not only to the tales the Pilgrims tell but also to the situation that they are in- the pilgrimage to Canterbury. Chaucer constructs the pilgrimage so that Wel nyne and twenty in a compaignye Of sundry folk, by aventure yfalle In felaweship, and pilgrims were they alle (24-6) are gathered together, irrespective of degree or rank or social class. Chaucer's narrator claims they are there 'by aventure', and of course in 14th Century terms it is random that these 'sondry folk' should all meet, but on another level there is nothing random about Chaucer's decision to create these characters for the purposes of telling the tales. In this way the sense of 'randomness' goes hand in hand with Chaucer's attempts to impose some kind of realism upon the tales. In order for the situation to be convincing, there must be an absence of obvious author manipulation, and by heightening the sense of the pilgrimage and collection of pilgrims as a random occurrence, the author is pushed further away from a reader's consciousness. Chaucer's narrator is of course a key element of this, another obstacle further shielding the reader from Chaucer's direct views. The apparent inability of this narrator to make negative comment on those he is describing coupled with his 'random' choice of which details about the pilgrims and the tales to 'remember' increases the plausibility of the exercise. ...read more.

Middle

In the pilgrims this is demonstrated by the fact that they are generally identified only by their profession. Indeed, this is the point: much of the humour comes from the shared knowledge between author and reader about what is expected of people of the profession to which the pilgrim belongs. The Tales themselves also show this. In The Miller's Tale for example, we can see from the outset that John is a stereotypical jealous old husband with Alison the adulterous young wife and Nicholas the lecherous young man. It is not difficult to predict what will occur. The same is true of Januarie, May and Damian in The Merchant's Tale. In some ways then, what happens in The Tales is not at all random: the tales follow a set pattern. This interplay of randomness with predictability is particularly interesting as Chaucer plays with our expectations. In The Knight's Tale however, Chaucer implies that perhaps the fates of Palamon and Arcite are not just random, but due to the influence of some kind of higher forces. There is a definite sense of a lack of free will in the tale, but whether this stems from the movements of the planets or the actions of classical deities, or whether it has to do with this sense of the characters as stereotypes acting out previously dictated modes of behaviour is difficult to tell. The characters themselves make frequent references to 'Fortunes wheel' and the 'crueel goddes': 'Thanked be Fortune and hire false wheel' (925) ...read more.

Conclusion

Another aspect to consider is Chaucer's shifts between fantasy and realism. We have already seen how the 'random recall' of the narrator increases the realistic sense of the pilgrimage. However, there are several practical details such as, as one critic has pointed out, the fact the pilgrims never stop for the night anywhere or have meals. Even the practicalities of how everyone could hear each tale is ignored. Chaucer doesn't deal with every small detail, unlike, for example, Bocaccio in his Decameron. Similarly, in the description of the Knight in the General Prologue, his conquests seem initially convincing but it is soon clear that they are just not feasible. In the same way he moves between describing the pilgrims as embodiments of their profession to revealing small personal details that mark them as individuals. Interestingly, the fact that there is an element of randomness to the outcomes of these characters' lives can add to both the real and the fictional sides of their characterisation. As purely fictional types with little to distinguish them, the randomness of what happens to them simply furthers our apathetic attitude to them, such as is the case with Palamon and Arcite. But in the case of Alison and Nicholas where one co-conspirator is punished and the other escapes, we are reminded that in literary worlds, as in the real one, life isn't always fair. 1 Derek Pearsall The Canterbury Tales, The General Prologue 2 Derek Pearsall, The Canterbury Tales, The Knight's Tale 3 Derek Pearsall, The Canterbury Tales, The Knight's Tale 4 Derek Pearsall, The Canterbury Tales, Comic Tales and Fables- The Miller's Tale, p.178 5 As above, p.179 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Medieval 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 University Degree Medieval essays

  1. 'It is clear...that Chaucer used the couple relationship as a kind of open field ...

    do not react to other characters as much as to their reputations.' (Condren, 1999, p. 53) By having the Miller force himself forward and tell a tale which challenges the knight's, Chaucer establishes a narrative technique of the challenge to authority also present in 'The Wife of Bath's Tale' as will be demonstrated later.

  2. Virtue and the 'endless figure' in the works of the Pearl-poet. The Pearl-poets works ...

    The compliment is reciprocated by the maiden a few lines later in 796, referring to Christ as 'my Lemman fre' and then in 805 'In Jerusalem watz my Lemman slayn'. Although our initial impression was that the Dreamer and the Pearl-maiden were father and daughter, later in the poem he

  1. Dantes Divine Comedy. Discuss what you consider to be the most important allegorical features ...

    See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongues is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature

  2. Chaucers presentation of Troilus and Criseydes love reflects the insurmountable influences of the conventional ...

    Chaucer, however, layers this medieval romance with Christian morality which his audience would have appreciated and a closer analysis belies such a reading. Chaucer's handling of his sources, the standpoint of the narrator and the poem's emphatic ending, the detailed depiction of the Criseyde (with her self-reflection evoking some sympathy for her dilemma)

  1. The main characters in Le Roman de la Rose and Sir Gawain and the ...

    in his attempts he first meets Fair Welcome, the sign that the lady is opening up to the lover, that she is willing to talk to him. However Fair Welcome is not the only guardian of the roses and the lover has to confront "the real enemy who cannot be

  2. Free essay

    Commentary on lines 305-338 of Sir Orfeo. While at first glance the details in ...

    and things he used to do, which also could be a reason to give him strength to regain his wife as he misses how his life was. it could also be seen as paradoxical as it is the first time he has laughed in ten years, which means it is the first time he has felt joy in ten years.

  1. Chaucer's Depiction of the Corrupt Church in the Canterbury Tales

    too, by charging people to pardon their sins, something that should be unheard of, though unfortunately, it happened quite commonly. This just relates back to Chaucer?s thoughts of the church being corrupt by wrongly using the money that it had.

  2. How are gender relationships depicted in Chaucers "Wife of Bath"?

    of hym so greet chiertee!? The choice of verb is an interesting one because it is much lighter than the passage as a whole. The Wife claims that either her or her husband must give in if they are to live in peace, and she says ?And sith a man

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