What have you found interesting about the ways Chaucer satirises the code of Courtly Love in the Miller's Prologue and Tale?

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Michelle Bailey

What have you found interesting about the ways Chaucer satirises the code of Courtly Love in the Miller’s Prologue and Tale?


The first thing I find interesting is the fact that Chaucer in fact at all, uses satire in terms of Courtly Love. The previous tale – the Knight’s tale – tells of the pain of Courtly Love and how it is taken extremely seriously and so the interest comes when the Miller’s Tale, which also contains elements of Courtly Love, is juxtaposed next to this. The Miller’s Tale responds to the Knight’s by turning Courtly Love into a rude joke for example by portraying any ‘romance’ in the tale in a sexually graphic way. For example Nicholas seduces Alison by grabbing her by the “queynte”. This completely satirises the cold of Courtly Love, as the code of Courtly Love involves only admiring from afar, or awaiting a simple glance. Nicholas is therefore used as Chaucer’s main way to satirise Courtly Love, in that he is the complete opposite to what noble following the code of Courtly Love should be. For example, he speaks words of Courtly Love, but his actions do not match what he says. When speaking to Alison, Nicholas says “Lemman, love me al atones, or I wol dyen” yet he is holding “hire harde by the haunchebones”. Therefore I find it interesting that Chaucer is using elements of Courtly Love, in that the words Nicholas says to seduce Alison appear to be courtly, yet Nicholas only cares about having sex with her, which has nothing to do with the code of Courtly Love. Therefore it could be said that Nicholas is mocking the idea of Courtly Love, which in turn suggests that Chaucer is portraying that Courtly Love should not be respected. This links to the fact that the tale is told just after the Knight’s in that it acts as a response to say that Courtly Love is a joke. This point also links to numerous other themes in the Miller’s tale for example religion. Throughout the tale, religion is mocked for example the use of Noah’s Tale so that Alison and Nicholas can commit adultery, just as Courtly Love is satirised. The fact that Chaucer also used religion in the satirising of Courtly Love is again showing that the church should not be taken seriously, just as Courtly Love should be mocked – “God save me”, “she hir love ghim graunted…and swoor hir ooth by Seint Thomas”. This perhaps links to the people on the pilgrimage in that Chaucer is saying that anything sacred or holy should not be taken seriously, yet everyone on the pilgrimage is there for supposedly religious reasons. This point can also be supported by the use of satire when talking of Courtly Love, in the fact that Absolon claims to be in love with Alison so much that “hath in his here swich a love-longige that of no wyf he took”, yet when he is in church, supposedly carrying out religious duties, “many a lovely look on hem [the women sitting in the church] he caste”. This hence could be Chaucer’s/the Miller’s way of demonstrating that the pilgrims to whom he is telling the tale, are not in fact on the pilgrimage for religious reasons, but in fact to meet other people – just as Absolon is.

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This is again shown in the fact that Chaucer is suggesting in the satirising of Courtly Love, that in fact, no one is truly pure or devout. This could again link to religion and therefore the people on the pilgrimage not truly being there to visit the shrine of a saint. This is again shown through the fact that Absolon is not in truth following the code of Courtly Love either. For example, it is clear that Absolon wants more than a kiss from Alison – for after this [a kiss] I hope ther cometh moore” – yet this is ...

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