Explore the ways that the Miller’s character is reflected in “The Miller’s Tale”. A “Churl” in the light of a medieval definition, claims to be an individual in the lower echelons of society, who is prone to bad manners. From the outset, it becomes clear that the Miller has little or no manners, when he arrives at the Tabard Inn not wearing a hat, something that could be considered to be rude in medieval times. From there, it is decided that the pilgrims shall tell their tales according to social rank; however the Miller interrupts this system, at once allowing the reader to see that he is rude, loud and has no respect for those around him.Order now
It is known in advance from his description, that the Miller is a character who is most unlikely to be described as righteous, “and that was moost of sinne and harlotries”. Chaucer’s portrayal of this character, makes it appear as though he is ashamed to be in association with such a crass tale, however it becomes apparent that his irony handles this, it is through this advice that he uses excuses on behalf of the Miller and his tale, “blameth nat me if that ye chese amis”. Chaucer makes it apparent that the Miller is a character who favours drinking.
At the start of the prologue, he is told as having had a drink and being unable to sit steadily upon his horse, “The Millere, that for dronken was al pale, so that unnethe upon his hors he sat”. He apologises in advance for any mispronunciations “That I am dronke, I knowe it by my soun; and therefore if that I misspeke or seye, wite it the ale of Southwerk, I you preye. ” However, his tale was told somewhat fluently, and so the error of his drinking ways may have been added by Chaucer to reiterate the poem’s farcical nature.
The Miller himself is reflected in his tale by attempting to explain how the carpenter in his story favours religion. It is with this perhaps that he tries to counteract and make up for his “lewed drunken harlotrie”. The carpenter has an obvious belief in religion, made apparent by his references to Saints and spirits. This is particularly evident when attempting to wake Nicholas from his “trance”, “Jhesu Crist and Seinte Benedight, Blesse this hous from every wikked wight”. It is here that the reader is able to see John’s limited knowledge of religion, when he mixes up his prayers “where wentestow, Seinte Petre soster?
” making it seem that carpenters are ignorant. The Miller also laughs at the expense of all those who attempt “courtly love”, making Absolon seem ridiculous in his attempts to gain the hand of Alisoun, who is again not the stereotypical ideal of a medieval damsel, this in itself a dig at those women on pilgrimage who may not be of such an “ideal” of a woman. It was common in medieval times for Miller’s to be dishonest or crafty, claiming that they would take the best crops for themselves “wel koude he stelen corn and tollen thries”, and in this case charge three times as much for produce.
This would imply that this Miller in particular was indeed sly and took more than he would be allowed. The Miller, similarly to Alisoun, is described in reference to animals, “his berd as any sowe or fox was reed”. This use of animal imagery suggests a side to the Miller that may indicate cunning aspects to his character. The Miller appears to enjoy telling the tale of this poor cuckolded carpenter, and it would seem as though he aims to receive laughter from his telling of John’s misfortunes.
Another member of the pilgrimage, or the “Reve”, is in addition a carpenter, who attempts to neutralise the Miller’s tale with “stinte thy clappe”. The Miller in return however shows no grace or remorse towards the Reve, simply stating “I sey nat therefore that thou art oon”, reiterating that he has no concern towards those around him or how his “manners” will affect them. The Miller also tells of how the carpenter is uneducated, confusing his prayers and calling Noah’s flood, “Nowel’s Flood”. This way of portraying the carpenter could quite easily be taken as a sarcastic remark attempting to provoke the “Reve”.
As his tale of trickery and deceit unfolds, it would appear that the Miller takes side of Nicholas in his tale, commenting on the carpenter’s “fastansie” and the fact that he is “sely”. He has little sympathy for the carpenter, indicating that he believes there is nothing wrong or corrupt with Nicholas’ pretence and cruelty to John, reiterating again, that the “Millere” is indefinitely a dishonest character himself, with few morals and no hesitation when it comes to laughing at the expense of others. It is obvious that the Miller tells a tale which coincides with his personality.
It would appear that he attempts to contrast his tale with that of the Knights; creating Alisoun who is an obvious parody of the Knight’s fair Emilie, and mimicking the ways of a courtly lover. Despite the ranks of social importance, it is obvious from the twists that occur in his tale that the Miller, in the face of being a churl, has understandable intelligence of the social side of life.