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“The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer

Updated August 24, 2022

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“The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer essay

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The Canterbury Tales is a piece of writing containing 24 tales covering around 18,000 lines done by Geoffrey Chaucer. Some of the stories that are part of The Canterbury Tales include the Miller’s Tale and the Knight’s Tale. Considering the two stories, we can see the similarity in the plot that lets them be compared. Additionally, the differences in imagery and the choice of words make the two tales stand out even though they are also different in a way. In both tales, the characters resemble one another in several ways.

In the Miller’s Tale, the characters were made out to be crude and naïve while the characters in the Knight’s Tale were proper and elegant within their actions and speech. Although the two stories have outstanding imagery, I think they differ in style. The Miller’s Tale is comparing things to objects and characters in nature while the Knight’s Tales uses a more traditional approach.

According to what I can tell from research, The Miller’s Tale is using characterization by showing the level of the lower class while the Knight’s Tale is using characterization by representing the perfect stereotype of a true warrior. Though impressive on equality both tales are opposite in some things such as word choice, characterization, and imagery. The two tales have several similarities and also differences.

For instance, both, the squire and the Knight, come from similar feudal classes and vocations. One key difference that there is between the two is the fact that they attend a pilgrimage to a cathedral but for different reasons. The key being religious purposes while the other was essentially on vacation. The tale told by the Knight directly relates to his own life and class, a kind of romance if you ask me. This tale tells a story of two cousins in conflict as they both wish to be with the same woman, Emelye, sister-in-law to Theseus (Chaucer and Ellis 1387). The Miller’s Tale differs as it represents individuals of a very different class.

The Miller’s Tale tells his story in a manner that is humorous and is focused on sexual misdoings carried out by the working classes. The romance that can be found in the Knight’s Tale describes the life of two individuals, Arcite and Palamon, who find themselves courting the same woman (who is unaware of their intentions). On the other hand, the character in the Miller’s Tale is quite alert to what is going on as she makes a fool out of a young woman’s aging husband so that he can engage in a relationship with the woman.

In the Knight’s Tale, Palamon and Arcite are in a race to win Emelye’s hand, and, therefore, they both do their best to bring out the romantic side of things as much as possible. For example, Palamon describes Emelye in a lovely manner. He states that he does not know whether Emelye is a woman or a goddess, and he concludes to himself that she must be Venus (Chaucer and Ellis 1401).

More romance is mentioned when Arcite responds to Palamon’s lovely words to Emelye by stating that Palamon’s love is ideal as it is based on the love of a goddess. He says that his love, on the other hand, is for a real woman, Emelye. However, when one turns to the Miller’s Tale, the concept of Chivalric romance is lost as the tale relies on the plain physicality of a human being. The Miller’s Tale is made up of pure physical lust and not the ideals of spiritual, medieval romance.

For instance, in the Miller’s Tale, Nicholas is a skillful liar who applies his skills to lie to the Miller (Chaucer and Ellis 2366). He lies by saying Noah’s Flood is on its way, with his aim being to get rid of the Miller so that he can have his wife for himself. The manner in which Nicholas describes Alisoun, the Miller’s wife, was in no way romantic from what I could tell.

The similarity that occurs between the Miller’s Tales and the Knight’s Tales is that the men involved in the stories are willing to go out of their way to get the women they desire. The two cousins strive to be as romantic as possible to earn Emelye’s hand. Similarly, Nicholas goes out of his way to actually lie to the Miller to get him out of the way so that he can sleep with Alisoun (Chaucer and Ellis 2563).

Another similarity between the Knight’s Tales and the Miller’s Tales is that in both tales, a third party is brought in to deal with the issue at hand. For instance, in the Knight’s Tale, the noble Duke Theseus is brought in due to his powerful and calming nature to deal with the chaos between the two cousins (Chaucer and Ellis 1499). Similarly, in the Miller’s Tale, a third party is brought in to deal with Nicholas for lying to the Landlord and sleeping with his wife. It is a priest who is brought in to deal with Nicholas, beating him at his own game. The two tales also showed similarity in the application of satire.

The Miller’s Tale is satirical in the manner Chaucer brings out his perception of the lower-class people. It is an obvious expectation that the people of the lower class would more often demonstrate lust. As expected, the love triangle in the Miller’s Tale ends up turning into an adulterous triangle (Chaucer and Ellis 2544). Moreover, the excessive chivalry shown by the two cousins bring out the intended satire on the role of the Knight in society.

The two differ in their tones as the tone of the Knight’s Tale is epic while the tone of the Miller’s Tale is as mentioned earlier, satirical. Conclusion The Miller’s Tale tells a story of lust and physical wants and desires, while the Knight’s Tale tells a different story which is of chivalry and romance. The characters in both tales differ in the manner that they handle the women they are interested in. We see that in both tales, the characters are caught up in some sort of love triangles, only in different contexts.

We can also see similarities in the characters from both tales that they are willing to go through different lengths to win over the women they desire.

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“The Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer. (2019, Mar 10). Retrieved from