The first tale is told by a Knight recently returned from the Crusades. Because the Knight is presented as a traditional, old-fashioned sort of fellow, it should come as no surprise that he tells a tale of courtly love. What is courtly love? This term refers to a phenomenon of the late middle ages when women were accorded an almost religious status, and the act of seeking a woman's favor took on the flavor of a religious quest. Ironically, however, while women seem to be central to the story, in fact they do absolutely nothing. The point of these stories was to show how women for men represented a metaphor for the man's relationship with the divine, and consequently in these works women function as completely static works of art. The man is expected to see the woman from afar and be smitten by her beauty.

He makes some type of approach and is initially rebuffed. Generally after the battle, she accepts his love and a sexual relationship ensues. The "Knight's Tale" reflects the courtly love tradition's idea of what the male's relationship to the female should be. This tradition saw women as objects to be revered and love as a game to be mastered, another arena for conquest just like war. The courtly love genre reflected in this story did not see women as free agents, or indeed, as agents at all. The first tale is told by a Knight recently returned from the Crusades.

Because the Knight is presented as a traditional, old-fashioned sort of fellow, it should come as no surprise that he tells a tale of courtly love. What is courtly love? This term refers to a phenomenon of the late middle ages when women were accorded an almost religious status, and the act of seeking a woman's favor took on the flavor of a religious quest. Ironically, however, while women seem to be central to the story, in fact they do absolutely nothing. The point of these stories was to show how women for men represented a metaphor for the man's relationship with the divine, and consequently in these works women function as completely static works of art. The man is expected to see the woman from afar and be smitten by her beauty.

He makes some type of approach and is initially rebuffed. Generally after the battle, she accepts his love and a sexual relationship ensues. The "Knight's Tale" reflects the courtly love tradition's idea of what the male's relationship to the female should be. This tradition saw women as objects to be revered and love as a game to be mastered, another arena for conquest just like war. The courtly love genre reflected in this story did not see women as free agents, or indeed, as agents at all. In The Miller's Tale Chaucer presents a side of the courtly love tradition never seen before.

His characters are average middle class workers rather than elite nobility. Instead of being involved in "courtly love" there is some evidence that the relationship between Alison and Nicholas is one of lust. The Miller's Tale is a parody of the courtly love tradition. But the fact that Chaucer uses the lower classes as his characters makes his story even more absurd. Instead of being wise they are foolish. Whereas the Knight's tale prizes morality and piety toward the gods, the Miller's Tale values different attributes.

Courtly romantic love is mocked mercilessly; Absolon, the one suitor whose behavior would fit traditional romantic standards, is the victim of Alison's scorn and receives only one vulgar 'kiss' for his efforts. In the tale, Absolon's romantic affectations mark him as foolish and effeminate. The Miller sarcastically notes how Absolon combed his curly blond hair to prepare himself for Alison, a parody of courtly love and romance for which the Miller has no use. The Miller's tale prizes the characters who are the most shrewd rather than those who hold more sentimental emotions or obey traditional standards of behavior.