. A Comparison of The Knight's Tale and The Miller's Tale "Yet as good as The Knight's Tale and The Miller's Tale are alone, their triumph is in dialectic. When read together, they produce a complex literary experience much greater than the sum of their individual parts (Bensen, 135)." Both The Knight's Tale and The Miller's Tale tell stories of love, with variations of the same beautiful imagery, character, and situation. The Knight's Tale tells a story of the traditional courtly love, while The Miller's Tale sits from a lower class point of view and turns the knight's idea of courtly love into a shorter, disgusting farce. Although The Miller's Tale seems to be a parody of The Knight's Tale, it does not lack the same quality of The Knight's Tale. The Knight's Tale and The Miller's Tale have many similarities, one of them being the situation of each of the tales.
The Knight's Tale and The Miller's Tale parallel in the plot of each story, for instance, "a courtly love triangle in the romance is followed by an earthier threesome in the fabliau and lordly Theseus as patriarch is replaced by silly John the carpenter (Benson, 138)." The similarities in the plot are what make The Knight's Tale and the Miller's Tale able to be compared. It is their differences in length, imagery, and choice of words that make The Knight's and the Miller's Tale special in different ways (Benson, 138). The characters in The Knight's Tale and The Miller's Tale resemble each other in a lot of ways too. The knight's characters are proper and elegant in their speech and actions, while the miller's are crude and sometimes na " ive.
Nicholas's way of showing love was grabbing Alison's privates (Chaucer, 1538), while the knight's fight to show their love for Emily (Hopper), which is considered more noble than grabbing someone's private parts. Although there are differences in the characters there are parallel's between them too. Emily and Alison are similar in the fact that they are both the sought after women in the tales. Nicholas and Absolon are like the two quarreling knights, Palamon and Arcite. Seeking after a beautiful woman. John the carpenter and Theseus are also alike, the carpenter the head of the household, and Theseus as the lord of the kingdom (Bensen, 138).
In both tales the characters play very similar roles with totally different personalities. Chaucer's characterization of the characters is different in each of the tales. In The Knight's Tale the characterization serves as a showing the characters as a type. The descriptions are less detailed (Bensen, 150). Emily, Arcite, and Palamon are the stereotypical princess and warriors. The characters in The Miller's Tale are described in more detail, and their characterization means more to the plot of the story.
Absolon is described to be "flirtatious among the lower classed, have involvement with nonreligious activities, and have a dislike in farting, which are all used in the plot of the story (Bensen, 151)." Although both of the tales have beautiful imagery, they vary in their style. The knight's imagery is very traditional; while the miller compares things to objects and traits you would see in nature. One example of how they use imagery is in the way they describe the women of the tales. In The Knight's Tale he compares Emily to such things as flowers. "Emily, who was fairer to behold than the lily on it's green stalk... for her complexion vied with the color of roses (Hopper, 66)." He also compares her to things like an angel; all to which he compares are typical, common objects that writers of that time used.
In The Miller's Tale he uses animal imagery and things from the wild to describe Alison (Richardson, 160-161). "Fair this young woman was, her body trim as and mink, so graceful and so slim... she was as s kiddish as an untrained colt (Chaucer, 1537)." He also compares her to a weasel, a mouse, and a bird (Richardson, 161). The miller may have used unconventional imagery but it still has the same effect as the knight's imagery. In the Prologue of The Miller's Tale we first see the differences in the social class between the characters. The knight represents the high class and the miller represents the low class.
This aspect of the tale brings out the contrast of the two characters. Bensen says, "Chaucer turns to the crude miller to initiate the structure of complex literary contrasts that gives excitement and meaning to the Canterbury Tales (137)." The Host wanted the Monk to be next to tell his tale because he wanted to continue with the order of social rank (Root, 173). With a little reflection it is easy to see how different things would have been if the Monk was to tell his tale next, like the host wanted (Bensen, 137). "A certain thematic tension would exist, but the effect on the reader of beginning the collection with two such long and serious works would be oppressive (Bensen, 137)." This difference in class is what made these two tales compare so well. The Miller's Tale shows the Miller's unruly, immoral character and low class, but surprises us with his beautiful imagery and clever story line, and gives the reader exactly what they are looking for. The Miller takes all of these things; situation, characterization, and imagery and uses them to turn the idea of the knight's courtly love into a huge joke from the point of the lower class.
He takes all the aspects of courtly love: watching from a distance, a burning love, fight to the death, wooing the one you love by coming to the window, and pain, and makes fun of them while adding a disgusting sexual content to all of it. The miller uses the same situation, the love triangle, as the knight. Instead of building the whole story around this conflict, the miller uses Absolon, who is more like the characters of Arcite and Palamon, as he sings to Alison love songs and appears at her window asking for a kiss, as the butt of his joke (Chaucer 1548). He compares the effort of the warriors to Absolon's meaning all they get is a big fart in their face.
The miller also uses his characterization to show the level of the lower class. In The Knight's Tale all the characters represent the perfect stereotype of the "perfect warrior", or the "perfect princess." Not showing the characteristics of any individual personality traits (Bensen, 150 -151). In The Miller's Tale not only does the individual characters have personality traits specific to them, but they are definitely not perfect. John is described as ignorant and jealous in trying to keep a wife as young as Alison (Richardson, 163), and Nicholas assumes he can manipulate all circumstances to his own advantage (Richardson, 163). Finally there is Absolon, who is not only in the church and trying to commit adultery, but also has "ridiculous delusions that he is an effective lover (Richardson, 163)." These flawed characters show a dramatic insult to the perfect characters in The Knight's Tale. Imagery in The Miller's Tale also makes the imagery of the courtly love a farce.
The image of pain for example, in The Knight's Tale suffer long years of pain because of their love for Emily (Hopper). They weep for her, don't eat for days, and don't sleep (Hopper, 69 - 70). On the other hand the love between Nicholas and Alison is purely sexual. "He caught her between the legs, and said, 'Sweetheart, unless I have my way with you I'll die for stifled love (Chaucer, 1538).' " There is the same image of death and suffering, but not with a serious sense at all. Another allusion to pain is between the fatal fall of Arcite and John's fall from the ceiling. In The Knight's Tale after Arcite's fall off the horse and his death, there is morning throughout the whole town, but after John's fall from the ceiling and breaking his arm the people of the town just laugh at him and assume that he is crazy (Bensen, 142).
Although equally impressive, The Knight's Tale and The Miller's Tale are exactly the opposite in such things as length, characterization, word choice, and imagery, but their similarities in structure, roles, and situation complement both tales enormously. Even though The Miller's Tale turns The Knight's Tale into a disgusting farce, without the graphic sexual detail and crude allusions The Knight's Tale just would not be the same. freshman in college, i recieved a b- Works Cited 1. Chaucer, Geoffrey.
"The Canterbury Tale's." The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. 7 th ed. Vol. 1. Ed. Sarah La well and Maynard Mack.
W. W. Norton & Company: New York, London, 1999. 1534 - 1548. 2. Hopper, Vincent F.
Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Barron's Educational Series: Woodbury, New York, 1948. 3. Benson, David C. "The First Two Poets of the Canterbury Tales." Modern Critical Interpretations Geoffrey Chaucer's The Knight's Tale.
Ed. Harold Bloom. Chelsea House Publishers: New York, New Haven, Philadelphia, 1998. 135 - 162. 4. Root, Robert.
Poetry of Chaucer. Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, 1934. 5. Richardson, Janette. B lameth Nat Me. Mouton: Paris, 1970..