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Chivalry Should Die!

BY: Eli Bat | Category: Writing | Submitted: 2010-05-06 17:55:00
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Article Summary: "My English class had to write a essay on the Canterbury Tales. I did my paper on how the Miller's tale was responding to the Knight's tale and insulting chivalry..."


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In Chaucer's time, a knight was expected to demonstrate and uphold chivalry and the rules and customs of Medieval Knighthood. These rules and customs were honor, gallantry, courtesy and generosity. The Knight tells a tale that reflects this chivalry in every respect. After the Knight is done with his tale, the Host asks the Monk to speak next because he is the next most respectable person in the group, but instead the drunken Miller interrupts and insists he has a tale that can match that of the Knight. The Miller tells a tale that mirrors the tale of the Knight but with crude humor. In The Canterbury Tales the Miller uses similar characters with exaggerated characteristics to insult the chivalry in the Knight's tale. Chaucer sets up this relationship between the Miller and the Knight to insult the upper-class and their behaviors.

The Miller insults chivalry in the Knight's tale by creating similar but crude characters that are exaggerated versions of the characters in the tale of the Knight. The Miller presents the carpenter John in a role that mirrors that of the knight Theseus. John is similar to the knight Theseus because they are both men that get tricked. When Theseus demands Arcite to leave the country Arcite returns to the country anyways and works for his love, Emily, as a peasant. It took Theseus quite awhile to realize that Arcite was back in the country. John is Emily's husband and is completely oblivious that his wife is having an affair. The main difference between Theseus and John is that John is portrayed as simple and honest but stupid while Theseus is described as honorable and respected. The Knight describes Theseus as "no one greater under the sun" (73) and that "He had won many a great country by virtue of his wisdom and his knightly prowess" (73). The Miller contrasts the carpenter John as "a rich churl" (207) and a "foolish carpenter (229). The Miller insults the chivalry of Theseus. The Miller twists the character Theseus to become a stupid peasant named John, which demonstrates his lack of respect and even distaste for knights and their behaviors, such as chivalry. A chivalrous knight was supposed to be brave and intelligent, but the Miller purposely makes John stupid and gullible as an insult to knights. The Miller does this because he believes that chivalry should not be valued. Chaucer has the Miller make John rich and stupid to show that the upper-class can be stupid and they should not be respected.

The Miller uses the characters Nicholas and Absalom, who are responsive to the Knight's characters Arcite and Palamon, to ridicule chivalry and the courteous treatment of women. Arcite and Palamon are cousins that are both in love with a maiden named Emily. The Miller presents Nicholas and Absalom (both peasants) as being in love with a young wife name Alison. Arcite and Palamon are chivalrous and courteous to Emily. Even when Arcite is released from prison he does not immediately try to pursue Emily, but instead becomes a laborer and waits until Emily wants him to pursue her. The Miller believed that men should have authority over women and that men should be able to treat women how they wanted. Therefore, the Miller decided to make fun of Arcite and Palamon and their actions towards Emily by making Nicholas and Absalom the opposite of chivalrous. Nicholas knows that Alison is married and still "privily grabbed her by the crotch" (211) even though Alison told him "Take your hands away; where are your manners!" (213). The Miller makes Nicholas treat Alison rudely because he does not value the courteous treatment of women and believes that women were mere objects for men. This inappropriate treatment of women also shows disrespect for everything the Knight stands for. The Miller uses the non-courteous treatment of Nicholas towards Alison to insult the chivalry of the Knight.

The Miller uses his tale and language to ridicule the Knight's chivalry and courtesy toward the other pilgrims. The Knight ends his tale saying "...and God save all this fair company" (193). The Miller similarly ends his tale by saying "and God save all the company" (243). The Miller responds to the Knight this way to make fun of the Knight's nobility. After telling a crude story, the Miller's ending to his tale does not make sense. The Miller ended his story this way to make fun of the Knight's tendency to be chivalrous no matter what he is doing, even if he is just ending his tale. The Miller uses a the same ending as the Knight because he is making fun of how knights are always supposed to uphold the rules and customs of Medieval Knighthood, like chivalry, even if they are simply finishing a tale.

After hearing the Knight's tale, the Miller interrupts and decides he wants to tell his tale next because he sees a chance to make fun of the Knight and his chivalry. The Miller creates a tale that is the mirror opposite of the Knight's tale, except instead of having respectable characters the Miller uses crude and rude characters. The Miller effectively uses satire to make fun of the Knight and his nobility. Chaucer sets up this relationship between the Miller and the Knight to insult the upper-class and their behaviors. Chaucer believes that even though a person is upper-class it does not mean they should be respected. In The Canterbury Tales, the Miller uses similar characters and situations to insult chivalry in the Knight's tale.

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