Compare and contrast: The Canterbury Tales

Essay by Prescott182College, UndergraduateA+, November 2002

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The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer is a classic piece wherein pilgrims tell tales during their journey to a holy shrine in Canterbury. A Knight and Miller are two of the pilgrims. Chaucer gives personality to each character wherein a drunken Miller can tell a tale that is full of brilliant characterization and also have nicely balanced action, and a tough soldier like the Knight can weave a romance "with all the art of a seasoned minstrel." (Lawrence 42)

The Knight, being the noblest amongst the pilgrims, is invited to speak first. The second tale-teller is the Miller. The Miller speaks second, not by invitation, but as a way to repay the Knight's romantic tale. In having these two tales told back-to-back, one is able to compare the two. In many ways, The Miller's Tale "functions as a subversive mirror of the Knight's story."

(Rossignol 242) This is also an opportunity to find many similarities as well as differences between the two tales.

The term "subversive mirror" is certainly appropriate in dealing with these particular tales. Although The Miller's Tale does mirror The Knight's Tale by utilizing similar elements, it also corrupts those same elements it is in fact imitating. By using the term "subversive," it is suggested that the Miller is actually trying to pervert The Knight's Tale by undermining the morals that are represented in it. The Miller seems determined in his tale to parody the situations and sentiments of The Knight's Tale. This "subversive mirror" reference is indeed on the mark.

Several similarities are easily recognizable between The Knight's Tale and The Miller's Tale. These similarities are the "mirroring" which take place from The Miller's Tale to The Knight's Tale. "The opening formula (of The...