Discuss whether or not Chaucer's the miller's tale is accurately described as a fabilau.

Essay by nikipHigh School, 12th gradeA-, December 2003

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Nikul Patel DS13

The OED define a fabliau as "a metrical tale, often coarsely humourous. Is this an adequate description of the miler's tale or is it more than that?

A fabliau consists of two segments that are the metre of the text and the actual course comic value of the piece. Both have to be revised for the miller's tale to be considered a fabliau. The miller's tale is a metrical tale in the sense it has an alternate number of stressed and unstressed syllables in each of its lines. For example, "He ne hade for his labour but a scorn".

This means that at least half of the requirements of the oxford dictionary meaning of fabliau have been met. Thus meaning the only other part left to fulfil is whether or not the miller's tale is a coarsely comic piece. To do this we must look at the humour within the tale, the aim/intended impact of the tale and also its coarseness of language and description.

The miller's tale is used as a parody of the knight's tale, which is a joke aimed at the 1st fictional audience of the pilgrims travelling towards Canterbury. The coarseness in this is self evident, the parody is based on the fact the knight's tale was gentle and about chivalry, whereas the miller's tale was very much about slapstick humour and sex. An example of some of the slapstick humour is at the end of the tale when Nicholas passes wind in Absolon's face, "This Nicholas anon leet fle a fart". The coarseness of this type of humour, and the language used, for example 'fart' although not really taboo, it is a colloquial phrase, exactly the type of phrasing the knight would not have used. The parody of the knight's tale is...