Write an essay demonstrating how Chaucer's description of Alison relates to his use of the 'courtly love' convention in the story. (The Miller's Tale, Geoffrey Chaucer)

Essay by TerhaA-, April 2005

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The portrait of John's young wife occurs at an early stage in the Miller's Tale. This emphasises the importance of her character in the tale since she is described in much more detail than her husband. From this description we see that she "is a small town heroine, whose brows are plucked and whose eye is lecherous, whose forehead shines from washing after work." (Muscatine, 229) The Miller's Tale is a fabliau which parodies medieval society with the help of Alison's character. True to its genre, it is set in contemporary Oxford and is a reflection of life in the fourteenth century. It is more concerned with cunning and folly, as opposed to idealised love and virtue. In this case it contains an element of parody in this tale parodies courtly love and it is also humorous. (Cooper, 95) It consists of a sequence of amusing events which takes place between a woman, Alison, her husband and two other men, hoping to become Alison's lovers.

The story line is simple: a young student wants to seduce the wife of his landlord and he formulates a seemingly flawless plan to dispose of the husband and then sleep with her. Meanwhile there is another young who believes himself to be in love with her who tries to win her affection. A nasty trick is played on the latter and in the process of revenge, he manages to wreck the plan the two lovers had made.

. It would seem that Chaucer's main aim in writing the Miller's Tale is to parody courtly love. This means that Chaucer mocks the idea of courtly love in an amusing manner and that he exploits its weaknesses such as the fact that it is often merely physical at the roots and that the chivalry present is...