The Canterbury Tales

The Miller's Fabliau as Unconventional Romance

When the Miller proposes to "quite," or revenge, the Knight's tale in the Prologue to his tale (3127), he alters the host's use of the word "quite" (3119). Whereas the Host is asking the Monk to match the Knight's tale, the Miller wants to requite it, and he does exactly that. The Miller tells a tale that both parallels and parodies "The Knight's Tale," and by doing so, ultimately displays a valid and optimistic alternative to the ideals of chivalric courtship and love presented by the Knight.

The Miller, like the Knight, employs a love triangle as the central element of his tale; however, he greatly alters this convention. Instead of dramatizing idealized aristocratic notions of courtly love, the Miller presents a tale about lower-class characters set in a rural village. He rejects the ritual of long suffering courtship by replacing it with a bold sexual encounter between Nicholas and Alison in which the clever clerk attempts to seduce Alison by grabbing her "queynte" (3276). While Arcite and Palamon restlessly worship Emily in the Knight's tale, Nicholas wins Alison over in the span of three lines "This Nicholas gan mercy for to crye,/ And spak so faire, and...

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