The Canterbury Tales

The Relationship Between the Knight's Tale and the Miller's Tale in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales

The Knight, as the highest ranking member of the train of pilgrims, is chosen "whether by chance, luck, or destiny" (844) to tell the first of the Canterbury tales. When he finishes, the intoxicated Miller demands to go next, despite the Host having asked the Monk, as the next-highest ranking male pilgrim, if he knows "Somewhat to quite with the Knyghtes tale" (3119). The host tells the Miller to wait until "Som bettre man shal telle us first anothe," because they ought to "work" the telling of the stories "properly," (3130-31) but the Miller insists on violating the social order and telling his tale second. He wants to 'match' the Knight's tale, or one-up it.

Both the Knight's Tale and the tale that the Miller tells are love stories, but they could not be more dissimilar. The Knight's tale is long and overall, serious. He self-consciously intrudes into his narrative with clumsy transitions between time and place, and editorializes his censorship of the events. The gentlefolk of the train say it is a 'noble story' and worthy of being memorized (3111-2). The Miller's tale is short and funny; he is a brisk, straightforward, and impersonal narrator;...

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