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I believe Geoffrey Chaucer's tales are an ideal example of the life in Medieval times, also known as the “Dark Ages.” The Miller's Tale particularly shows the lack of cultural stability and morals. The things that take place in his tale make light of very intense situations that actually took place in those times and continue today. While it's presented cynically and comically, the reality of these situations is devastating. This example shows the carelessness that is present in all people, cold hearted with lack of regard for others except themselves.Love, sex, marriage/faithfulness, good-heartedness and God are all mocked in an all but subtle form.
In the prologue the Miller interrupts to announce that he has a wonderful tale that will match the Knight's. He's extremely drunk, and admits it, asking that nobody take to heart what he said because he couldn't be held accountable for it under his condition. With the mention of the topic he is about to present, he has some objection, but continues with little regard to what others say. His state of mind is a norm of these times, and the way he treats it as a subject for entertainment foreshadows what kind of story it's going to be. Expectations are set for a comical, sarcastic, yet all too real presentation of marriage.
Nicholas is a young, arrogant character. He is the prime example of “cocky” and what most women would try to avoid (I would hope). He is too forward, lacking in gentleman qualities, and is overly dramatic to get his way. He is also lacking in regard for his elder, John, the carpenter he lives with, which is a quality that should be instilled in children at a young age. His immaturity is obvious from the moment he is presented and he's not what most would call a desirable person. Though, he is the average young man- confused and pursuing what's available instead of his true desires OR the young man that has no deep desires other than sleeping with the women that he hand picks. His selfish desires show the lack of morals in this time period.
Allison is another prime example of the young ladies of the time period. She is a young, beautiful woman with desire for real passion in her heart. She fancies Nicholas, but is tied down in her marriage to John. She wants to be with him but is afraid of getting caught in the act, so she leaves it to Nicholas to outwit her husband so that they can share a night. It's easier to sympathize with her character because her situation is sad. A young woman married to an older man that she doesn't even love makes someone able to justify adultery a little, even though it shouldn't be justifiable at all.
Nicholas and Allison build the scene for common cuckoldry, where a young wife is unfaithful to an older husband. Cuckoldry was very, very common in these times because older men always took younger wives. Nicholas makes up a huge story about God giving him a vision of a flood greater than that of Noah's time, which is mockery to the Bible in a sense, because He uses God as a tool to direct sin. John, whether he's good-hearted, trusting, naieve, or plain ignorant, believes Nicholas and goes along with his plan of survival with no doubts. Nicholas and Allison take advantage of this and sleep together in John's bed, which is quite possibly the biggest slap in the face to any married person. In this moment, they are lost in each other, forgetting the rest of the world, and not feeling guilt or remorse for their actions against the carpenter.
Absolon is another character in the story who fancies Allison, but in a more subtle way. He has more gentleman qualities than Nicholas, and tries to do things properly according to that time period's standards. Serenading, giving gifts and money- trying to show his love by doing things to make her heart happy. Nothing Nicholas ever thought about. With his character, gentleman courtship is mocked because he ends up making a huge effort for absolutely nothing in return but kissing her rear and a fart in the face. Though it may not be exactly that situation every time, more times than not, people that make an honest effort and love with their whole heart end up getting hurt terribly at some point. This also shows the levels of maturity for love- a mature love that seeks to truly please the others' heart and gain passion throughout pursuit, and then the immature love, more like an infatuation, where the relationship is built on selfishness and self-obsessions with the physical aspects overpower all else. Nicholas and Allison's immaturity is revealed, which makes the reader lose sympathy for Allison because she is no longer the victim. Absolon is the key to punishing Nicholas for his actions when he gets him with a hot iron.
John hears the commotion inside the house and chops himself off the roof assuming the flood has come. He breaks his arm in his fall when he hits the ground, called a punishment for his being naieve and ignorant. Whether that should be punished or not is left up to the reader, but makes for a comical addition. The innocent little woman, Allison, who is just as much part of the evil deeds as the others- goes unpunished for her actions.
In looking at this tale, it's hilarious. A very entertaining piece of literature that presents serious subjects in a comical matter, yet still handled and punished like they should be. The characters relate directly to what I would picture from the “Dark Ages” with little sense of moral direction and values. I enjoyed this piece because of its comedic and sarcastic approach, but also because it's easy to laugh at the characters because they got what they deserved. Fabliau is the proper name given for this type of literature, which I've come to enjoy.