AP Literature & Composition
October 7, 2009
A fabliau is aptly categorized as a scandalous tale meant to satirize the bourgeois through the depiction of bourgeois characters. This is the genre Chaucer writes “The Miller’s Tale,” from his The Canterbury Tales, in so he can distinguish the social class levels of the people on the pilgrimage. Chaucer shows us the differences by paralleling then transforming certain aspects of this fabliau with the same elements of the chivalric romance of the “Knight’s Tale.”
Fabliaux are salacious tales driven by elements such as deception to acquire money or possessions, to get sexual gratification, or to get revenge on somebody for a past wrong. The fabliau hinges upon an elaborate trick, set up with huge care in the story, contains the climax of the tale, and ends abruptly as the story itself ends. It is actually unknown whether the initial purpose of such a tale was for the nobility to mock the non-aristocrats with whom they competed for status, or whether the bourgeois told fabliaux as an act of self-mockery, to show how much the middle class has risen.
In the Miller’s prologue, we can infer that the Host wants the chronology of the storytelling to follow the levels of class; thus the reason why he solicits the Monk to tell a story after the noble Knight. The Host wants the Monk “repay the Knight a little for his tale,” but the inebriated Miller volunteers to “pay the Knight his wages.” (86, 87) From the context, it appears that the Miller interprets the Host’s request to “repay the Knight” as an invite to get revenge upon the Knight; thus, setting up the contrast between the parallelism with contrast between the Knight’s Tale and the Miller’s Tale. (86) One of the main elements from the “Knight’s Tale” that the Miller parallels but
transforms is love. As is common with the fabliau genre, romance is usually an element that is mocked. In the Knight’s Tale, courtly love is a...