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Barron's Booknotes-The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer-Free Book Notes
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SOURCE AND STRUCTURE

There's no source for the amazing complications of the Miller's Tale except Chaucer's own amazing mind. However, the idea of a woman sticking her backside out a window for an unwanted lover to kiss comes from a raucous Middle English song called "Old Hogan's Adventure."

The form of the tale is the French fabliaux, earthy folktales that involve a wife cheating on her husband. (The church disapproved of such tales, which probably was one reason why they were so popular.) This kind of tale joins profane elements with references to sacred teachings, but Chaucer combines them so successfully that they're almost impossible to separate.


LANGUAGE

One of the best jokes in Chaucer's funniest tale is the way the characters use the language of courtly love to gain their selfish, lustful ends. Nicholas and Absalom call Alison "lemman," sweetheart, and Alison speaks of Nicholas' "courtesy," which we certainly don't take seriously. This is a humorous contrast to the seriousness of love in the Knight's Tale, and also reminds us that the ultimate purpose of courtly love, no matter how noble it sounded, was sexual conquest.

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Barron's Booknotes-The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer-Free Book Notes
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