The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story Competition Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
Over al ther [the Miller] cam
At wrastlyng he wolde have alwey the ram.
(General Prologue 549 – 550)
Compare the prize the Miller wins in his competition – a ram – with what we learn the Knight wins for his prowess in battle – a great reputation. These different prizes might represent the different registers in which the Knight and Miller are portrayed – the Knight's is abstract and noble, the Miller's is earthy and animalistic.
And which of yow that bereth him best of alle,
That is to seyn, that telleth in this cas
tales of best sentence and most solas,
shal have a soper at oure aller cost.
(General Prologue 798 – 801)
The Host is a lot more specific about what will win the competition than just, "the best tale." The winner has to tell the tale "of best sentence," that is, the best instruction, and "most solas," the most delightful. This gives us an idea of what the Host thinks makes for a good story, and it corresponds with ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle's definition of what the purpose of literature is – to instruct and delight.
Men shal nat maken ernest of game.
(Miller's Prologue 78)
Here "game" can mean either something funny, or it could be referring to game in the sense of competition. By calling his repetition of the Miller's words "game," Chaucer compares his narration to the tale-telling competition in which the pilgrims engage.