The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story
Society and Class Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
The Millere was a stout carl for the nones;
Ful big he was of brawn, and eek of bones –
His nosethirles blake were and wyde.
His mouth as greet was as a greet forneys.
(General Prologue 545 – 546, 557, 559).
The Miller's physical appearance – a big lug with a huge nose and mouth – fits the medieval stereotype of a lower-class person. The idea is that he's all brawn, no brains.
His Lord wel coude [the Reeve] plesen subtilly,
To yeve and lene him of his owne good,
And have a thank, and yet a cote and hood.
(General Prologue 611 – 613)
Do we detect a bit of the narrator's vicarious delight in the way the lower-class Reeve outsmarts the nobleman? It's the classic "rooting for the underdog," with the element of class competition thrown in to spice it up a bit.
But with thise relikes, whan that [the Pardoner] fond
A povre person dwellinge upon lond,
Upon a day he gat in monthes tweye.
(General Prologue 701 – 703)
Since we've already had a portrait of a truly good Parson, who gives to rather than takes from the poor, the Pardoner's cheating of the poor person here appears doubly treacherous.