The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story Society and Class Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
[The Miller] swoor, "By armes, and by blood and bones,
I kan a noble tale for the nones,
With which I wol now quite the Knyghtes tale."
(Miller's Prologue 17 – 19)
By demanding that he be the one to tell the next tale, the Miller not only upsets the proper social order the Host has indicated he plans to follow, he also sets himself up in direct competition with the Knight. It would have probably seemed a little ludicrous to a medieval person that a Miller would think he could compete with a knight, even if only in tale-telling, but that's all part of the fun.
The Millere is a cherl; ye knowe wel this.
So was the Reve eek and othere mo,
And harlotrie they tolden bothe two.
(Miller's Prologue 74 – 76)
It's in keeping with the "all brawn and no brains" stereotype of lower-class people ("cherles") that Chaucer suggests that the Miller and the Reeve would be incapable of telling a classy tale. Instead, they rely upon "harlotrie" – more low-brow humor – to enter the competition.