* Site-Outage Notice: Our engineering elves will be tweaking the Shmoop site from Monday, December 22 10:00 PM PST to Tuesday, December 23 5:00 AM PST. The site will be unavailable during this time.
Dismiss
© 2014 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale

The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale

by Geoffrey Chaucer

Analysis: Genre

Satire and Parody, Fabliau

If you want to impress your friends and teachers, tell them that "The Miller's Tale" is a fabliau. This was a genre of medieval literature originated by court poet-musicians in southern France. It was concerned with clergy-members and clerks, peasants, and sex. It usually featured someone getting cheated on as a major plot point.

This is obviously applicable to "The Miller's Tale," but in answering "The Knight's Tale" with a fabliau, Chaucer does something really innovative: he shows us how a fabliau can be a parody of the romance genre. With "The Miller's Tale," like "The Knight's Tale," we have a love triangle involving two men and an unobtainable woman – except the love triangle is really a lust triangle, and the woman is unobtainable because she's married! With Absolon, moreover, we have a character who speaks in the high, courtly language of the romance genre, but does so in order to get a girl into bed. This "romance" even ends with a joust of sorts, with a hot poker substituting for a sword. The effect of this parody is to trouble the sharp distinction between fabliau and "high" romance, suggesting that, in both genres, what's really on the table is sex.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...

Advertisement
Noodle's College Search
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement