Study Guide

The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale Setting

By Geoffrey Chaucer


A carpenter's house in Oxford, England, around 1380

It's important that this story is set in Oxford because this was (and is) a university town with a large student population. Since only men could attend university in medieval England, it's likely there were a lot of young, single men there, and a much higher ratio of men to women. Oxford is a place where a young, beautiful woman would be very likely to catch the eye of many an eligible bachelor, among whom she would be a hot commodity. The presence of the university and its highly-educated clientele also allows the story to emphasize the contrast between cunning, epitomized by the Oxford clerks, and its lack, found in the hapless carpenter who serves them. The fact that most of the action takes place inside John's house and, more specifically, in his bedroom, clues us in to the fact that this is a domestic drama – a story about a man and wife and their family life. In fact, the concerns of the story don't expand much beyond the bedroom, seeing as it's mostly about getting, and not getting, sex.

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