/ OCT / NOV
/ DEC /JAN/
FEB / MARCH
/ APRIL / MAY
Professor Sutherland stated that we will get the essay
topics on January 23rd. We will be expected to use at least two
secondary sources in our papers. These sources may be obtained via
the MLA found on the U of T web site. Lastly, the Professor encouraged
us to send her our essay outlines for comments and suggestions before
At the top of the class the Professor asked us to
take note of a couple of themes while reading the tales. We need
to be aware of the shift from sexual love to spiritual love. An
example of this shift is the chaos of male passion in the Knight’s
Tale which evolves into social order. We also need to look at Chaucer’s
use of suffering as a catalyst for order. To that end, the Fury
of Saturn serves order rather than chaos.
We started tonight’s tales by comparing the
descriptions of the main pilgrims to those of their counterparts
in the tales. This lead us to observe the verbal exchanges in the
prologues between characters who were offended by parodies of their
"estate". The verbal exchanges also reflect a move in
the social standing of the pilgrims from that of the elite "gentil"
class (Knight’s Tale) to that of the more outspoken "cherle"
class (lower class).
The Host’s line in the Miller’s Prologue
"unbokeled is the male" has a ring of lewdness, which
sets the stage for the three tales to follow. Likewise at the end
of the Prologue the narrator warns us of the impending baseness
of the tales to follow. The assumption is that "cherles’
tell obscene stories.
A prevalent theme in the three stories is the anti-feminist view
of women as betrayers of love. Where Emily in the Knight’s
Tale was seen as a romantic, pure figure, the descriptions of Alison,
and the wife and her daughter in the Miller’s Tale are less
pristine. They are given animal attributes as in Alison’s
weasel-like features as well as a penchant for sex.
After Ryan’s discussion of the Fabliau, Professor
Sutherland drew similarities between these tales and the typical
fabliau. The Reeve’s Tale is in typical fabliau style in that
it uses few words, its details are concise, and each detail is meaningful
to the story. For instance, the detailed layout of the bedroom leads
the reader to expect sexual folly of some sort. Other Fabliau symbols
include the snoring scenes found in both the Reeve’s Tale
and Miller’s Tale and the lack of any type of moralizing as
with the rape of the Miller’s daughter. The pretension’s
of the Miller, which are undermined by his wife’s tarnished
background and the promiscuity of his daughter are good use of satire
within the fabliau. Finally, the neat and tidy endings, which end
in some kind of lesson or non-moral moral (the miller gets what
he deserves), are also reflective of the fabliau.
After break, Susan gave a report on theatre in the
Middle Ages. The Professor then discussed how the fabliau is expanded
in the Miller’s Tale. This is done by including two tales
as well as by extending the portraits of the characters. Professor
Sutherland then asked us to look at other ways in which Chaucer
expands the fabliau.
The last theme, which the Professor asked us to consider,
was the religious tension in the fabliaux. At this time there was
a religious debate going on as to how much knowledge a person should
be allowed. We looked at the use of theatre throughout the prologue
and tale as an example of popular religion. The Miller is a prime
example of someone unschooled and with superficial religious knowledge
gained through local theatrical performances. He also believes that
certain things should be kept private ("Goddes pryvetee").
These would include knowledge of God and of women. Ironically, his
ignorance makes him a prime candidate for manipulation by the more
learned "hendes Nicholas". He ends up playing the role
of Noah in his own domestic drama.