A Look at Satire: Swift and Chaucer

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For both Chaucer and Swift satire and humour plays a large role in their work. For Chaucer it is most visible in the Miller’s tale juxtaposed with the knight’s tale. For Swift his work of Gulliver’s travels and a modest proposal. Swift uses satire in Gulliver’s travels and a modest proposal to critique contemporary society and uses humour and absurdity to drive his points home. Introduction of Swift? Introduction of Chaucer? In the Miller’s Tale by Chaucer there are two main motifs, the first motif is the love triangle and the misplaced kiss, the second is religious and uses the second flood (Harvard, 2000). The Miller’s Tale is a fabliau meaning a brief comic tale in verse. With Chaucer’s humour there is also satire which parodies ordinary life and the previous tale. Because of the position of the Miller’s Tale as an answer to the Knight’s Tale, we have to look at what that means. Seeing as the Miller’s Tale is a direct answer to the Knight’s Tale of high romance and courtly love, we get the juxtaposition of two very different tales that really are about the same thing. Chaucer shows us that the fabliau can be a parody of the romance genre. In both stories we have a love triangle with a woman which is unobtainable and two men that fight over her. Absolon uses courtly language to try to get Alisoun to bed, another tie in to the Knight’s Tale. The tale ends at the end of a hot poker instead of a sword. In the Miller’s tale the love triangle is not much more than a lust triangle, and by doing this Chaucer suggests that what is really going on in both genres is the lust for sex. An example where the Knight’s tale is parodied is the part where Absolon tries to seduce Alisoun while John is out of town: “And softe he cogheth with a semi-soun— ‘What do ye, hony-comb, swete Alisoun? My faire brid, my swete cinamome, Awaketh, lemman myn, and speketh to me!
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