Chaucer’s Miller, Social Class, and the Fabliau

298 Words2 Pages
In Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale, the Chaucer's choice in genre—the fabliau—presents the unusual circumstances behind the social status of millers in Chaucer’s time. The Miller tells a fabliau, which would have been considered a genre written for (and written by) the aristocracy, and often used to scorn and disparage the middle class (Lewis 244-245). Because of the nature of their profession and the wealth they often accrued as a result, the social stature of millers were difficult to identify; however, Chaucer’s Miller is arrogant and considers himself to be part of the upper class (Lambdin & Lambdin 272). The Miller attempts to elevate himself to—or at least emulate—the upper class by telling a tale that would have befitted someone of higher social rank than he would have been considered during Chaucer’s time. Chaucer presents the state of social limbo that millers were in by stressing the Miller’s sense of entitlement in comparison to the true nature of his work and the reason for his presumed wealth—theft and dishonesty. Because millers would not have been considered part of the upper or the lower class, it allows Chaucer’s Miller some sense of flexibility in terms of what would have been considered appropriate dress, actions, speech, or decorum—something that he takes advantage of right away when he chooses to ignore the order in which the pilgrims are supposed to tell their tales (by social rank). The Miller uses these social liberties in order to gain the power, respect, and freedom that characterized the upper class. In this paper, I will examine the hierarchal significance of the fabliau told by Chaucer’s Miller in terms of its history, origin, and usages in Chaucer’s time, as well as the social ambiguity that Chaucer presents with the
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