Geoffrey Chaucer, “The Miller’s Tale,” from The Canterbury Tales

Fabliau – The genre of “The Miller’s Tale” is fabliau (plural fabliaux): a short, funny, often bawdy narrative in low style, imitated and developed from French models. These are narratives in which those who win do so not through virtue (as in a moral exemplum) or through virtue coupled with high birth (as in romance). Winners are instead the clever, and often the young and attractive clever. Fabliaux are stories about material gain and bodily comfort for the winners, and the reverse for losers. Such “justice” as they represent is concerned only with getting even, or, to use Chaucer’s term, “quiting.” Their narrative style is streamlined, focusing as it does on those objects that will be used (e.g., tubs and hot pokers). They are unembarrassed about mentioning bodily parts unmentionable in romance. These stories are, in short, materialist, representing a world of material facts and needs to be exploited by the clever. 

Discussion Questions

1. Can we compare the fabliau’s vision of the human body to that of the romance? 
2. What is the religious material doing in this dirty story? 

Write a one-paragraph (five to nine sentence) response to the questions. Must be completed by today.