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The Canterbury Tales

by Geoffrey Chaucer

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Both the "Wife of Bath's Tale" and the "Miller's Tale" are closely related to and indicative of their narrators, but the "Wife of Bath's Tale" could not have been told by the Miller, and vice versa. Why not?

The Wife of Bath's Tale is a romance, while the Miller's Tale is bawdy, focusing on the humiliation of a cuckolded carpenter.

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Both of these tales are infused with the personality and worldview of their tellers to the point where they would not be the same if anyone else told them. The "Wife of Bath's Tale" is a chivalric romance related to marriage and women because she is a woman who has been married multiple times and considers herself an expert on the subject. The Miller is a worker with uncouth manners and possibly a grudge against carpenters, so his story is a bawdy sex comedy in which the most foolish character is a cuckolded carpenter.

Had the Miller told the Wife of Bath's story, it might have been filled with slapstick, sexual farce, body-related humor, and then ended with the humiliation of the knight, while the Wife of Bath might have had more sympathy for Alisoun's plight as a young woman married to an older man in the Miller's story. Part of Chaucer's genius is in how the tales reflect their tellers' prejudices, senses of humor, and life philosophies. No two pilgrims, even if telling other stories, would relay those stories in the same way, and that is certainly the case with two characters as different as the Wife and the Miller.

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