Where in "The Miller's Tale" are examples of the literary device caesura?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In verse, the word caesura refers to a break or pause in a poetic line that is caused by natural rhythms of speech instead of by the poem's meter. These caesurae (the plural of caesura) can occur at the beginnings of lines (called initial ), in the middle of...

See
This Answer Now

Start your subscription to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your Subscription

In verse, the word caesura refers to a break or pause in a poetic line that is caused by natural rhythms of speech instead of by the poem's meter. These caesurae (the plural of caesura) can occur at the beginnings of lines (called initial), in the middle of lines (called medial), or at the ends of lines (called terminal). Very often, we become aware of caesurae when they are produced as a result of periods (full stops), commas (shorter pauses), or semicolons (which produce pauses that are longer than commas but shorter than periods) in a work. However, caesurae are not always accompanied by a punctuation mark of this or any kind; they may follow an introductory clause, for example, or occur before a conjunction. In the excerpt below, I will mark the caesurae with a "||" symbol, a sort of poetic shorthand:

This carpenter had wedded new a wife
Which that he lovèd morè than his life.||
Of 18 years she was of age.||
Jealous he was || and held her narrow in cage,
For she was wild and young || and he was old
And deemed himself be like a cuckèwold.||
He knew not Cato, || for his wit was rude, || uneducated
That bade a man should wed his similitude.||
Men shouldè wedden after their estate,||
For youth || and eld || is often at debate,||
But since that || he was fallen in the snare,||
He must endure,|| as other folk,|| his care.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

A caesura is a complete stop or a natural break within a line of poetry. It contributes to the rhythm of the line. Chaucer's employment of the caesura is found throughout the length of "The Miller's Tale." Here are some examples from the beginning of the work, lines 47-54, with each caesura marked with parallel lines:

Fair was this youthful wife, // and therewithal
As weasel’s was her body // slim and small.
A girdle wore she, // barred and striped, of silk.
An apron, too, // as white as morning milk(50)
About her loins, // and full of many a gore;
White was her smock, // embroidered all before
And even behind, // her collar round about,
Of coal-black silk, // on both sides, in and out;

Reading the poem aloud makes it easier to identify the caesuras because of the rhythm they create in the lines.

 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team