illustration of a clergyman with Canterbury cathedral behind him

The Canterbury Tales

by Geoffrey Chaucer

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3: The Miller's Tale Questions and Answers

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Study Questions
1. What are the main sources of humor in this story?

2. What does Chaucer seem to be saying about marriage?

3. What details make the tale seem realistic?

4. What basic human need motivates each of the characters?

5. Why is it appropriate for the Miller to tell this particular story?

6. Describe how The Miller's Tale qualifies as a fabliau.

7. What is the theme of the story?

8. What rivalry is set up before this tale is told?

9. How is the medieval fascination with astrology introduced into the story?

10. What traditional plot is present in The Miller's Tale?

1. The main sources of humor in this story consists of: tricking the carpenter into believing that the flood is coming; his elaborate preparations; the business with the bare bottoms; and the trickery turned upon Nicholas.

2. Older men should know better than to marry young girls.

3. Some details that make the tale seem realistic are: setting in Oxford and Oseney; business success of the carpenter; and the poor scholar.

4. Sexual appetite is the motivational human need in this tale.

5. The story is raucous and bawdy and coarse, like the Miller himself.

6. It is funny; it relies on trickery and deception; it deals with the basic sexual appetite; and its characters are everyday people.

7. The theme may be "youth and age are often at odds."

8. The rivalry between the Miller and the Reeve is set up
before this tale is told.

9. Nicholas is a student of astrology and he uses the carpenter's belief in astrology as part of the hoax to get the carpenter to prepare for the flood.

10. The lovers' triangle, in this case two men desiring one woman, is the traditional plot line.

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