Gender In The Miller's Tale

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Girls Will Be Boys and Boys Will Be Girls: Gender Confusion and Compulsory Heterosexuality in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Miller’s Tale On the surface, Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Miller’s Tale is a traditional fabliau, a bawdy tale of trickery, mistaken identity, and plenty of sex, designed to titillate and amuse the reader. The characters are typical of the trope: the effeminate buffoon, the lecherous lodger, the foolish husband, and his lusty wife. However, a closer reading, and application of the principles of queer theory, reveal The Miller’s Tale to have a deeper purpose than mere amusement. The main characters all behave in ways that are at odds with their stated desires and motivations, as well as their genders and professed sexual identities. These contradictions leave the careful reader conflicted and unable to adequately explain the author’s purpose. It is too simplistic to say, like the Miller, that the story is merely “Bothe of a carpenter and of his wyf, /How that…show more content…
Initially, the reader learns that he “hadde wedded newe a wyf, /Which that he lovede moore than his lyf;” (Chaucer 3221-3222). However, John’s masculinity is almost immediately called into question. Although he is a “riche gnof” (Chaucer 3188) who owns a house and can afford to keep servants, John is old; considerably older than his eighteen-year-old wife. Indeed, the Miller tells us that because of his lack of education, John did not know that “man sholde wedden after hire estaat,/ For youthe and elde is often at debaat” (Chaucer 3229-3230). His greatest fear is that he will be cuckolded by a younger man. This suggests that John is likely impotent. The fact that Alisoun and John have no children is further evidence of this theory, as is the scene where they are lying chastely in bed together. If John is unable to sexually satisfy his wife, he is emasculated, and his gender identity becomes vulnerable to

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