Femininity In The Millers Tale

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Femininity and Animal Motifs in Chaucer’s The Miller’s Tale
The Miller’s Tale from Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales illustrates Alisoun, the sole female character of the tale, through comparisons of animals and natural life. There are implications throughout the tale that implicate that Chaucer was intending to represent the character’s sexual liberation as something that is innately possible in all women. In this essay, we will explore the ways in which the narrative structures Alisoun’s feminity, othering her from her male-counterparts in the tale. Through literary analysis of the tale and consideration from contemporary scholars, I will present the argument that Chaucer depicted Alisoun’s character in such a manner to display how
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Jalous he was, and heeld hire narwe in cage,
For she was wylde and yong, and he was old
And demed hymself been lik a cokewold.” (3223-3226).
The word “caged” illustrates the idea that Alisoun is an animal in need of being tamed. By describing Alisoun adjective ‘wild’ it portrays her as if she were a creature or beast. Holding her narrowly conveys the notion that Alisoun is sheltered from the rest of the world.
The carpenter’s fear of his wife committing adultery is projected onto the audience, evoking the idea that all young women were likely to be faithless if they are not properly maintained by a man’s governance. Establishing the age dynamic in this light shows a plausible conflict to occur by combining these opposing forces. Such future conflict is repeated in the lines: “For youthe and elde is often at debaat.” It is stressed in this narrative that John and Alisoun juxtapose another by their age and gender, which foreshadows at future conflict.
Moving along, the narrator then places heavy emphasis on her body:
“Fair was this yonge wyf, and therwithal
As any wezele hir body gent and smal.”
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This is a point of significance in literary tradition because the female nightingale is an allusion to Greek Mythology. In Greek Mythology, the symbol of the swallow was related to Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love The image of the swallow also appears in the Greek myth of Philomela, in which Philomela, the princess of Athens, is raped and mutilated by her sister’s husband, King Tereus of Thrace. Philomena and her sister, Procne, extract their revenge upon King Tereus, the two sisters pray to The Gods to be transformed into birds so they could escape. The gods appeased their prayers, transforming Philomela into a nightingale and Procne into a swallow. There are many variations of the myth, in which Philomela turns into a swallow and Procne turns into a nightingale. Nonetheless, their interchangeability is also a point their symbolic value. It is safe to assume that Chaucer makes references toward these Greek myths, for he alludes to the same story in his work: ‘The Legend of Good Women’.The work contains ten stories of upstanding female figures, one being Philomela. For Chaucer to have the narrator put forward the idea that Alisoun is comparable to a swallow shows that the audience is meant to correlate all
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