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Write An Essay Demonstrating How Chaucer's Description Of Alison Relates To His Use Of The 'courtly Love' Convention In The Story. (The Miller's Tale, Geoffrey Chaucer)

2662 words - 11 pages

The portrait of John's young wife occurs at an early stage in the Miller's Tale. This emphasises the importance of her character in the tale since she is described in much more detail than her husband. From this description we see that she "is a small town heroine, whose brows are plucked and whose eye is lecherous, whose forehead shines from washing after work." (Muscatine, 229) The Miller's Tale is a fabliau which parodies medieval society with the help of Alison's character. True to its genre, it is set in contemporary Oxford and is a reflection of life in the fourteenth century. It is more concerned with cunning and folly, as opposed to idealised love and virtue. In this case it contains ...view middle of the document...

She is no longer her husband's servant and is no longer taken for granted. The lady is adored and loved fervently and although the lover was hoping to receive what was called 'the gift of mercy' which refers to sex, his love does not diminish if her gift is not bestowed upon him. Courtly love is what inspires the lover to become poetic, romantic and well groomed. Behind all of this, however, courtly love is still closely related to humans' physical desires. (Bishop, 135-137) Courtly love and power are very closely related. It is difficult to distinguish who is in control of the power since the lover in a way objectifies the lady by forcing her to act as a courtly lady. The reverse is also true, the lady can force her lover to act in a courtly manner and since she has a husband and is therefore not in dire need of another male companion, the lover acts in a specific way to keep his lady. Power is an important theme in the tale and is evident in the relationship between Alison and Nicholas, Nicholas and John and Alison and Absolon.The character of Alison is introduced as 'fair' (125) which implies that she is a handsome woman. The terminology used in the very second line of her portrait, however, contradicts this idea of fairness by saying 'as any wezle her body gent and small.' (126) This reference to a weasel is very significant, since it creates a suspicion as to Alison's true character. The most common characteristic associated with a weasel would be slyness and shrewdness, which are a complete contradiction to the characteristics expected of a courtly lover and are also characteristics one sees in Alison. She is said to be good enough for 'any lord to leggen in his bedde or yet for any good yeman to wed.'(161-162) Unfortunately Alison decides her own destiny and enters upon a marriage with a man of the middle classes. This relationship is doomed from the beginning since Alison has stepped out of her natural place to fulfil the roll of a middle class woman, which she is not. John loves his wife 'moore than his lyf' (114) and his jealousy is understandable, her being an eighteen year old beautiful girl and him being an older man. His love for her is not as strong as he would want it to be, since he does not trust her and deems it necessary to 'heeled hir narwe in cage' (116) and 'demed himself been lik a cokewold.' (118) An air of suspicion of the marriage is created by the wordsMen sholde wedden after hire estaat,for youthe and elde is often at debaat.But sith that he was fallen in the snare,He most endure, as oother folk, his care. (122-124)This implies that John had made a mistake in his choice of wife and that love is not something that he will receive in abundance in this relationship. Alison does seem to have some sort of power over John. She is not short of any riches and her clothes are decorated. She feels that her husband does not provide her with enough freedom, but that is untrue since she still manages to contrive a plan with...

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