The Miller Quotes in The Canterbury Tales

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

One of the best ways to understand a character in book or even a movie, is to examine what they say. This can be tough in the ''The Canterbury Tales'' because much of the speaking is story telling. In this lesson, we will zero in on the Miller's quotes. Read on to find out more.

The Chatty Drunk

People get chatty when they drink. Psychologists and scientists explain that it is because of the relaxed inhibitions in our brains. In The Canterbury Tales, we come face-to-face with the results of a drunk man and his rambling comments.

The Miller Is Dramatic

'The Miller's Tale' is all about how a carpenter is made a fool of. While his story is important, what he says before his tale is very telling of his personality. One of the first things the Miller says is that he swears he has an awesome story. He tells the other travelers ''By armes and by blood and bones, I kan a noble tale for the nones.'' In other words, he says he swears on arms, blood, and bones that he can tell a story even better than the previous one. Scholars who study The Canterbury Tales often say that the Miller is a symbol of the lower working class of Chaucer's time. They were usually seen as slightly uncivilized, crude, and not particularly smart. The fact that the Miller uses gore (blood and body parts) to explain how important his story is, reflects this idea.

The Host's Response

The Miller's courage and confidence are not rewarded. The Host of the trip tells the Miller to calm down and let someone else speak. The Miller isn't having any of that and throws a verbal temper tantrum, saying ''For I wol speke, or elles go my wey.'' In this quote, the Miller demands that he be allowed to speak or else he is going to separate from the group. Instead of saying good riddance to the buzzed Miller, the host calls him a fool and promises to let him speak.

The Miller Explains His Story

Finally, once the Miller gets his way, he fesses up and says ''I am dronke, I knowe it by my soun; And therfore, if that I mysspeke or seye, Wyte it the ale of Southwerk I you preye.'' In other words, he is saying that he is drunk and he knows it, so if he says something offensive, blame it on the booze and not him. In this example, the Miller shows that he is clever enough to get himself off the hook if he says something inappropriate. From this quote, we get a small hint that Miller is not exactly the fool that everyone expects him to be.

He tells the group that he is going to tell a tale of how a carpenter's wife cheated on him and made him a fool. A carpenter in the group tells the Miller to shut up, but the Miller ignores him and explains that his tale is nothing personal; he just wants to get the point across that ''An housbonde shal nat been inquisity Of Goddes pryvetee, nor of his wyf.'' The Miller is saying that men should not try to uncover the secrets of God or the secrets of their wives. This quote supports the idea that the lower working class is unintelligent. The Miller is blatantly encouraging people to keep themselves in the dark about knowledge.

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