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Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales

3. The Miller's Tale and the Peasants' Revolt

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About this Lecture


In this module, we discuss The Miller's Tale in the context of the Peasants' Revolt, and explore the extent to which this Tale is "a literary Peasants' Revolt", as one critic has described it. We begin by discussing the fact that the Miller himself has ignored attempts for the pilgrims to speak in order of social hierarchy, and has instead insisted in speaking second. After that, we compare the Miller's Tale with the preceding Tale, that told by the Knight, noting that, while the Knight's Tale is told in an elevated and poetic language and the Miller's Tale is altogether more vulgar, both are in a sense identical; two men are competing to have sex with a woman. Finally, we discuss the idea of genre; the Medieval Romance of the Knight's Tale, in which the patriarchal order is maintained, and the Fabliaux of the Miller's Tale, in which it is undermined. We end with the consideration that the order of speakers never reverts to social hierarchy as planned from the beginning, so perhaps the Miller's subversive tale has had its desired effect?


In this course, Dr Marion Turner (University of Oxford) provides an introduction to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The course begins with a discussion of the opening lines of the General Prologue, before going on to discuss Chaucer himself, the so-called 'Father of English Poetry'. In the third module, we look at the Miller's Tale and its status as a "literary Peasants' Revolt", before going to discuss the idea of places and spaces in the Merchant's Tale. The fifth and sixth modules focus on The Wife of Bath's Tale; in the first, we consider the concept of gender and authority in the Tale, while in the second, we look at how Chaucer adapts the popular "Loathly Lady" story pattern in the Tale.


Marion Turner is Associate Professor of English at Jesus College, University of Oxford. She is the author of a ground-breaking biography of Chaucer: Chaucer: A European Life (Princeton, 2019). This biography focuses on Chaucer as an international figure, exploring his travels, his multicultural influences, his multilingual identity, and the global aspects of medieval London.

Her other books include Chaucerian Conflict (Oxford, 2007) and, as editor, A Handbook of Middle English Studies (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), and she has published many articles on Chaucer and other aspects of late medieval literature. Marion has received research funding from the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust, and the Wellcome Trust. She often speaks in the media, including Radio 4, BBC1, Channel 4, and ITV. She has a particular interest in outreach, taking part in Chaucer Days at the Ashmolean Museum and the Weston Library, aimed at sixth form students of Chaucer, and often speaking at schools and colleges.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Turner, M. (2018, August 15). Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales - The Miller's Tale and the Peasants' Revolt [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Turner, M. "Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales – The Miller's Tale and the Peasants' Revolt." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,