Monday, February 3, 2014

Sins and Sinners

            Chaucer teaches an important lesson about vice and virtue in The Canterbury Tales, especially in the Miller’s Tale. This is something Phillip Sidney would greatly appreciate. Sidney thought that an important part of poetry was to teach its readers about virtue. Not only should poetry show the rewards of a being a virtuous person but also show the punishment for vice. The Miller’s Tale does exactly this.
            All four of the main characters in the Miller’s tale commit, at least, one of the seven deadly sins and in turn receive a punishment for their vice. John is guilty of envy for always trying to control his wife and being jealous. Nicholas is guilty of pride for underestimating the carpenter and overestimating his own abilities. Absolon is guilty of wrath when he tries to brand Alison in retaliation to being slighted but ends up branding Nicholas instead. Finally Alison is guilty of lust for having an affair with Nicholas. Each of these characters faces punishment for their actions.

            The punishment each character receives is fitting for the sin they commit; Alison, who lusts for another man, is objectified by Nicholas. The carpenter who is envious and jealous ends up driving his wife right into the arms of another man. Absolon, who is wrathful, is treated poorly and is humiliated. Lastly, and probably the most fitting is Nicholas who is very prideful. Nicholas is completely humiliated in the end. He is made to look like a fool and that is the ultimate punishment for a man full of pride. The Miller’s Tale shows the punishment for vice. It does reward the characters for their wrong doing. Sidney would enjoy poetry like this and would commend Chaucer for his work.

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