Chaucer Criticism

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  1. John Gargano
    September 30, 2008
    English 203
    Literary Criticism
    Pratt, Robert A. “Was Robyn the Miller’s Youth Misspent?” Modern Language Notes, (Jan. 1944): 47-49

    In his article, “Was Robyn the Miller’s Youth Misspent,” Robert Pratt argues that the Miller’s tale was based on actual events as evidenced by the fact that the Reeve protests at the beginning of the story his objection to the Miller pressing on with his tale, all the while knowing that he is drunk. Pratt argues that it was not simply the fact that the Reeve protests the telling of the tale, but of the fact that the Miller retorts with the fact that both are married and hence there should be no reason for him not to continue. More importantly however in the Miller’s tale a mention is made of John the Carpenter’s knave: A burly man named “Robyn” who is described as having a “strong carl” on his nose as well as the fact that he is quite strong and can heave doors off their hinges. The Miller is described in the prologue as someone who has great strength and has a large wart or “carl” on his nose. Pratt also points out that the Miller’s name is in fact mentioned (although this happens only once) as “Robyn” when Harry Bailey protests to the Miller that a better man should press on with his tale first. This is another ironic factor that Pratt points out: Is it possible that he knew as well the Reeve what was going to be reveled? Both the Miller and the Knave in his own tale share very similar characteristics and judging from the Miller’s crude sense of humor and outlandish statements it is implied that there should be no reason why he would not tell such a tale, especially if it was from personal experience. Pratt also states although in a rather comical light at the end of his analysis that it does not help that the Reeves previous occupation was as a carpenter, as well as the fact that the Miller once worked as a servant in his home.
    In my opinion Pratt’s arguments support my own claims that the Miller’s tale was told from personal experience, either in the sense that the Miller was the Knave or that he knew the story from taking some other direct part in it. What really clinched Pratt’s argument for me however was the fact that both the Miller and the Knave share the same name as well as the fact that the physical descriptions of both men match identically. It is also pointed out that Harry Bailey seemed to give an indication that he also knew what was going to be contained in the Miller’s tale as evidenced by his asking the Miller by first name to allow a better man to tell his tale first. This was something I previously did not take into account but upon doing so was able to piece this claim better then before.

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