The Miller from the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales

Chaucer's Miller from the Ellesmere Manuscript

The description of The Miller from the Canterbury Tales (lines 545-566) connects Chaucer's parodic representation of social types to the estate satire of Heywood. His red hair was potentially a sign of treachery (Judas Iscariot was usually represented with red hair) as well as a choleric disposition. The description is fairly brutish - bestial at times - contrasting with the quasi-legal representations of Heywood's Millers. However the discrepancy highlights the comedy that Heywood aimed to achieve by placing the complex rhetoric of a lawyer into the mouths of millers.

The Millere was a stout carl for the nones,
Ful byg he was of brawn and eek of bones,
That proved wel, for overal ther he cam,
At wrastlyng he wolde have alwey the ram.
He was short-sholdred, brood, a thikke knarre,
Ther was no dore that he nolde heve of harre,
Or breke it at a rennyng with his heed.
His berd as any sowe or fox was reed,
And therto brood, as though it were a spade.
Upon the cop right of his nose he hade
A werte, and thereon stood a toft of heres.
Reed as the brustles of a sowes eres.
Hise nosethirles blake were and wyde.
A swerd and bokeler bar he by his syde.
His mouth as greet was as a greet forneys,
He was a janglere and a goliardeys,
And that was moost of synne and harlotries.
Wel koude he stelen corn, and tollen thries,
And yet he hadde a thombe of gold, pardee.
A whit cote and a blew hood wered he.
A baggepipe wel koude he blowe and sowne.
And therwithal he broghte us out of towne.


Geoffrey Chaucer, The College Chaucer, Henry Noble MacCracken, ed. (Yale University Press, 1913) pp. 16-17.