Essay on Analogues of a Fabliau

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Analogues of a Fabliau

Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales in many different genres and from a variety of sources. He took ideas from other authors and made them his own through adding and changing details, which in turn could cause the meaning of the story to change. The adaptations could alter the tone of the story; it could be made more sarcastic, humorous or serious. He also wrote in many different genres.
One genre that Chaucer worked with is the fabliau. A fabliau is a short story that is usually written in verse about low or middle class people. It is more obscene than other stories, primarily through sexual situations. It is presented to be comical against marriage. The sexual obscenity became more vulgar as
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The fabliau does not hide any negative human traits; it instead makes them comical. Many critics agree with Roy Pearcy, that for a fabliau to be a true fabliau, it has to be a story “whose central events are misinterpretations of ambiguous signs by ‘dupes’ who are unaware of their ambiguity.” (Vaszily)

One of Chaucer’s fabliaux is “The Reeve’s Tale.” Chaucer had very few examples of the English fabliau in which to compare his work. However, there were many French fabliaux and that became a source for Chaucer. Two French analogues are going to be compared to Chaucer’s tale. The first is “Gombert and the Two Clerks” written by Jean Bodel between 1190 and 1194. Another similar tale is “The Miller and the Two Clerks” written in the 13th Century by an anonymous author. All three of these stories have the characteristics that make them fabliaux. The main characters are all lower class, namely a miller, his family and young male clerks or students. Tricks are played and sexual situations are described to give each fabliau its obscenity.

It is evident that these stories evolved from, “Gombert and the Two Clerks.” In the opening scene of this first story, the two young clerks are looking for a place to stay for the night because they are out of money. In, “The Miller and the Two Clerks,” the two young clerks have grain that they want the miller to help them with. Their only other possession is a mare. This is similar

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