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What Is A Fabliau?

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This word comes from the Latin and means "discourse." A fabliau was a short, often satirical story in verse, very popular in France during the 13th century. It had a middle-class or working-class setting, unlike the aristocratic romances which we often associate with medieval literature. They were also very different fron romances in style and tone; fabliaux were very down to earth, even bawdy, and usually ended in a joke. Adultery and fornication were favourite topics. Chaucer's Canterbury Tales contain fabliaux, the best known of which is the Miller's Tale. In this story a feeble old carpenter (a dig at a fellow-pilgrim, the Reeve, who is also a carpenter) is cuckolded by his young wife and lodger. The Reeve replies to this Tale by telling another fabliau. In his Tale, two young students succeed in tricking (of course) a miller, managing to seduce not only his wife but also his daughter.

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