"Yet as good as The Knight's Tale and The Miller's Tale are alone, their triumph is in dialectic. When read together, they produce a complex literary experience much greater than the sum of their individual parts" (Benson, 135). The Knight's and the Miller's Tales were designed to emphasizes the themes of each individual tale. Both The Knight's Tale and The Miller's Tale tell stories of love, with variations of the same imagery, character, and situation. The Knight's Tale tells a story of the traditional courtly love, while The Miller's drunken tale takes the knight's idea of courtly love from a lower class" point of view, somewhat mocking the idea. "The Knight's Tale is told by an eminent person, is an historical romance which barely escapes a tragic ending, and its themes are universal: the relationship of individuals to providence, fortune and free will. The Miller's Tale is told by a drunken "cherl", is a farcical fabliau, and has "a plot, not themes" (Cupitt). A fabliau is a, usually, dirty story in which women were generally portrayed as lusty wenches and men as ready if foolish partners. (Bernardo). Humor throws new light on the characters and actions of the previous tale. "The Knight's Tale makes [The Miller's Tale's] very lack of significance significant"(Cooper, 101).
The Knight's Tale and The Miller's Tale have many similarities, one of them being the situation of each of the tales. The Knight's Tale and The Miller's Tale parallel in plot, for instance, "a courtly love triangle in the romance is followed by an earthier threesome in the fabliau and lordly Theseus as patriarch is replaced by silly John the carpenter" (Benson, 138). The characters in each of the stories also have parallels. John represents the gullible, god-fearing, moral husband, while Theseus is the old, wise, moral leader. Nicholas and Absalon are like the two quarreling knights, Arcite and Palamon, both in love with Alison.