The Miller's Tale

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The Miller's Tale

The Millerís Tale is a humorous portrayal of a carpenter and his young wife. The Millerís Tale is second told after the Knightís Tale, but is told against the will of the host. The drunken Miller proclaims his tale to be as ďnobleĒ as the Knightís Tale. The host asks the Miller to let a person of better standing to tell their tale first. The Miller threatens to leave before the host acquiesces to the request. So begins the Millerís Tale. Before he begins, he proclaims that he is drunk and that any words he uses are not to be held against him.

The Tale

The Millerís Tale begins with a young student of astrology named Nicholas. Nicholas had found room and board with an old carpenter who was wealthy, but ignorant. The carpenter, named John, has a young wife of eighteen years, Alisoun, who he was quite possessive of. One day, while the carpenter is out, Nicholas flirts with Alisoun. Nicholas becomes overwhelmed and grabs Alisoun, who threatens to yell for help. Nichols beseeches forgiveness and over the course of conversation, Alisoun agrees to sleep with him when it is safe.

The Millerís Tale also illustrates that another young man, Absolon is enthralled with Alisoun. This vain soul serenades Alisoun every night and buys her expensive things. None of these tactics work because Alisoun has fallen in love with Nicholas. In the mean time, Nicholas has devised a means to outwit the carpenter. He has Alison tell John he has fallen ill. The servant reports the John that Nicholas has fallen ill and is immobile. The Millerís Tale shows John as thinking Nicholasí studies as worthless. Nevertheless, the carpenter feels sorry and checks on the student.

When John and Nicholas meet, Nicholas claims he has seen a vision of God. Nicholas has been told that the heavens will open up with rain twice that of the great flood of Moses. John is easily convinced that the end is nigh and sets about to help Nicholas. Nicholas convinces the carpenter to attach three tubs to the roof of the barn and spend the night in the tubs to be ready for the rain. As the three climb to the roof, he says that they must be silent and pray through the night to be spared. John goes to sleep and Alisoun and Nicholas quickly descend and spend the night together.

Absolon appears in the morning for a quick kiss. Alisoun proclaims her love for Nicholas, but Absolon will not hear it. She agrees for a quick kiss. As Absolon leans in she presents her rear end and lets the man kiss it. The two loverís collapse in a fit of laughter. Absolon, wanting revenge, goes to the blacksmith and grabs a red hot poker. When he returns, offering another kiss, Nicholas offers his behind to be kissed. Absolon brands the poor student who begins to scream for water.

The Millerís Tale ends with the carpenter releasing the tubs from the roof and falling and breaking his arm. The commotion draws several people from the town. The carpenter begins to babble Nicholasí tale of the end of times. Alisoun and Nicholas pretend ignorance and claim the carpenter has lost his mind. The Millerís Tale concludes with the village ending in an up roared laughter at the carpenterís expense.

The Interpretation

The Millerís Tale in the Canterbury Tales shows a tension between the social classes. The host clearly has an outlined plan for the tales order. The monk is asked to tell the second Tale. This creates a vision of order based on social class. The Millerís Tale upsets this plan. Class is also drawn into the Millerís Tale being depicted as a rowdy character and the low social standing. The pronunciation of class is even seen in the description of the characters. The Millerís Tale uses details of a life on the farm to describe Alisoun, such as body being slender and delicate as a weasel.

The Millerís Tale is illustrated through stereotypes of his social status and profession. Before the tale begins, he apologizes and blames the ale he is drinking. The host also apologizes before the Millerís Tale and tells the other party member to blame the Miller. The Miller perverts several themes from the previous Knightís Tale. The Knightís Tale focuses on suffering being part of the divine will of the gods. The Millerís Tale also cautions against tampering into ďGodís pryveteeĒ or Godís secrets. John scolds Nicholas several times about his studies into the secrets of the heavens.

The Knightís Tale indicates it is not manís place to know the gods will. The Millerís Tale takes this theme and perverts it further. The Miller indicates that it is not mans place to question his wifeís fidelity. He also illustrates this through the Millerís Tale when John jealously controls his wife. This perversion is to show that attempting to know the will of God is akin to a husband trying to know his wifeís private parts. These perversions in the Millerís Tale also go back to how rank and stereotypes are played through the tales.

The overall moral of the Millerís Tale is that the carpenter should not have married so young. The Miller believes that justice is served through Alisounís infidelity. This is another perversion to an appropriate love story. Alisoun has revenge on her husband from his control and jealousy. The Miller attempts to align Nicholas as God, using biblical references and astronomy. The Millerís Tale also shows Absolon as the devil, using a red hot poker.

The Millerís Tale is meant to be comical in several ways. It is a perversion of the Knightís Tale in several instances. However, it also illustrates the differences in class and social standing not only on an education level but perspective as well. The Miller blames his worldly problems on the Ale and it is illustrated in the story as well. The Millerís Tale is a comedic love story that shows the differences of class and perspective from the higher ranks.

Canterbury Tale Summaries

Geoffrey Chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer
Canterbury Tales - The Wife of Bath's Tale
The Wife of Bath's Tale
Canterbury Tales - The Miller's Tale
The Miller's Tale
Canterbury Tales - The Shipman's Tale
The Shipman's Tale
Canterbury Tales - The Knight's Tale
The Knight's Tale
Canterbury Tales - The Summoner's tale
The Summoner's Tale
Canterbury Tales - The Pardoner's Tale
The Pardoner's Tale
Canterbury Tales - The Prioress's Tale
The Prioress's Tale
Canterbury Tales - The Cook's Tale
The Cook's Tale
Canterbury Tales - The Monk's Tale
The Monk's Tale
Canterbury Tales - The Merchant's Tale
The Merchant's Tale
Canterbury Tales - The Nun's Priest's Tale
The Nun's Priest's Tale
Canterbury Tales - The Franklin's Tale
The Franklin's Tale
Canterbury Tales - The Clerk's Tale
The Clerk's Tale
Canterbury Tales - The Man of Law's Tale
The Man of Law's Tale
Canterbury Tales - The Second Nun's Tale
The Second Nun's Tale
Canterbury Tales - The Doctor of Physic's Tale
The Doctor of Physic's Tale
Canterbury Tales - The Manciple
The Manciple
Canterbury Tales - The Squire's Tale
The Squire's Tale


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