The Millers tale is one of GeoffreyChaucer’s poems from the Canterbury tales written by Chaucer. One veryimportant part of the Millers tale is the setting.
The fact that the Millerstale is set in Oxford which was and is currently a university town is quiteimportant since only men could attend in the medieval England means that therewere many young men there at the time and that it is quite likely that there bemore men than women at this time.The main character in this poem whois John the carpenter which we are introduced to at the start of the poem whileadmittedly not being the intellectual type is the most sympathetic character inthe whole poem out of the four major characters. This is proved solely of thefact that he is the only person who does not trick somebody or cheat on anyonebut ironically is also the one who suffers by having his wife cheat on him aswell as being tricked into cramping himself in a tub which is hanging from therafters of his home, which ends up with him breaking a couple bones and on topof that the humiliation in front of the entire town.
We eventually find out that becauseof John’s marriage to his much younger wife Alisoun, he was constantly afraid thathis wife might cheat which we learn that she does as he feared. We see thisworry in John when the narrator consequently says that John is really jealousthus keeping her on a tight leash, while his actions go completely against hischaracterisation. An example of this is given to us when Absolon is serenadingAlisoun outside her window and that he only asks if she too can hear it. Thisseems quite ironic because a truly jealous husband would have punished his wifefor exiting the serenade but instead decides to let it rest at that.John doesn’t give the reader thesight of a jealous man so much as a man devoted to his wife and this is shownwhen the flood takes place and as he hears Nicholas’s forecast his immediatereaction is to see to his wife and start to worry “Alas my wif!” “And shal shedrenche? Allas, Myn Alisoun!” the fact that he is brought almost to his kneeswhile making preparations for the flood just at the thought of his wifedrowning, just this alone shows how devoted to their marriage he is and if onlywe could say the same for his wife.Alisoun is john’s wife but alsoNicholas’s lover and a popular and well-known local beauty. It can be said thatshe is the only character in the “Miller’s tale” who is not punished. At thebeginning the narrator gives us a literary device called a blazon which we seeis comparing Alisoun’s body parts to less glamorous things such as how her bodyis like that of a weasel’s and how her song was like a barn swallow’s.
The blazonalso makes Alisoun’s sexuality her main trait which is shown is all thesecomparisons made between Alisoun and animals, this shows the reader heranimalistic traits such as the inability to control her lust just like ananimal. Another one of the major charactersin the Miller’s tale is Alisoun’s lover who is known as Nicholas. Nicholas theyoung poor scholar lives in a rented room at John’s house. Nicholas alsoimmediately sets his eyes on Alisoun and even manages to quite quickly get herinto bed. With this it is easy to tell that Nicholas is the person mostresponsible for the action in this poem.
What makes us dislike Nicholas is thefact that it is he who manages to seduce Alisoun and somehow gets John to spendthe night in the tub making spending the night with Alisoun possible. With allthat happens, the reader could expect Nicholas to be a womanizer type likeother characters in the “Tales” such as the Monk and the Nin’s priest when inreality Nicholas’s character makes him seem quite feminine. An example of thisis when Nicholas gets branded by a hot poker by Absolon when he is takingrevenge on him. As “the Miller’s tale” is closelylinked to “the knight’s tale” and we were presented with a sort of lovetriangle in “the Knight’s tale” it isn’t surprising that Chaucer has given us asecond scholar who is in love with Alisoun. Absolon, similar to Nicholas seemssomewhat a little bit effeminate, with his curly blonde hair, which is carefullyparted down the centre. Although both of them are similar Nicholas’s charactersimpression of femininity is stronger than Absolon’s.
The fact that Absolon isalso very tidy and disgusted by farting “somdeel squaymous of fartyng” tells usquite a bit about him which will also become important towards the end of thepoem.At the beginning of “the Miller’stale” Chaucer gives us the initial situation of the plot which is the situationin which he is in which also sets the reader up for the conflict which latertakes place which is that in Oxford lived a carpenter who lives with a youngscholar as a way of earning some extra money and his much younger and veryattractive wife. And because of the time in which they lived as the medieval Englandhis much younger wife is an indication that she will more than likely cheat onhim.The main conflict in “the Miller’stale” is clearly Alisoun’s role as Nicholas’s lover which obviously has aconflict with her initial role as John’s wife.