The Millers tale is one of Geoffrey
Chaucer’s poems from the Canterbury tales written by Chaucer. One very
important part of the Millers tale is the setting. The fact that the Millers
tale is set in Oxford which was and is currently a university town is quite
important since only men could attend in the medieval England means that there
were many young men there at the time and that it is quite likely that there be
more men than women at this time.

The main character in this poem who
is John the carpenter which we are introduced to at the start of the poem while
admittedly not being the intellectual type is the most sympathetic character in
the whole poem out of the four major characters. This is proved solely of the
fact that he is the only person who does not trick somebody or cheat on anyone
but ironically is also the one who suffers by having his wife cheat on him as
well as being tricked into cramping himself in a tub which is hanging from the
rafters of his home, which ends up with him breaking a couple bones and on top
of that the humiliation in front of the entire town.

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We eventually find out that because
of John’s marriage to his much younger wife Alisoun, he was constantly afraid that
his wife might cheat which we learn that she does as he feared. We see this
worry in John when the narrator consequently says that John is really jealous
thus keeping her on a tight leash, while his actions go completely against his
characterisation. An example of this is given to us when Absolon is serenading
Alisoun outside her window and that he only asks if she too can hear it. This
seems quite ironic because a truly jealous husband would have punished his wife
for exiting the serenade but instead decides to let it rest at that.

John doesn’t give the reader the
sight of a jealous man so much as a man devoted to his wife and this is shown
when the flood takes place and as he hears Nicholas’s forecast his immediate
reaction is to see to his wife and start to worry “Alas my wif!” “And shal she
drenche? Allas, Myn Alisoun!” the fact that he is brought almost to his knees
while making preparations for the flood just at the thought of his wife
drowning, just this alone shows how devoted to their marriage he is and if only
we could say the same for his wife.

Alisoun is john’s wife but also
Nicholas’s lover and a popular and well-known local beauty. It can be said that
she is the only character in the “Miller’s tale” who is not punished. At the
beginning the narrator gives us a literary device called a blazon which we see
is comparing Alisoun’s body parts to less glamorous things such as how her body
is like that of a weasel’s and how her song was like a barn swallow’s. The blazon
also makes Alisoun’s sexuality her main trait which is shown is all these
comparisons made between Alisoun and animals, this shows the reader her
animalistic traits such as the inability to control her lust just like an
animal.

Another one of the major characters
in the Miller’s tale is Alisoun’s lover who is known as Nicholas. Nicholas the
young poor scholar lives in a rented room at John’s house. Nicholas also
immediately sets his eyes on Alisoun and even manages to quite quickly get her
into bed. With this it is easy to tell that Nicholas is the person most
responsible for the action in this poem. What makes us dislike Nicholas is the
fact that it is he who manages to seduce Alisoun and somehow gets John to spend
the night in the tub making spending the night with Alisoun possible. With all
that happens, the reader could expect Nicholas to be a womanizer type like
other characters in the “Tales” such as the Monk and the Nin’s priest when in
reality Nicholas’s character makes him seem quite feminine. An example of this
is when Nicholas gets branded by a hot poker by Absolon when he is taking
revenge on him.

As “the Miller’s tale” is closely
linked to “the knight’s tale” and we were presented with a sort of love
triangle in “the Knight’s tale” it isn’t surprising that Chaucer has given us a
second scholar who is in love with Alisoun. Absolon, similar to Nicholas seems
somewhat a little bit effeminate, with his curly blonde hair, which is carefully
parted down the centre. Although both of them are similar Nicholas’s characters
impression of femininity is stronger than Absolon’s. The fact that Absolon is
also very tidy and disgusted by farting “somdeel squaymous of fartyng” tells us
quite a bit about him which will also become important towards the end of the
poem.

At the beginning of “the Miller’s
tale” Chaucer gives us the initial situation of the plot which is the situation
in which he is in which also sets the reader up for the conflict which later
takes place which is that in Oxford lived a carpenter who lives with a young
scholar as a way of earning some extra money and his much younger and very
attractive wife. And because of the time in which they lived as the medieval England
his much younger wife is an indication that she will more than likely cheat on
him.

The main conflict in “the Miller’s
tale” is clearly Alisoun’s role as Nicholas’s lover which obviously has a
conflict with her initial role as John’s wife.