The Canterbury Tales


The Miller's Tale

When the Knight concludes his tale, the pilgrims applaud it and the Host turns to the Monk and asks for his tale. However, the Miller is impatient to tell his tale and interrupts before the Monk can begin his story. The Host attempts to prevent the Miller from telling his tale, but the Miller threatens to leave the group, and the Host allows him to tell his tale next. The Miller begins his tale with an introduction telling the group that he is drunk and should not be responsible for whatever he says in his tale. This puts the other pilgrims—and the reader—on notice that the Miller is probably going to be offensive in his tale. He says that he is going to tell a legend about a carpenter, his wife, and a clerk, and how the clerk slept with the carpenter’s wife. The Reeve objects to the story because he was once a carpenter, but the Miller insists on telling the story.

The story’s protagonist is a student named Nicholas. Nicholas is a boarder at the home of John and Alisoun. John is an elderly man who made his money as a carpenter. His wife Alisoun is a young and attractive eighteen-year-old woman. Nicholas and Alisoun begin flirting, and Nicholas gets Alisoun to agree to have sex with him if he can figure out a way for them to do so without John finding out. However, Nicholas is not the only person who wants Alisoun. A clerk named Absolon also lusts after Alisoun. He is very open in his pursuit of Alisoun, buying her gifts and even giving her money, but she rebuffs his advances because she is in love with Nicholas. Nicholas finally devises a plan for spending the night with Alisoun. He has Alisoun tell John that Nicholas is ill, and John sends a servant to check on Nicholas, who reports that Nicholas is lying immobile, staring at the ceiling. John goes to check on Nicholas, and Nicholas tells him that he has received a vision from God that another great flood is coming. John believes Nicholas and asks him what he can do to spare himself and save Alisoun. John instructs him to fasten three tubs to the roof of the barn and fill them with provisions and...

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Essays About The Canterbury Tales