John, the carpenter, is apparently not very intelligent. He is very sympathetic, due to the fect that he is the only character in the tale who doesn't cheat or trick someone. Despite this, he's the one who suffers the most throughout the tale. His wife, Alisoun, cheats on him. He is tricked into spending the night in a bathtub hanging from the rafters of his house. He ends up falling, embarrassing himself in front of the town.
Alisoun, John's wife, is also Nicholas's lover. She is well-known as being beautiful, married at only 18. She is the only character who goes unpunished in the story. She is very sneaky, cheating on her husband, John, with her lover, Nicholas. Nicholas is the poor young scholar who rents a room in John's house. He sets his sights on Alisoun and fairly quickly manages to get her into bed. Nicholas is the mover and shaker behind most of the action in the tale: it's he who seduces Alisoun and tricks John into sleeping in a tub so he can spend the night with her. Nicholas takes a hot poker to the butt when his rival Absalom shows up at Alisoun's window intent on revenge. Based on Nicholas's prior behavior, it's tempting to say he had it coming.
Since "The Miller's Tale" is supposed to be an answer to "The Knight's Tale," and in "The Knight's Tale" we had a love triangle of a damsel and two knights (who, we should mention, were virtually indistinguishable from one another), it's not at all surprising that "The Miller's Tale" gives us a second student in love with the parish clerk Absolon. Like Nicholas's portrait, Absolon's makes him seem somewhat effeminate: he has curly golden hair, which he carefully parts down the middle, and he wears a blue tunic over red hose "fetisly," or prettily, laced.
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