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The Canterbury Tales: The Miller’s Tale - How does Chaucer’s portrait of Alison add to the interest of the poem?

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Danielle Turton 12D The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale How does Chaucer's portrait of Alison add to the interest of the poem? The Miller's tale is the story of a carpenter and his wife, Alison. Alison is portrayed as a young, pretty and fun-loving girl. Her husband, John the carpenter is the complete opposite, old and dull. The contrast of the two adds interest to the poem. Alison has an affair with Nicholas, a student staying at her husband's inn. In order to spend the night together they play a trick on the Carpenter. The Miller tells the tale and he likes telling dirty stories, as Chaucer explains in the general prologue. "He was a jangler and a goliardais - and that was most of sin and harlotries." The Miller's tale is a fabliau, and there are some crude parts, especially to do with the embarrassment of Absolon, another character in the tale. Though Chaucer does warn us before reading it "Turn over the leef and chese another tale," if you do not like such stories. Chaucer detaches himself from anything the Miller says in the story, he does not take any blame. At the start of the tale there is a lengthy description of Alison, on how beautiful and well dressed she is. "Fair was this yonge wife," as she is only eighteen years of age. ...read more.


We know that if Alison had any choice then she would not be married to this old carpenter, but back then, marriages were often arranged. The second man in love with Alison is hende Nicholas. Nicholas is a student of astronomy, who is lodging at the Carpenter's inn. Nicholas is also young and much more suited to Alison that the Carpenter is. He declares his love for Alison in a way that is not too courtly, "And prively he caught her by the quaint." This is not a very romantic way to court someone. You would not expect Alison to accept, but after much persistence from Nicholas, "Lemmen, love me all atones or I wol dien!" she agrees to meet with him. Alison warns him it must be a great secret "Ye moste been full derne as in this cas," and Nicholas swears he will not say a word. This is not the type of love in stories like the Knight's Tale. They are simply attracted to each other, making it closer to lust than love. There is a lot of description of Absolon, the parish clerk who is also in love with Alison. The description is a very feminine one, describing his fancy clothes "His rode was red" "Curl was his hair." Chaucer seems to be mocking Absolon, making fun of his ways, and embarrassing him in the end. ...read more.


There is a certain amount of realism to the tale. The love triangle is quite common in every day life, with more than one man in love with a particular woman. Affairs are regular occurrences when someone is unhappy with their marriage, and that is exactly the situation with John and Alison. They live in what would be a modern version of a rural environment. No one is particularly rich, and not many are too poor. The tale shows many different characters and the things they get up to, but it all links in the end. Absolon, feeling embarrassed and hurt, gets his revenge on Nicholas, causing Nicholas to cry out for water, causes the Carpenter to think the flood has started. The three men are all in some kind of pain, while Alison gets no blame at all. The main reason why Alison is such an interesting character is because she is so attractive. This leads to the love triangle, which leads to drama and comedy. As the Miller explains at the beginning, his tale is simply an amusing story, a fabliau. Alison and Nicholas get away with their sin, the tricks on the Carpenter and Absolon, and, though he was avenged, he is left embarrassed and disgusted about the whole scenario nonetheless. The tale is not meant to be heart-warming or moving in anyway, and there is no moral to it. ...read more.

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