How are the characters in The Miller(TM)s Tale(TM) punished for their actions and do they deserve this punishment?

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How are the characters in ‘The Miller’s Tale’ punished for their actions and do they deserve this punishment?

Of all of the major character in ‘The Miller’s Tale’, only Alison is physically unpunished. Each of the other characters – John, Nicholas and Absolon – receives some kind of physical punishment for a flaw in their personalities or a mistake that they make.

John receives punishment in the form of a broken arm which he obtains “with the fal”. In the middle ages, medicine was nowhere near as developed as today, and broken bones would take a long time to heal. For John, a carpenter, use of his arms is vital to his livelihood, and so this physical punishment is a lot more damaging to him than one might expect. If his arm did heal, he would be out of work for a considerable amount of time. Not only this, but he has to suffer humiliation, as all of the neighbours “turned al his harm unto a jape”, believing him to be mad.

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The reason that John is punished is that he has taken a wife much younger than him – “she was wilde and yong, and he was old”. The Miller pokes fun at the carpenter because he does not know that “man sholde wedde his similitude”.  It is unnatural for a man as old as John to take such a young wife, and to keep her “narwe in cage” when she is lively and a creature of appetites that must be satisfied. The Miller suggests that John deserves to be cuckolded for this, and “moste endure…his care”. The reader is ...

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