Book Notes The Miller's Tale Notes from The Canterbury Tales

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The Canterbury Tales The Miller's Tale

An older carpenter living in Oxford named John needed extra money, so he took in a boarder. The boarder was a poor student of astronomy named Nicholas. John had married a younger, attractive woman, Alison, whom Nicholas, the sly, seductive scientist adored. One day while John was away, Nicholas made a pass at Alison. Alison told him that her husband was a jealous man, but that she would meet him as soon as she could without worry or fear that he would find them.

Alison went into town one day where she met Absolon, a parish clerk known for singing and guitar playing, who also proclaimed his love for Alison, who was hopelessly in love with the young Nicholas. Absolon even came to Alison's window that night in a futile attempt to woo her. On a Saturday, John left Oxford to go to Oseney on business and the two conniving lovers decided to find a plan that could use John's wit to trick him. They devised a plan:

Topic Tracking: Loyalty 3

"Thy wyf shal I wel saven, out of doute.
Go now thy wey, and speed thee heer-aboute.
But whan thou hast, for hire and thee and me,
Ygeten us thise knedyng tubbes thre,
Thanne shaltow hange hem in the roof ful hye,
That no man of oure purveiaunce spye.
And whan thou thus hast doon, as I have seyd,
And hast oure vitaille faire in hem yleyd,
And eek an ax, to smyte the corde atwo,
Whan that the water comth, that we may go."
Miller's Tale, l.375-384

The intricate manipulation included three tubs that could be used as boats to be hung from the roof, as to remain inconspicuous. When rain equal to Noah's Flood arrived, only the three of them would survive. That night, when the three went up to the roof, John eventually fell asleep and Nicholas and Alison escaped to have sex. The following morning, Absolon returns to Alison's home to serenade her, despite her desire for his absence. She agrees to give him a single kiss if he agrees to close his eyes. Willingly he follows her command, as she pulls down her pants and has him kiss her buttocks. The two lovers mock Absolon mercilessly, who leaves the scene embarrassed and embittered. He walks to a blacksmith and procures a hot forging iron that he plans to use in retaliation. He returns to Alison and Nicholas asking for another kiss. Nicholas removes his clothing and intends to trick Absolon yet again, and fart in his face. Instead, Absolon burns his rear end with the hot iron. In pain, Nicholas cries out for water, startling a slumbering John who thinks that the massive flood has arrived, in turn cutting the rope that held the tub to the roof. The senseless carpenter falls from the roof in the tub to the ground.

Topic Tracking: Sexuality 2
Topic Tracking: Violence 4

Everyone in town arrives on the scene to see what happened. All three men received some sort of punishment: John was declared mad and was painfully injured by the fall, Absolon was sorely humiliated, and Nicholas was burned on his rear end.

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