Canterbury Tales, Look Into The Miller’s Tale Essay, Research Paper
The Miller?s Tale, as opposed to other tales that we have read so far, is filled with double meanings that one must understand to catch the crudeness and vulgarity that make the tale what it is. The fact that The Monk?s Tale should have followed The Knight?s Tale should tell you something about the Miller. The Miller ended up telling the second tale because he was drunk and demanded to go after the knight or he would leave the group (3132-33). The Reeve told the Miller to shut his mouth (3144). The Miller did not and proceeded along with his tale. The Miller uses his tale to insult the Knight and the Reeve. Although his story is identical in plot to that of The Knight?s Tale, the use of vulgarity leads the pilgrims to interpret the tale more for entertainment value than for serious reasons.
The Miller pokes fun at the Reeve by setting the story at a carpenter?s house in Oxford. This offends the Reeve because he is a carpenter by trade. In The Miller?s Tale the carpenter rents out rooms in his house. One of the lodgers is a scholar named Nicholas. Nicholas is an astrologer who can predict when it will rain or be dry (3196). Though Nicholas was very rich in knowledge, he lacked money to pay his rent or a woman to call his love. For that Nicholas often had his friends pay his bills (3320).
The carpenter, unlike the scholar, did have a woman. His wife was only eighteen years of age, which is less than half of his own age. The Miller uses animal and natural similes to describe how this woman looks. For that her body is graceful as a weasel?s (3234), and her loins wrapped with an apron is as white (meaning pure) as morning milk (3235). She is also supposedly better to look at than a pear tree (which in The Merchant?s Tale is a symbol of adultery). Despite being called all of the above, the Miller foreshadows that she is not all that pure by calling her by the flower name ?Piggesnye? (3268), or pigs? eye. A pig is an animal that has bad habits. This hints toward future problems.
One day that problem finally shows its face. The carpenter had left the house, thus leaving Nicholas and his wife alone together. Nicholas wants nothing more than to make love to the carpenters wife. So he grabs her ?queynte? (3267) or genitals and says, ?Ywis, but if ich have my wille, for deerne love of thee, lemmen, I spille (3277-78).? In other words, he must have her or die with ?spille?, meaning to die. ?Spille? also means to ejaculate. The wife agrees to sleep with the scholarly Nicholas only if he can devise a plan that will give them time alone. After the wife?s run in with Nicholas, she encounters another admirer named Absolon at church. Absolon, unlike Nicholas, tries to win the wife?s heart by singing and sending her presents of pies and alcohol (3360-78). Despite Absolon?s efforts, Allison [during Absolon?s singing we learn the wife?s name is Allison] loves Nicholas.
While Absolon was trying to court Allison, Nicholas was finalizing his plan. His plan was to go into his room on a Saturday night and not come out until the carpenter came for him, which he did on Monday by axing the door down. The carpenter awoke Nicholas and asked him what was the matter. Nicholas explained to the carpenter that he was studying astronomy for two days and that there was going to be a great rain that will make Noah?s flood look like drizzle. In order for the carpenter and his wife to escape the downpour, the carpenter must put three tubs on the roof and sit patiently until the rain comes. The carpenter is warned that he can not stay inside and sleep with his wife, for that there can be no sin (3587-3590). John (we learn the carpenter?s name through their conversing on line 3577) falls for Nicholas?s tale, thus giving him (Nicholas) and Allison time to be left alone.
When the day comes of the supposed flood, John takes to the roof waiting for the rain. While waiting, he falls asleep. Inside the house, Nicholas and Allison are far away from sleeping. Here they can finally get it on so to speak. Absolon gets word that John has departed town, and takes this as an opportunity to bed Allison. So Absolon goes over and sings to Allison and begs for a kiss (3716), which she agrees to. Instead of sticking her face out of the window, she puts out her butt (3734) for Absolon to kiss. With it being so dark out, Absolon does so, then gets angered by what has happened to him.
Due to being humiliated, Absolon no longer has an interest in Allison. He does, however, want revenge. So Absolon goes to the blacksmith?s shop and gets a red-hot iron to poke into Allison?s butt when he goes back and asks for another kiss. Once he got the red-hot iron, Absolon returned to Allison?s window. Here he once again begs for a kiss and tells Allison that he has a gold ring for her (3794). This time Nicholas sticks his butt out of the window. Absolon, still upset about the last time, calls out to his maiden to speak (3805). In response, Nicholas farts on Absolon. Absolon gets even, though, by branding Nicholas?s butt with the red-hot poker that makes Nicholas think he is going to die (3808-13). In his pain, Nicholas calls out, ?HELP! WATER! WATER! HELP!? (3815). This cry for help awakens John the carpenter who thought the floods had come and cut loose the support ropes. This caused him to fall to the ground where he broke his arm and passed out (3829).
The tale ends with John being the laughingstock of the town. He is deemed crazy by the town folk (3848). Absolon is also ridiculed for kissing Allison?s ?lower eye? (3852). Nicholas got the worst of it. He was looked down upon as well as being left with a burn mark on his butt.
This tale by the Miller was directed toward the Reeve, who is a carpenter, by trade. If you recall, the Reeve is the person who told the Miller to shut up. So there is bad blood between the two men. The double meanings and vulgarity in this tale is what makes it so good. Without the combination of the two, the story would leave us hanging.