Canterbury

Tales

The Millerís 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 Monkís Tale should
have followed The Knightís 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 Knightís 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
carpenterís house in Oxford. This offends the Reeve because he is a carpenter
by trade. In The Millerís 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 weaselís
(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 Merchantís 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 pigsí 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 wifeís run in with Nicholas, she encounters another
admirer named Absolon at church. Absolon, unlike Nicholas, tries to win the
wifeís heart by singing and sending her presents of pies and alcohol
(3360-78). Despite Absolonís efforts, Allison [during Absolonís singing we
learn the wifeís 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 Noahís 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 carpenterís name through their conversing on line 3577) falls
for Nicholasís 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