| Quote #1
Of derne love he coude and of solas;
The love in which Nicholas partakes must be kept "derne," or hidden, because it's illicit, occurring with married women. Nicholas's slyness and privacy are necessary to protect him from those who would condemn his affairs, and his appearing like a meek maiden is a disguise similarly taken up to protect himself from censure.
| Quote #2
'Myn housbond is so ful of jalousye,
Alisoun's request for caution and secrecy accord well with Nicholas's character. The story also suggests that this is the character of clerks more generally. Nicholas decides to seduce Alisoun while John is away in part because "clerkes been ful subtile and ful queynte" (clerks are sly) (172).
| Quote #3
'A clerk had litherly biset his whyle,
By portraying the ability to trick people as characteristic of clerks, Nicholas casts doubt upon the honesty of clerks as a whole. The tale raises the question of whether clerks ever use their cunning for honorable purposes both through Nicholas's actions and by the behavior of the clerks at the end of the story.