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The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale Lines 199-288 Summary
Lines 199-230 Alisoun goes to the parish church one day looking very clean and shiny. At the parish church resides Absolon, the parish clerk. The narrator gives us an extended description of Absolon's character. (For more on this portrait, see the "Character Analysis" section.) Lines 231-288 On a holiday, when Absolon is waving incense around the wives of the parish, he sees Alisoun and takes such a liking to her that, were he a cat and she a mouse, he would snatch her up right away. So much love has he in his heart for Alisoun that he takes no offering that day from any of the wives. (This part is rather unclear: does he do this so that Alisoun can keep her money?) Absolon begins courting Alisoun by singing to her under the full moon, asking her to take him as a lover. John hears Absolon and asks Alisoun if she hears him too. Alisoun replies that she does hear him. After that night, Absolon continues his unsuccessful courtship of Alisoun, kept awake night and day by his love-sickness. Absolon employs many means to try to win Alisoun, including: combing his hair carefully enlisting messengers and go-betweens swearing to be her servant singing like a nightingale sending her gifts of sweetened wine, spiced ale, and cakes playing Herod in the local play Despite Absolon's best efforts, Alisoun refuses to become his lover, because her heart already belongs to Nicholas. In fact, Alisoun makes Absolon look like a fool. The narrator tells us that Absolon stands no chance with Alisoun because Nicholas is closer to her and always in her sight, thus keeping her attention away from Absolon.
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