The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale Lines 199-288 Summary
- 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.)
- 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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