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Die Heuning Pot Literature Guide
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Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Cunning and Cleverness

"The Miller's Tale" is the story of a cunning clerk (student), constantly referred to as "hende" (clever) Nicholas, who tricks a not-so-bright carpenter in order to get the carpenter's wife into be...

Sex

"The Miller's Tale" is all about sex: who's having it, who's not, how they're managing to have it, and the consequences of it. With the contrast in age between John and Alisoun, the tale raises the...

Lies and Deceit

Alisoun cheats on John. Alisoun tricks Absolon into believing she's going to give him a kiss. Absolon tells Alisoun all he wants is a kiss. And in the most elaborate ruse in "The Miller's Tale," Ni...

Love

The character who most often speaks of love in "The Miller's Tale" is Absolon, who parrots the language of medieval courtly romance in his courtship of Alisoun. Yet what Absolon really wants is sex...

Foolishness and Folly

John and Absolon are the characters in "The Miller's Tale" who appear the most foolish, which raises some interesting questions. John is an unlearned tradesman, but Absolon is an educated parish cl...

Madness

Two characters are perceived as insane in the course of "The Miller's Tale." The first, Nicholas, pretends to be insane to get John's attention, while the second, John, is "holden wood" (held to be...

Competition

"The Miller's Tale" portrays one of the most classic competitions in literature: the love triangle in which two men compete for the affections of one woman. The woman is the "prize" to be won, whic...

Religion

Religion in "The Miller's Tale" seems mainly to be something characters use and abuse in order to get what they want. Absolon forgoes piety for attention when he takes a role in the local miracle p...
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