Study Guide

The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale Lines 199-288

By Geoffrey Chaucer

Lines 199-288

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.