Study Guide

The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale Foolishness and Folly

By Geoffrey Chaucer

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 clerk. Both characters appear foolish in large part because of their devotion to Alisoun. It seems that, in "The Miller's Tale" at least, women are the great equalizers when it comes to foolishness and folly. Even Nicholas has his moment of appearing foolish when, in his effort to impress Alisoun, he sticks his butt out the window and gets branded by Absolon's hot poker. In both Absolon and Nicholas's cases, they appear foolish because of the posturing they indulge in. John's case is sadder because his foolishness results out of a true but misguided devotion to his wife.

Questions About Foolishness and Folly

  1. How are foolishness and folly related to learning, or lack thereof, in "The Miller's Tale"?
  2. Which character appears the most foolish, and why?
  3. How is imagination linked to folly in "The Miller's Tale"? Love?

Chew on This

"The Miller's Tale" portrays appearing foolish as the result of trying to get attention.

"The Miller's Tale" portrays appearing foolish as the consequence of love.