Study Guide

The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale Love

By Geoffrey Chaucer


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, which raises the question of whether love in this tale ever really means love in our modern sense of the term. The character in the tale who most fully engages in our conception of love is John: he is truly sad at the thought of Alisoun's death and goes to great pains to save her. Yet his efforts and devotion to her seem foolish given Alisoun's betrayal of him. All in all, the view of love we get in "The Miller's Tale" is decidedly cynical: love is either misguided, or not love at all, but lust.

Questions About Love

  1. Does anyone truly love in "The Miller's Tale"? If so, who, and what does it look like?
  2. Why does love in "The Miller's Tale" need a "cure"? What is this cure, and what does it suggest about the definition of love?
  3. What do Nicholas, Absolon, and John do for "love"? Do any of them successfully achieve it?

Chew on This

Love in "The Miller's Tale" is actually just sex.

John's devotion to Alisoun in "The Miller's Tale," while misguided, provides a counterpoint to Nicholas and Absolon's equation of love with sex.