Compare and contrast how the three male characters are presented to us
in The Millers Tale and consider their roles in the Fabliau.
The three male characters in Chaucer’s ‘The Millers Tale’ present many
of the classic themes in and genre ‘Fabliau’. In English literature
there is only a small amount of these tales and half of those are
Chaucer’s. While in French literature there are over 300 stories.
Nicholas is presented at the start of the ‘tale’ as gentle (hende) shy
and therefore trusted and experienced in passionate courtly love, we
can tell from his appearance and description that he will be the
stereotypical fabliau character who is ‘cunning’ and always ‘makes fun
of’ the other more foolish characters. John the carpenter is given a
short description and it is clear by the way he speaks that he is not
very intelligent therefore his foolishness will be punished john
represents the stereotypical character of the duped husband (old and
jealous).Alison is the faithless wife (young and sexually active).
Sexual and practical jokes play a large part in the Millers Tale, for
example Alison tricking Absolon into kissing her ‘arse’, this idea
however comes from a raucous Middle English song called ‘Old Hogan’s
Adventure’. The fact that Nicholas is short and brawny in his manner
and speech contrast his feminist presentation at the start of the
tale. The three characters of Nicholas John and the wife Absolon fit
securely into the fabliau theme of the ‘love triangle’ a plot that
always lends itself to sexual jokes. One of the best jokes in the
Miller’s Tale is the way the characters use the language oaf courtly
love to gain their selfish lustful ends, a major theme in many Fabliau
tales. Nicholas and Absolon called Alison ‘leman’, sweetheart, and
Alison speaks of Nicholas’s courtesy which we don’t take seriously.
This is a contrast to the seriousness of love in the Knights Tale. It
also reminds us that the purpose of courtly love in the end is of a
sexual nature. Classic Fabliau targets for jokes are the religious in
this case it is John who believes Nicholas’s tale of the ‘flood’ the
tale also makes fun of John’s beliefs, gullible ‘fools’ such as John
and Absolon who because of their foolishness are punished by
Nicholas’s and in a sense Alison’s cunning. John is a good Carpenter;
but he is naive in that Nicholas was able to persuade him about the
oncoming flood. He is also irrational by thinking that he can keep his
young wife contented. His punishment is a broken arm and whilst he was
asleep his lodger was making love to his wife.
The characters of Nicholas, Absolon and John are all different