The Canterbury Tales

Absolon and Nicholas in The Miller's Tale

Alison in "The Miller's Tale" is described as young and wild, like an animal: "Thereto she koude skippe and make game/ As any kyde or calf folwynge his dame", and we know that she would be willing to follow any idea as long as it is "fun". We observe her childish immaturity in the scenes where she lets Absolon "kiss" her. Similarly, it does not take much persuasion on Nicholas' part to talk Alison into having an affair with him, as the idea of tricking her husband is a game for her. With impish delight she conspires with Nicholas to create the outlandish plot of convincing her husband that a great flood is coming, and with her husband safely ensconced in a bathtub hanging from the roof, Alison successfully plays with Nicholas.

Differences between Nicholas and Absolon emerge early on, yet although both men compete with each other and with John for sexual access to Alison, true to type, the male rivals actually demonstrate less interest in the female object of their alleged desire than in their own gender and class identity and hence their relations to each other are in a closed sphere of male objectivity.

Nicholas, with his mixture of esoteric learning, outrageous sense of humour and eager pursuit of love is a type still...

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