In many stories we are accustomed to, the “good” characters that are kind and affectionate triumph over the “evil”, who manipulate the weak through trickery. However, in Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale, the winner has qualities of a villain while the loser has benign qualities of winners. The three male characters, John, Absolon and Nicholas, who all have great affections for Alisoun, face different ends. Absolon who is able to get a hold of his emotions after his struggle with Alisoun, meets a victory while John meets a bitter end because of his great love for her.Nicholas, despite his great success in trickery loses focus and gets burnt harshly by Absolon. In the Miller’s Tale, the character’s ability to reason and overcome their emotions determines their final victory.
In the Miller’s Tale, John is the epitome of a man who is overcome by his emotions. John, despite his wealth, is a carpenter who is highly uneducated for he is peasant. Because he is uneducated, he has no choice but to depend on his emotions in making his judgements. He must decide the right and wrong based from his feelings.Unfortunately, this leaves him vulnerable to those that can notice his inablity to think for himself. Nicholas and Aliouson is very aware of John’s weaknesses. Knowning Johns devoted love for Alisoun, the two easily tricks him into thinking that a flood greater than that of Noah’s is coming.
Greatly overcome by emotinos and fear that Alisoun might die John fools even the most ridiculous instructions given to him. Never once does John question Nicholas’s motives or words. Poor John, however, does not only care for Alisoun but even for Nicholas as well.He shows his worries for Nicholas saying “Me reweth soore of hende Nicholas” and visits his room to check up on him (Chaucer 276). Of course, John again, cannot see that Nicholas is acting and tricking him. He is too succumbed to his emotions by the time Nicholas talks about Alisoun’s danger, John forgets to ask nicholas the reliability of his words. John’s reliance on emotions caused by lack of education, leads him to a disaster.
Not only does he gets physically hurt falling from the roof, but faces mental pain, rejected and tricked by his love.Absolon is also another character who has great love for Alisoun. Although he is a clerk, he lacks the experience and knowlegde of real love and has fantastical image of courtly love. Therefore, he serenades to Alisoun every night and asks for her love continously, even after rejects him. Because he is so overcome by his emotions, it seems that his ability to reason is disabled; he does not stop and wonder what he can do to win Alisoun’s heart. Instead, he persists on Alisoun, to fulfill his desire to get her love.Then when he kisses Alisoun’s ass and is humiliated greatly, he is cure of his love sickness.
He is finally able to use his intelligence to devise a plan to revenge Alisoun. Absolon is finally able to realize the reality of Alisoun’s absent love. He makes a logical decision to get his pride back by trying to burn her with a hot rod. It is interesting how now he is able to foresee other characters’ actions. Although it was Nicholas rather than Alisoun that gets burnt, Absolon is able to detect and foresee that someone will try to trick him again by putting their ass out the window.With his new knowledge and realizaion of reality of love, Absolon is able to plan ahead of those who tricked him. Finally, in control of his emotions, Absolon meets a victory and is the winner.
The tale’s most devious character, Nicholas who devises and beings the trickery, does not have a clear stance in being the winner or the loser. In the beginnning of the tale, Nicholas is a character who is driven by his intellect and reasoning. He is only character who succeeds in charming Alisoun. Unlike John and Absolon, he does not pour out all his affection to her but uses few sweet words to express his love.He is also not as emotionally attached to Alisoun and values the plan and method of getting with Alisoun more. Even when he as the chance to sleep with her and John is away, he does not, proving that he enjoys using his intellect and does not simply given into his momentairly emotions. Therefore, Nicholas is an acute character who uses his knowledge effectively to create a plan to fool John.
He succeeds in doing so by manipulating John’s love. He is aware that John, who is controlled by his emotions, would be easily duped and exploits it.However, after his great success intricking John without much effort, Nicholas loses much of his focus and becomes lazy. Overcome by pride and cockyness, he lets his guard down, allowing his emotions to take over. When Absolon comes back for another kiss, he sticks his ass out the window, definitely putting his logic aside and not thinking. The image of him presenting his ass also symbolizes his vulnerability and lack of reasoning. Nicholas, although victorious in the beginning, gets duped, beding both the winner and the loser.
The three characters, John, Absolon and Nicholas all get tricked at one point. Whether it is their love or pride, the three men is overcome by their emotions eventually. This might make one questions the intent. It might be possible that Chucer in the Miller’s Tale, might be doing so to prove that all classes are influenced by their emotions. No man, whether he is a clerk or a peasant, can fully control his emotions at all times. Therefore, he might making an underlying claim that all men are vulnerable and equal in some extent.