The Miller’s Tale

English 12
14 October 1996
During the Middle Ages, religion was the matrix of a person’s life.

Everything, even boiling an egg, depended on religion, for the egg was
cooked when the prayer was finished. With religion came certain morals and
ideals that even now are associated with Christianity. A person was viewed
based on how he measured up to the ideals of his profession or position in
life. This was mostly proven in the satiric tone that Geoffrey Chaucer
chooses to give to the narrator, in the Prologue, when describing such
corrupt characters as the Monk and the Pardoner. The Miller’s Tale further
illustrates this point by showing that a person who does not follow the
ideals that are set up for him by birth and religion, will be punished for
his sins.

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John the Carpenter is a good man, but he makes a mistake by marrying a
woman who is two times younger than he is. Because his young bride is
beautiful and lively, “jealous he was and kept her in a cage . . . “
Jealousy is a sin and therefore, he is not living up to the ideals that the
world had set out for him. By the end of the tale, the Carpenter is
punished for his imperfections. With the help of Nicholas and Alison, the
wife of the carpenter, all of the town thinks that the Carpenter is crazy.

Because he sins by being jealous, this public humiliation is his
punishment.

Nicholas the Gallant is punished for several things. He lusts after a
married woman. He uses his knowledge of the stars and the study of
astrology, to his own advantage and to the disadvantage of another, namely
the Carpenter. He is not an honorable man like men of that time were
supposed to be, because he insults and assaults another person. For this,
Nicholas is punished by the branding he receives on his “arse.”
Absalon is also declining from his duties to God and the society,
which are to be courteous and honorable and not sin. Like Nicholas he is
lusting after Alison. Not only was that a sin because Alison is married,
but also because lust in general is one of the deadly sins. Furthermore, he
works for the church, which means that his moral level should be high and
he is supposed to be setting the example for the rest of the people around
him, so he should be judged more harshly than any man of the secular world.

For this, “Absalon had kissed her [Alison’s] nether eye,” and also
Nicholas’. He also received an unpleasant bodily gas in his face. This
works perfectly as a punishment because he is squeamish and acts more like
a woman, of his time, than a man.

Alison, the beautiful, young bride of John the Carpenter, commits
adultery by cheating on her unsuspecting husband with Nicholas, and
although women were thought of as failed males in the Middle Ages, she is
also punished. It seems that the standards that Chaucer had for her were
not as high as for the other characters. This could be because women did
not have to be chivalrous, even today this is thought of as a male
characteristic. Nonetheless, the town knew about her affair with Nicholas
and could have done anything from just gossiping about her to killing her
for heresy.

All these characters and their sins and punishments, lead up to the
moral of the story, or the theme; a sin never goes unpunished. Each
character described represents a small section of the society of those
times. This also shows the set in of corruption during the Middle Ages,
later to reach its’ zenith with the “Babylonian Captivity,” and the fall of
the church in the eyes of man.

Works Cited
Chaucer, Geoffrey, “The Miller’s Tale” The Canterbury Tales.

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