Ambiguity In Miller's Tale By Geoffroy Chaucer

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Introduction “Heere bigynneth the Millere his tale.” Geoffroy Chaucer’s humorous account entitled “Miller’s Tale,” depicts the story of Alison: a young, beautiful woman in the midst of an affair with Nicholas, a young scholar. When the two devise a plan against John, Alison’s elder husband, the scheme is executed with perfection and ends with John abruptly crashing and landing his position as target of ridicule of the town. However, throughout the unravelling of this devious plan, several ambiguous components come into play. The purpose of this essay is to identify and decipher elements of ambiguity found in Chaucer’s “Miller’s Tale.” Background To begin this evaluation of ambiguity in “Miller’s Tale,” a few definitions and context information…show more content…
Chaucer describes Alison as a young, beautiful woman and compares her to numerous animals such as a weasel, a swallow, and a colt (Chaucer, 3234, 3258, 3263). Not only could her body be compared to that of a weasel, but so could her devious antics. However, Alison’s underhanded actions may have been devised in different ways. When astrology scholar Nicholas first approached Alison, she was hesitant to pursue him. Nicholas threatened that if she did not love him, he would die. Alison yelled for Nicholas to leave her alone; however, when he began to speak sweetly to her, “she hir love hym graunted atte laste,” which means, she granted herself to him at last (3290). Alison’s actions have ambiguous meaning behind them. Alison may have initially rejected Nicholas because she knew that her husband was a very jealous man (3294), and she was scared that he would find out about the affair. On the other hand, Alison could have also been “playing hard to get.” As an attractive, young woman at the time, she knew that she could receive almost anything she desired. Her initial rejection may have been a tactic of bribery to receive the affection that she craved. Either way, her original repudiation to Nicholas led to other ambiguous elements in the…show more content…
However, the intimacy between Alison and the men of this tale have different connotations, forming an ambiguous theme of sex. John’s feelings towards Alison are genuine and demonstrate sex as love. The tale states “This carpenter hadde wedded newe a wyf, Which that he lovede moore than his lyf” (3221-3222). John’s affection for his young wife often prompted jealousy, because he knew that he was much older and considered himself a “cuckold” (3226). Despite the age difference, John was dedicated to Alison and was, without a doubt, in love with her. On the other hand, the attraction that Nicholas and Absolon feel towards Alison are not based upon authentic love. Their intentions to pursue Alison are founded on libido, resulting in the other nuance of sex: sex as lust. When Nicholas first approached Alison, “he caughte hire by the queynte,” or caught her by her crotch (3276). In the same way, Alison caught the eye of Absolon while censing woman at church. He was attracted to her and stated that “if she hadde been a mous, and he a cat, he wolde hire hente anon.” Which means, he would have snatched her up that moment (3346-3347). Nicholas and Abolson degrade Alison and her sexuality, while her husband John wishes only to celebrate and accentuate his wife. While each of these men desire to pursue Alison in an intimate manner, Nicholas and Absolon derive their intentions from lust, while genuine love and affection
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