We can also see humour in Absolon in the way that he dresses. From line 205 it describes him in almost as much detail as how Alison is described. He has ‘wyndow corven on his shoos’ (elegant patterned shoes), ‘In hoses rede he wente fetisly’ (red stockings), Ful faire and thikke been the poyntes set’ (fancy tunic), ‘In twenty manere koude he trippe and daunce’ (he knew lots of dances), He was somdeel squaymous of fartyng and of speche daungerous’ (He was squeamish of farting and of dirty jokes).
From this description we can see that he is going to be a comical character and subjected to much ridicule throughout the tale. Unlike the Carpenter, we feel sorry for Absolon because we get a chance to see how heart broken he is after he is rejected by Alison and made to kiss her ‘ers’. On line 645 he tell of how he wishes he was blind and how he has lost her ‘Allas,’quod he, ‘allas, I ne hadde yblent! ‘ His hoote love was coold and al yqueynt’ and we feel even more sorry for him on line 651 when he is described as crying like a child ‘And weep as a dooth a child that is ybete’.
This is not humorous but it makes a change to see Absolon’s character in a different context. Absolon also brings humour to the tale by using similes. On line 596 he describes his longing for Alison like a lamb does for his mothers teat ‘I moorne as dooth a lamb after the tete’. He also shows cunning which brings a large amount of humour to the end part of the tale. After he has been rejected, he goes to the Blacksmith and gets a hot iron rod.
When, on line 698 ‘This Nicholas anon leet fle a fart’ Absolon, on line 701 ‘… was redy with his iren hoot And Nicholas amydde the ers he smoot’. This last part means that Absolon was a pivotal part of the Tale because if Nicholas hadn’t shouted for water on line 707, then the carpenter wouldn’t have thought that the flood was coming and wouldn’t have fallen from the roof and made a mockery of. This is one of the most humorous parts of the tale and wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for Absolon.
So, in conclusion to the humour the characters portray, The Miller’s Tale prizes the characters who are more shrewd (Absolon) than emotional ones who obey traditional behaviour (Nicholas). The Miller’s Tale also has a moral that everyone gets what they deserve. John the carpenter who was stupid and gullible got a broken arm and was declared mad, Absolon who rightly got the least amount of punishment had to kiss Alison’s ‘ers’ and got’ farted’ on by Nicholas and Nicholas who deserved to, and did, get the most punishment got a hot poker in his ‘ers’!
Even though the characters in the Miller’s Tale were humorous and were the main source of humour, quite a lot of the humour came from the language and the structure of the tale. We got quite a good description of the Miller so we knew what our storyteller was like. We knew that he had ‘a thikke knarre’ (stupid), ‘his nosethirles blake’ (black nostrils) ‘At wrastlynge he would have alwey the ram’ (wins wrestling matches). So at the beginning of the tale we knew that the humour would be bawdy and vulgar, a lot like the Miller himself.
The plot is controlled very well, with most of the humour towards the end of the tale so the beginning and middle parts are just a slow build up to the ending. It is well structured, perhaps too well structured to be told by a drunken Miller. We can also see humour in an example of a farce when us, as the audience can anticipate a humorous situation, as when Alison puts her ‘ers’ out of the window for Absolon to kiss, which the characters themselves are not aware of at the time.
The language is very descriptive with all of the four main characters described at length especially Alison and our storyteller, the Miller. The description’s are often humorous, especially Absolon’s and the Miller’s. In line 210, Absolon is described as ‘poules’ (elegant) and he wears ‘In hoses rede he wente fetisly’ (red stockings), ‘Ful faire and thikke been the poyntes set’ (fancy tunic) which we can imagine him to have a very humorous appearance. The Miller’s description doesn’t focus so much on his appearance (although it is mentioned), but more on his characteristics.
On line 550 ‘Ther was no dore that he nolde heve of hare, Or breke it at a rennyng with his heed’ which means that he was so stupid that he ran at doors to break them down with his head! The writing, though hard to understand, also brings a certain amount of humour to the tale. The way the words are phrased and are direct to the point is very good. We are frequently reminded that the Miller is telling the story through some of the ways that he phrases things.
For example on line 168 when Nicholas, the scholar is trying to woo Alison, he ‘caughte hire by the queynte’ (grabbed her by the thighs) which we are unsure if Nicholas would do (but later, as Nicholas’ crudeness is unfolded, he probably would) but are reminded that the Miller is the story teller so he is probably telling us what he would do. In conclusion, we still find the Miller’s tale funny even though it was written over 600 years ago because the characters are so real that we can relate to them. People like The Miller, The Carpenter, Absolon, Nicholas and Alison are all around today and we can identify them in society.
The basic love story is so realistic and true to life that we can’t help but find it funny. It can be seen on so many different levels, a love story, a moral story, a farce, and mostly a funny story. Another reason why we still find The Miller’s Tale funny today is that our sense of humour hasn’t changed very much in the last 600 years. We still crave bawdiness and crudeness (basically typical British humour) and find it funny. So, The Miller’s Tale can truly be said to still be humorous after 600 years.