The Miller's Tale Questions and Answers
by Geoffrey Chaucer

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What impressions of womanhood and of sexual behavior does Alisoun in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Miller's Tale seem to convey?

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Alisoun, the young adulterous wife in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Miller’s Tale seems to be the subject of Chaucer’s comic satire. She is a satirical target because both her behavior in general and her sexual behavior in particular are immoral by almost any standard, but especially by the Christian standards prevalent in Chaucer’s day. Here are some specific reasons for thinking that Chaucer is satirizing Alisoun’s conduct:

  • When Nicholas tries to seduce her, she briefly resists but soon agrees to have sex with him (163-83).  Nicholas

. . . profred him [that is, proffered himself] so fast

That she hir love graunted him at laste . . . (182-83)

The words “at laste” here are especially comic and ironic, since her resistance has not lasted long at all!

  • Next, Alisoun swears an

ooth [that is, oath] by Saint Thomas of Kent

That she wolde be at his [that is, Nicholas’s] commandment . . . (183-84)

This phrasing is highly ironic. The allusion to St. Thomas reminds us that he was a highly venerated...

(The entire section contains 518 words.)

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