In the prologue of the Miller's tale, the Monk steps up to match the Knight's tale. As he begins, the drunk Miller interrupts the Knight and promises to tell a tale that will be as good as the Knight's tale. He lets everyone know that he is drunk and that he cannot be held accountable for what he says. The Miller says he will tell a tale of how a boarder made a fool of a carpenter's wife by sleeping with her.
In the tale, Nicholas is a student studying at Oxford, and he is boarding with a wealthy carpenter, John, and his eighteen-year-old wife, Alisoun. While the carpenter is away, Nicholas is flirting with Alisoun, and he advances on her. Alisoun threatens to cry for help, Nicholas calms her down, and she agrees to sleep with him.
Another man, Absolon, is also in love with Alisoun. He tries to win her love by singing songs , buying her gifts, and taking a part in a play. But Alisoun denies all of his advances, because she is already in love with Nicholas. At the same time, Nicholas has been devising a plan to find a way to have a free night that he and Alisoun can spend together. He tells John that he has had a vision from God and that there will be another flood like the flood of Noah's time. To save themselves, they have to hang three large buckets on the ceiling for them to sleep in, because once the water rises, they will float away.
While John sleeps in the bucket, Alisoun and Nicholas are in John's bed having sex. But during the night, Absolon comes to the window and asks Alisoun for a kiss. She agrees, but instead of presenting her lips to him, she presents her naked buttocks. Absolon becomes angry and returns with a hot poker, intending to brand Alisoun. Nicholas wants to get in on the fun, so he goes to the window and shows his own behind to Absolon. Absolon brands him by accident, and to ease the burn, Nicholas starts calling out, "Water!" Hearing this, John thinks the flood has come, and he cuts the rope attached to the bucket. He falls to the ground and sees what's going on. The townspeople are also there, because they heard the commotion. When Nicholas tells everyone what happened, they all laugh and mock John.