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    Miller’s Tale – Compare and contrast Nicholas and Absolon Essay

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    Compare and contrast Nicholas and Absolon. We will look at what aspects of each character are identified i. e, how they are similar, how they are different and, how other characters respond to each of them. Also looking at Chaucer’s use of language and how it emphasizes their similarities and differences. Firstly lets look at Nicholas and Absolon’s physical description, their build, height, hair, posture, eye colour etc. There are some strikingly obvious differences between them that should be observed. Chaucer describes Absolons eyes, ‘his eyen greye as goos’.

    This metaphor directly contrasts his eye colour with that of the colouring of a goose’s. This is jusktraposed by the fact that it can also be a term of affection. This Strange comparison with that of a goose seems unusual but effective as the reader can associate with it easily. This is a commonly used medieval comparison. Apparently the white goose was not known about in the time of Chaucer. Here is a quote describing Absolon’s shoes, ‘poules window corven on his shoos’. Absolons shoes are decorated with ornamental holes cut into the leather.

    The engraving on the leather represents a window in St Paul’s cathedral. This dress style comes from Absolons need to look attractive which he uses as his first tool in wooing Alisoun. I also think that this shoe decoration runs deeper than mere aesthetics, it could symbolise something special, maybe a message from the stained glass window from the cathedral. Chaucer describes Nicholas as quite an effeminate character. He states, ‘like a maiden meek’, the adjective ‘meek’ stands out as being quite harsh almost degrading as his subtle masculinity makes him something of an outcast.

    He stands in stark contrast against the Miller who is testosterone charged, coarse and aggressive. Both Nicholas and Absolon share quite a few similarities, such as; age, cleanliness, importance of personal appearance and the ability to play a musical instrument. Nicholas possesses the ability to manipulate and persuade people who are less intelligent than him. For example the carpenter who he convinces of his plan to survive the ‘imaginary’ flood- uses very persuasive language such as imperatives and commands, is highly assertive-‘will’, ‘must’, ‘wont’.

    He also states that the flood will be twice as terrible as Noah’s and that ‘thus shal mankind drenche’, a direct threat to the carpenters safety. Absolon, on the other hand, possesses many more of the qualities that one would expect that a lover in a story about courtly love would have. He is described as being handsome, or at least well groomed. He involves himself in what could be described as “courtly” pursuits such as dancing (Chaucer says that he knew twenty different steps) and can play two instruments.

    His attempts at winning her love are more traditionally romantic. He sings under her window, sends her gifts and even money to try to earn her love. Chaucer puts the emphasize on his absolute love and desire for Alisoun, ‘so wotheth hire that him is wo bigon’ in modern English he is ‘wretched’, love sick. Chaucer uses this emotive language to make the reader feel sorry for this character. ‘He waketh al the night and al the day’, this reminds us of his sheer devotion, he obsesses over her which causes him to think of nothing else and have sleepless nights.

    Another point that warms the audience to him as he is rather naive in many ways with what he sees to be love of the utmost importance, he doesn’t seem to realise that there are many other women whom he could woo. Contrasting this, Nicholas appears to me far more experienced and laid back in his approach to woo Alisoun. This could be due to his one major advantage over Absolon, he lives under the same roof. This gives him many opportunities to corner her and ‘sweet talk’ her with romantic verse.

    Nicholas takes advantage of the fact that Absolon is far from Alisoun, he sees this has his chance to take her for himself, ‘Alwey the nie slie Maketh the ferre leeve to be looth’. In modern terms he is basically saying ‘out of sight out of mind’, the crafty lover steals the attraction of his far off rival Absolon. Alisoun (who is at the heart of this fierce rivalry) seems to care little for Absolons attentive if somewhat obsessive desire. Pleasant Nicholas is the actual lover, but Absolon is more the stereotype of the courtly lover.

    She is put off by his exhuastive efforts and even finds it slightly amusing, ‘she maketh Absolon hire ape and al his ernest turneth til a jape’- she ridicules all his serious attentions. Yet again Chaucer manages to emote feelings of pitty for this young, niave lover who always seems to end up trying too hard. Alison, Chaucer’s imprisoned wife, is less of the ideal than both Nicholas or Absolon think she is. Certainly she is beautiful. But her beauty is slightly flawed. She is “graceful and slim like weasel.

    ” By comparing her with a weasel Chaucer makes Alisoun seem to be dirty and untrustworthy. Instead of being involved in “courtly love” there is some evidence that the relationship between Alisoun and Nicholas is one of lust. Chaucer’s use of the lower class makes the absurdity of what they are doing stand out even more so. Stephen Blighe 03/05/2007 AS English and Literature Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Geoffrey Chaucer section.

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