Absolon in The Canterbury Tales

Instructor: Krista Langlois

Krista has taught language arts for 14 years. She has a master's degree in teaching and loves researching, reading, and introducing others to the wonders of literature and language.

If you like lowbrow humor, 'The Miller's Tale' is for you. This lesson gives an overview of the character of Absolon from ''The Canterbury Tales'' and takes a look at Chaucer's not so subtle message that what you see is not always what you get.

Absolon in 'The Miller's Tale'

How many of us have found ourselves browsing through dating sites looking for Mr. or Ms. Right? How often do profiles and reality add up? How often do we think we've found a well-dressed, well-spoken, intelligent man or woman looking for love to find they're really only looking for a hookup?

Enter Absolon, Chaucer's red-hosed parish clerk. Although there is no true hero or honest protagonist to be found in 'The Miller's Tale,' Absolon fits the role as the lesser of the evils. When we meet him, he is clean and radiant with his shining blond hair and meticulous nature.

Though he enjoys a good bar scene as much as the next Chaucer character, he is also a bit squeamish about a couple of things, including bawdy language and farting! Think of today's perfectly dressed, ultra-hygienic metrosexual male and you won't be far from envisioning The Canterbury Tales' Absolon.

The Canterbury Tales
Canterbury Tales


Absolon, the reader is led to believe, is pining away for the love of Alison. He speaks of love and ardor in the language of high romance. He attempts to woo her with pretty words, song, and dance. Although Alison is married, Absolon would have us believe that he would have no issue leading Alison into adultery (and thereby cuckolding her husband) because of his deep love for her. But, as we wait with him under Alison's window, he finally reveals that it is his lust he wishes to slate and not his love. Awaiting Alison's kiss, he ponders the likelihood that his kiss will lead to sex.

The Kiss

Ironically, in a twist Absolon never saw coming, he gets neither and, at the same time, more than he bargained for as his character is further debased in the reader's eyes. Alison, tired of Absolon's advances, tells him to wait at the window for her kiss. When he leans in for his prize, Alison presents her rump instead, and Absolon finds himself deeply and passionately kissing her rear end instead of her rosy lips. Feeling her coarse bum hairs tickle his lips, Absolon wonders about her beard and then realizes the trick.

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