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The Miller in The Canterbury Tales: Description & Occupation

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  • 0:00 Description of the Miller
  • 1:26 Details About His Occupation
  • 1:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Margaret Stone

Margaret has taught both college and high school English and has a master's degree in English.

One of the most colorful characters in Geoffrey Chaucer's ''The Canterbury Tales'' is the Miller, a brawny man with a wart on his nose. He makes his living grinding grain at the mill, where he adds to his income by cheating his customers.

Description of the Miller

Geoffrey Chaucer provides a detailed description of the Miller in The Canterbury Tales. The Miller, one of the pilgrims on the trip to Canterbury, is a large, brawny man known for his prowess as a wrestler. Chaucer says that because of the Miller's strength and temperament, he always wins when he participates in wrestling matches on festival days. In fact, the Miller is even able to rip doors from their hinges. Apparently, he is rather hard-headed, too, for Chaucer says he can pound a door open by running into it with his head.

The Miller's beard is red, and he has a hair-covered wart on his nose. Furthermore, his nostrils are cavernous; Chaucer describes them as wide and black. At least the Miller's facial features seem proportionate, since he also has a wide mouth to go with his wide nostrils. The Miller wears a blue hood and white coat, and he carries a sword and shield on his side.

The Miller is also an accomplished piper, and he plays the bagpipes as the group of pilgrims leave town to begin their journey. He likes to joke and recite poetry, but most of his poetry is only appropriate for a mature audience.

Each of the travelers agrees to tell a tale to pass the time on the trip, and the Miller tells a bawdy tale about a carpenter and his young wife. The Miller begins his tale even though it's not his turn to speak, but the host realizes he is drunk and allows him to continue.

Details About His Occupation

The Miller grinds grain at the mill to produce flour and meal. He is dishonest, however, and Chaucer says the Miller has 'a thombe of gold.' In other words, he places a heavy thumb on the scales to cheat his customers.

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