The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

Important Quotations Explained

3
Thus swyved was this carpenteris wyf,
For al his kepyng and his jalousye;
And Absolon hath kist hir nether ye;
And Nicholas is scalded in the towte.
This tale is doon, and God save al the rowte!
          (The Miller’s Tale, 3850–3854)

This passage, the rhyming conclusion to the Miller’s Tale, neatly resolves the story by offering a reckoning of accounts. Everyone in the story has learned his or her lesson and gotten the physical punishment he or she deserves. The carpenter’s wife, Alisoun, was “swyved,” or possessed in bed by another man, in this case, Nicholas. John, the ignorant and jealous carpenter, has been made a cuckold, despite his watchful and possessive eye. Absolon, the foolish and foppish parish clerk, has kissed Alisoun’s behind, fair punishment for evading his clerical duties. Nicholas, the smart-alecky student who cheated on the carpenter with Alisoun, has been burned on his bottom with a red-hot poker as payback for farting in Absolon’s face. Still, the distribution of punishments is not entirely equal. John is dealt the worst lot—he ends up with a broken arm and the whole town believing he has gone insane. Alisoun’s “swyving” is a double punishment for John, while Alisoun herself escapes unscathed.