Absolon is a parish clerk and is introduced as a failed courtly lover. We see how he takes great pride in his appearance, so as to impress the women of the area. We see Absolon as a feminine character and there are contrasts drawn between Nicholas and the Miller and himself.
Chaucer presents Absolon as a foolish character. I feel that as a reader you mock Absolon as he appears very differently to men of the time. We see this through his vanity, his hair is described as ‘strouted as a fanne’. This suggests that Absolon takes a great pride in his hair and this is further suggested as we are told ‘gold it shoon’. This suggests that Absolon frequently washes his hair which would be an act associated with the women of the time. Absolon’s biblical namesake also was proud of his hair and he to is shown to be a fool. It was because of his vanity and need to have long hair that Absolon’s namesake was killed. I sense that there is a connection which can be established in the downfall of these characters and their vanity. Absolon is mocked because of his hair and attention to detail in his appearance and therefore he is not taken seriously ending in his final embarrassment at the window. We are also told of Absolon’s shoes which are ‘Poules window carven on his shoes’.
This shows us that Absolon has a reasonable amount of wealth which he wastes on overblown gestures; he would see the carving of his shoes as praise to god. However most religious people would find this to be a mockery of their faith and be offended by Absolon’s attempts. I believe this to be true of his attempts with women, he appears one to make gestures which he finds to be magnificent and grand, however I believe that his attempts would repulse women. An example is how he swings the ‘sencer’ which he swings back and forth in the church so as to impress the women of the parish. However, because of the overpowering smell of incense Absolon would be making people wretch rather than for them to fall in love with him. As a reader we see that Absolon is trying to slot into the role of a courtly lover, unlike Nicholas, he is gentle and harmless though because of the ways in which he goes wrong we are drawn to mocking him.
As a Parish Clerk Absolon is initially presented as a man whom you would expect commands respect, Absolon however is quickly shown to be a man who is shown none as even though John is aware of Absolon’s advances he does not feel threatened by them and even laughs that he would to coax John’s wife from him. Though he holds a religious post Absolon appears not to be religious. When in church the mind is supposed to be on god and not to wander, however we know that Absolon is trying to impress during services as Chaucer describes him as ‘a gay surplis’. Though he is in church Absolon still appears to be trying to advertise his vivacity. AS a ‘Parish clerk’ Absolon is also committing sins for trying to have sex altogether. As a man of god he is supposed to refrain from such acts and to remain celibate so that no-one may come between him and god. This suggests that he is a shallow man, as though he claims to be a devoted religious man he wants to feel the flesh of others more than he wants to obey his god. We see Chaucer making a politically fuelled attack at the church. When the play was written the church was seen as corrupt. By creating Absolon’s character he is able to show what fools that he believes that those running the church are.
Absolon is frequently presented in one light then immediatly shown to be a fraud. He is said to be a religious man, though we quickly realise he isn’t; He is also shown to be a courtly lover, though he is shown to be a failed one. He is also shown as a man though Chaucer, and the Miller, frequently insults Absolon’s manhood. The Miller describes Absolon’s singing as similar to a ‘nightingale’, though seen as a beautiful songbird the nightingale also sings in a high pitched warbley voice. By comparing Absolon’s singing with a Nightingale it is suggested that he has small genitals, as is the long standing joke referring to pitch of voice.
We also see another phallic reference between Nicholas and Absolon. We are told how Nicholas plays a grand ‘salter’ with which he plays beautiful music and reverberates around his chamber. In contrast to this we are told of Absolon’s ‘small rubible’ which is a similarly played instrument though is a lot smaller in stature. Absolon is being dwarfed by Nicholas on the size of instruments and also perhaps by the size of his penis. We also see a comparison drawn between Nicholas and Absolon with the Miller. The Miller plays an extremely large set of bags and pipes which appear to dwarf that of Nicholas also. As in the ‘Canterbury Tales’ it is a great feature that the Miller is an exceptional bagpipe player then I believe that it is the Miller’s character that has created this comparison between Absolon, Nicholas and himself. The Miller is a strong man and though he is not crude enough to show the gathering in front of him he wishes to show that he is larger than both men.
Chaucer presents Absolon as a failure. We mock Absolon a solely because of the way Chaucer has presented him; however, if the tale were to be told from a sympathetic angle then we would pity Absolon. Chaucer does guide us through his intricate use of language. He insults, ridicules and mocks Absolon in a way in which we find ourselves obliged to laugh.