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animals—a weasel, colt, kid, calf, mouse, etc. She is described only externally, even more of a "flat" character than the men, and also has the fewest lines to speak. Moreover, she is treated rather brutally by all the men: Her husband is mentally cruel, if not physically; Nicholas grabs her by the genitals; Absolon intends to burn her behind with a hot poker. To all of them, she is merely an object and a sexual plaything. Finally, queer and gender critics have begun examining the interconnected relationships among the men in the Tale. In particular, the scene between Absolon and Nicholas reveals an underlying homoeroticism, between the kissing of the "nether eye" and the thrusting of the red-hot poker, itself borrowed from Gerveys the Smith, a "freend so dere" to Absolon he would lend the clerk anything. These recent avenues of criticism have provided insight not only into "The Miller's Tale" itself, but also into the fabliau genre, particularly as it is rendered into Middle English language.

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