Wrote in Middle EnglishFirst writer to write in English for the common man, not French or Latin, the languages at that time preferred by scholarsChaucer was middle class, public servant.The Canterbury Tales: best contemporary picture of 14thcentury EnglandFrame Story: story that provides a vehicle for telling other stories (stories within a story)
“The Prologue”: introduction of diverse group of characters, including narratorTales characters share on pilgrimage to CanterburyCanterbury: site of shrine to St. Thomas à BecketHis tomb became popular pilgrimage destinationPilgrimage: journey taken to a place with religious significance
Pilgrimage brings together 3 main segments of medieval society:ClergyNoblesCommon people: Narrator (Chaucer),Wife of BathBasis for theframe story:The host proposes that each pilgrim will tell 2 stories on the way to CanterburyWinner of the contest will have free meal paid by all other pilgrims
“The Miller’s Tale”
Genre: A fabliau (pl., "fabliaux"), a French invention that depicts bourgeois characters in satirical or openly comic plots involving unlikely and complex deceptions, usually concerning sex and/or money.Satirizedbourgeoissociety.Low-classsetting and figures,explicitsexualimmorality.Husbands, especially older men with younger wives, are regularlyduped.
Endof the Knight’s Tale, Host asks the Monk to matchit.Knight:highest social standing among the pilgrims.Epitomeofchivalry. Describedasdistinguished.Miller(157): Ground grain for customers (adding his thumb to the scale increased his fee for grinding)Fatty-cakes (over 220 pounds);wart on his noseCompared to a sow, a fox, an old sow’s ear, & a furnace door:dirty.Lecherous: tells the bawdiest story on the journeyPlays the bagpipes as they leave London
Millerinterrupts, drunk, promises that he has a tale that will repay the Knight’s tale.Miller reminds everyone that he is drunk and therefore shouldn’t be held accountable for anything he says.“I will tell a legend and a life of a carpenter and his wife, and how a clerk made a fool of the carpenter.”“he is no cuckold who has no wife”
Narrator: don’t blame me! Turn the page if you don’t like it.Introduction of the characters.John – carpenter.Nicholas – student, living with them. Studies astrology.Skilledin secretlove.Sly.Description of his room: books,
Astrolabe formeasuring the positionof planets and stars.Musical instruments.Carpenter’s newlywedded a wife,“eighteenyearsof age, whom he loved more than his ownsoul. Hewas jealous, and held her closely caged, forshe wasyoung, and he was much older andjudged himselflikely to be made a cuckold.”
“Men should wed according to their ownstation inlife, for youth and age are often at odds.”Physiognomy:a science that judged a person’scharacterbased on his or her anatomy or exaggerated facialfeatures.Herbodywasas graceful and slim as anyweasel.Shehad a lecherous eye; hereyebrows werearched and black as a sloeberry.She wasmore deliciousto look on than the young pear-treein bloom, and softer than a lamb’s wool.Little doll.
Her singing asloud and lively as a swallow’s sitting on abarn.Shecould skip and make merry as any kid orcalf followingits mother.Hermouth was sweetas honeyedale ormeadShewas skittish as a jollycoltTall as amast, and upright as a bolt.
John goes out of town, Nicholas makes his moves.“Andsecretly he caughthold ofher genitalia and said: “Surely, unless youwill loveme, sweetheart, I shall die for my secret loveof you. And he held her hard by the thighs and said, “Sweetheart, love me now, or I will die, mayGod saveme!”But this Nicholas began to beg for her grace,and spokeso fairly and made such offers that at lastshe grantedhim herlove.Important to keep the relationship aseceret.
Alisoungoes to church.Absolon-parishclerk.His hair was curly and shone like gold,and spreadout like a large broadfan.His complexion wasrosy.Hewas a sweetlad.Hecould dancein twentyways.He was some-whatsqueamish about farting andrough speech.
Castmany longinglooks at wives at church, as he was incensing them.Had alove-longing in hisheart.Sings underAlisoun’swindow at night.“Fromday to day this jollyAbsalom wooedher until he was all woe-begone. Heremained awakeall night and all day, he combed hisspreading locksand preened himself, he wooed her bygobetweensandagents, and swore he would be herown page; he sang quavering like a nightingale; hesent hermead, and wines sweetened and spiced,and waferspiping hot from thecoals”
AlisountakesAbsolon’swooing as a joke.Nicholas devises a plan that will allow him andAlisounto spend an entire night together.The flood.Alisounand Nicholas sleep in the carpenter’s bed.Absolonpasses by.“Myfair bird, my darling! Awake, sweet cinnamon,and speak to me. You think right little uponmy sorrow, who sweat for your love wherever I go!”
The kiss.Dark as pitch,or ascoal, was the night, and at the window she putout herhole, andAbsolom, who knew no better orworse butwith his mouth he kissed her naked assso sweetly, before he was aware of this.He started aback, and thought something wasamiss, forwell he knew a woman has no beard. Hefelt somethingall rough andlong-haired.The payback.His hot love was now cold and entirely quenched;for fromthat moment that he had kissed her ass, hecared nota straw for things of love, for he was healed ofhis sickness.
This Nicholas had risen to take a piss, andhe thoughthe would contribute to the joke; heshould kisshim before he ran off! And he threw upthe windowin haste and quietly put his ass out, pastthe buttocks, all the way to the thigh-bone.Thereupon spokethis clerk Absalom, “Speak, sweet bird, Iknow notwhere thou art.” This Nicholas then let fly afart asgreat as a thunder-clap, so much so that withthe strokeAbsalom was almost blinded; and hewas readywith his hot iron and smote Nicholas onthe ass.
“Water!”,“Alas!Noah’s floodis coming now!”The carpenter is mad. People laugh at him.Thus the carpenter lost his wife, for all hiswatching andjealousy; and Nicholas was sore burned. Thistale isdone, and God save the entire company.