Saturday, October 01, 2011

Canterbury Tales 2: The Miller's Tale

The next couple of weeks (at least) will be focused on the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. I have listened to it in its entirety once and then when I was thinking about how to talk about them I decided to break it down into the individual tales and give a post of each one.  I am going to limit my self to one post per story because some of them are so full of interesting things that I could post for a month and still have more to explore. 

The Miller is a churl, ye know well this,
So was the Reeve, with many other mo'
And harlotry they tolde bothe two. ribald tales
Avise you now, and put me out of blame; be warned
And eke men should not make earnest of game. jest, fun

The miller is a very dirty old man. His tale is quite the opposite of The worthy knight. who told a grand story of high chivalry and of a beautiful girl who was chaste, honorable and became a worthy wife. his tale is about a much different sort of wife. (I apologies, just as Chaucer, there will probably be some mild swearing in this)

100 word summary: A carpenter, who was wealthy and old, took a wife who was beautiful and young. Nicholas and Absolon, fell in love with her. She loved Nicholas and they hatched a scheme. Absolon discovered them and said he would not go till he had a kiss. So she let him kiss her, on her ass. He vowed revenge. Latter he asked for another kiss. This time Nicholas put his ass out the window. Absolon was ready and smote him with a hot poker. His screams woke the carpenter, but the plan worked so that the neighborhood thought the carpenter was a silly man.

What first strikes me as amusing about this tale is that it follows the knights tale. the miller is drunk and refuses to let anyone else tell a tale, his must be next. And in his prologue he talks about how husbands should not trespass on God's or their wives privacy. while the knight exhorts a women of beauty, the miller explains why a beautiful women might not make a very good wife. 

The story is really about the foolishness of the carpenter. his first mistake was to take this young girl as his wife when he was so much her elder. because of his decision to wed her he, he chose to play the cuckold husband. For she was bound to catch the eyes of younger men who would have no respect for the old Carpenter. which she did, one played the part of the out right lover singing at the married couples window (who was Alison was not interested in) and the other played the part of the sly lover who schemed his way into the bed. this was Handy, Worthy Nicholas. 

their plan was simple, fool the old carpenter into believing that Noah's Flood was coming a second time and they must find a way to survive it. the funny thing is that he believed it. It is easy to say that this was because he lived in a time when people were superstitious and foolish. of course if a Soothsayer (which Nicholas was) said the flood was coming he would believe him.  it was a silly and believing time. But then I ask you: how many people bought the story earlier this spring that the world was going to end in May? how many People are afraid that the Mayan calenter really products that the world will end next year? how many people thought Y2K was going to be the end of the world? How many people think Nostradamus really saw the future? You see there are still very silly people in the world who are that "sucker born ever minuet." people are generally still afraid of the end of the world. why else would that be a popular plot of movies and books? 

of course because the towns people are told about how the Carpenter was so sure that Noah's flood was going to happen that he bought three big Kneading Tubs and begged them for company, they all thought him very silly and despite the fact that he had been duped and made a cuckold (I love learning new words) the people of the village gave him no sympathy, all the harm done to him was turned into a jape.

the moral of the story? if you are old don't marry a young women there is no way to make sure you don't end up her fool. 

Now to say something about the joke played on Absolon, the poor man. he tried so hard to woo the married women and all he got out of it was kissing Alison's butt and Nicholas farting in his face. It is just plan  funny. and all I can say about this one is that it pretty much should let us know that there were just as many fowl writers in the olden times as there are now. 

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