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About The Canterbury Tales:
Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales, a collection of stories in a frame story, between 1387 and 1400. It is the story of a group of thirty people who travel as pilgrims to Canterbury (England). The pilgrims, who come from all layers of society, tell stories to each other to kill time while they travel to Canterbury. He never finished his enormous project and even the completed tales were not finally revised. Scholars are uncertain about the order of the tales. As the printing press had yet to be invented when Chaucer wrote his works, The Canterbury Tales has been passed down in several handwritten manuscripts.
About The Miller's Prologue and Tale:
The Miller's Tale is about a wealthy carpenter called John who lives in Oxford with his wife called Alison, who is only eighteen years old. In the second line of The Miller's Tale we learn that John the carpenter takes lodgers in his house and an impoverished student of astrology and astronomy called Nicholas lives in the house too. John the carpenter is extremely jealous. No wonder if you have a nice wife of only eighteen years old. When John is absent, Nicholas grabs Alison telling her he dies of love for her (lines 169-170). Initially she leaps away but eventually agrees to go to bed with him (line 184). But not now. That would be too risky because John the jealous husband might find them together (lines 186-188). So they have to wait for or create an opportunity. There is another clerk, called Absolon, who tries to court Alison, but Alison does not react.
Nicholas creates an opportunity. He tells John that the stars or the moon have predicted a flood resembling Noah's flood. Next Monday every creature will drown in less than an hour. To survive the flood John should take three large wooden troughs and hang them high in the roof. John, Alison and Nicholas should climb in the troughs, which will be stuffed with provisions, and await the flood. When the flood comes, the ropes have to be cut and the troughs will float. Nobody else should be told about the upcoming flood and the troughs of John and Alison should be hung far apart (line 481). John takes all of this for granted and the three climb in their troughs on the evening before the supposed flood. John falls asleep, Alison and Nicholas climb down and speedily go to bed (line 542).
Meanwhile Absolon thinks that John is absent and again tries to court Alison by singing and speaking to her under her bedroom window. She asks him to leave, but Absolon refuses to leave without having kissed her once. Alison puts her naked ass out of the window for Absolon to kiss. Apparently it is too dark too see, so Absolon initially unknowingly kisses something long-haired (line 630). When he notices that he is actually kissing Alison's vulva (see also line 744), Alison slams the window (line 632) and she and Nicholas cry out laughing and mock Absolon for his foolishness.
Absolon is angry and wants revenge. Absolon lends a hot iron poker from the blacksmith and returns to Alison's home. Under her bedroom window again he calls her name. Nicolas thinks of another joke and puts his ass out of the window, farting thunderously in Absolon's face (lines 698-699). But Absolon stands prepared with the hot poker and burns Nicolas' arse. Ouch, that hurts! Nicholas cries for water loudly and repeatedly (line 707). John, who is snoring in his hanging trough, awakes and hears "water". He thinks the flood is coming and instantly cuts the rope (line 712). There is no flood to float on so the trough smashes on the floor and John lies on the floor close to unconscious and with a broken arm. Neighbours come and everybody laughs about John.
In The Miller's Tale all main characters are duped or outsmarted, except Alison. It seems that The Miller's Tale is told for fun, not for teaching. Alison is not punished for her adultary or for sticking her naked ass out of the bedroom window to be kissed by a wannabe suitor. None of the pilgrims dissaprove the tale told by the Miller. They all laugh, except the Reeve who is a carpenter himself and therefore hates jokes about carpenters. No person speaks a bad word about Alison. Is The Miller's Tale a sinful story? Maybe a blasphemous story? Christianity and all its learnings, teachings, symbols and cliches are almost absent in The Miller's Tale. One can argue that the plot is far-fetched, but not that it's blasphemous. Nothing religious gets riciculed. Besides, what to expect from a girl who is only eighteen? John should have known better.
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