The Canterbury Tales takes place in a tavern near London called the Tabard Inn. The narrator is staying at the inn with twenty-nine pilgrims who are all traveling to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket in Canterbury. The pilgrims are a wide range of people and characters. The Host, Harry Bailey, makes the point that they should all ride together and entertain one another with stories. I believe Chaucer uses this setting in order to tell many different types of tales.
The first pilgrim to tell a story is the Knight. He tells a tale of two knights: Arcite and Palamon. They were wounded in battle by the Duke of Athens, Theseus. The Duke decides to imprison them rather than execution.
...view middle of the document...
Once the Knight is finished telling his tale the Host calls upon the Monk to tell a story; but the Miller, who is very drunk, interrupts and announces that he will tell a story. The Miller’s story is about John, an old and jealous carpenter who is married to a young girl named Alison. John rents out a room to a young astrology student named Nicholas who falls in love with Alison. Nicholas and Alison devise a plan in order to sleep with each other. Nicholas convinces John that there will be a large flood soon, much like the one Noah encountered in the Bible, and in order to survive this flood John should build three tubs to the rafters. John listens to Nicholas and the evening before the fake flood John, Alison, and Nicholas get into the tubs. Once the carpenter fell asleep Alison and Nicholas snuck away to Alison’s bed where they stayed the night.
In the middle of the night Absalon goes to Alison’s window and begs for one kiss, which Alison agrees to. However when Absalon goes in for the kiss, he is greeted instead with Alison’s rear end.
After this scene of embarrassment Absalon leaves and returns with a poker from the blacksmith. He calls out to Alison telling her he has a golden ring for her, but this time Nicholas comes to the window with his rear end sticking out. At this point Absalon thrusts the red-hot poker up Nicholas’s arse. Nicholas cries out “Help! Water! Water! For God’s dear heart!” This riot causes John to cut the rope that held his boat suspended and crashes to the floor causing him to break his arm. The neighbors all laugh at John’s crazy plan.
This is undoubtedly one of the most vulgar and humorous tales Chaucer wrote. I believe he chose the drunken Miller to tell this story because a drunken man usually has no filter and thus gave Chaucer an excuse to tell this tale through him.
The Wife of Bath is a wealthy and worldly woman. The wife prefers experience rather than authority as she states,
“Experience, though no authority were in this world, were good enough for me, to speak
Of woe that is in all marriage; for, masters, since I was twelve years of age, thanks be to
God who is for aye alive, of husbands at church door have I had five; for men so many
Times have wedded me; and all were worthy men in their degree.” (Chaucer 70)
She sees nothing wrong with having had five husbands and prefers the biblical command to go forth and multiply. The Wife talks about how she gained control over all five of her husbands, and she challenges anyone to show her that God commanded virginity.
She then tells the tale of the lusty young knight in King Arthur’s court...