Geoffrey Chaucer ‘The Canterbury Tales – The Miller’s Prologue’

After the Knight ends his tale, the host says: “Now to requite this, perhaps you, sir Monk, would like to follow?” However, the Miller, who is already drunk with ale, butts in, saying that he would like to tell his tale now (swearing all the time in the usual medieval colourful manner “by armes and by blood and bones” of Christ). The host wants to stop him, seeing that he is drunk, but the Miller will have none of it, arguing that even if he is drunk, it is because of host’s own ale. He announces that he is going to tell a story about a carpenter and his wife and a clerk who made a fool of the carpenter. The Reeve, who is a carpenter, takes it personally and protests loudly. The Miller answers slyly: “Why should you take it so personally? I have a wife just like you, the fact that I am going to tell a story about a cuckolded husband doesn’t mean it refers to you anymore than me. Anyway, the best policy for husbands is not to be too inquisitive either of their wives’ or God’s secrets.” Before he commences his tale, Chaucer makes another disclaimer: if you are looking for moral or pious tales, turn a few pages. You know full well that both the Miller and the Reeve are uncouth men and so are their tales. I am just repeating what I’ve heard, so don’t blame me.

You can listen to the whole prologue read by the eminent medievist V.A. Kolve on the Norton site (recording no. 6).

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