Canterbury Tales Essay, Research Paper
With the presidential election at its boiling point, many try to provide their own joke every now and then. Late night comedians such as David Letterman and Jay Leno try to spit out a new joke during their ten-minute spiel, and sometimes one can assume that they are getting even with the election process. Throughout the one-hour show, the comedians do their best to trick both the viewers and all those involved with the election process by having people act out scenes, or imitate one of the presidents. Also, as just about every other comedian tries to achieve, he or she throws in a dirty joke about the president or his family to tie it all up right at the end of their spiel. These three aspects of comedy?revenge, trickery, and infidelity?can all be found in The Miller?s Tale. The Miller?s Tale encompasses a dark and infernal level of comedy, similar to that of comedy today.
In The Miller?s Tale, Nicholas, a clerk, is a student of astronomy and of young women, who represents the dark and infernal level of comedy where ?love cannot dwell in such society; everyone is fundamentally along, though hypocrisy and self-serving may give the appearance of friendship? (Cowan, 11). Nicholas lives with a wealthy carpenter named John, who?s an old man who protects his beautiful wife, Alison, as if it were flies on scat. In the infernal state ?the pretty girl? is either absent or, if she does enter the boundaries of this dark region, victimized? (11). Alison is caught between three disrespectful men. Her husband, John, won?t let his eye off his young and zealous wife; Nicholas always becomes as sly as a snake, wanting to make love to her, and trying to outwit his friend, John; the carpenters wife, fancied by Absalom, a parish clerk who has none of Nicholas? attractiveness, but an eye for the ladies of the town. Although marriage is very rare in the infernal state, ?old husbands tyrannize young wives, spouses are unfaithful, maidens are linked by opportunism to unsuitable mates?? (12). The old husband, John, tyrannizes his wife day after day with his over-protective personality,while she is unfaithful to him by making love and flirting with other men.
Trickery is a key part in The Miller?s Tale, and found in the infernal state: ?deception and disguise, characterizing marks of comedy, are used in infernal society for the purpose of gaining advantage, usually to the harm of others? (12). Nicholas sweats more then one drop trying to make John believe a flood twice the size of Noah?s flood will sweep over the earth, killing all; he uses this to his advantage to make love to Alison. The outcome of the infernal state is ?usually a reckoning in which the community is reaffirmed, even if in the sternest possible way; justice is meted out to offenders, and the innocent are vindicated? (12). While Alison and Nicholas are at it, Absalom comes by wanting a passionate kiss from Alison. Coming right up to the window, he calls out to her, but she harshly replies that she loves another. Nicholas whispers something into Alison?s ear, which makes her giggle, and she goes to the window and says she is ready. He leaps back, and ends up kissing her rear. To return the favor, Absalom acquires a red-hot iron poker to ram it into Nicholas? rear.
Revenge in The Miller?s Tale is a prominent theme, which leads to the beginnings of the dark and infernal realm found in this tale. For example, John, who ?loved [Alison] better than he loved his life,? (Miller, 87) is avenged by his own wife, Alison. Mentioned early in the tale, John is a ?wealthy lout? (86), which is why Alison marries this old carpenter. Although John is a wealthy man with hard-earned money, he ?deemed himself as like to be cuckold? (87), which Alison took advantage of to the greatest extent. Trying his best to protect the young teenager, ?jealous he was and held her close in cage? (87), because of his jealousy he became more gullible, which Alison took advantage of. Alison herself ?had a lickerish eye? (87) and ?could play and sham? (88) with her outstanding beauty. Alison also uses her trickery when Nicholas, Alison, and Absalom are all present, and Absalom wants a kiss from Alison. Absalom thinks, ?she was so pretty, sweet, and lickerous? (89) that he knew she would give him a kiss without any hesitation. In his first attempt to receive a kiss from Alison she tells John, ?God knows? (90) and ignores him day after day. In Absalom?s second attempt, Alison and Nicholas are ?in joy that goes by many an alias? (97), not knowing this, Absalom knows it is ?time to wake all night? (98), and have his chance at Alison. In his attempt, he calls for Alison ?beneath the shot-window? (98); at this time, Alison whispers to Nicholas: ?be silent now, and you shall laugh your fill. (99). In a minute?s time, ?through the window she put out her hole? he [Absalom] kissed her naked arse? (99). He leaps back knowing women have no beard and thinking, ?I will requite!? (101), because of this he starts to map out a plan to get back at Nicholas. Absalom goes to find his friend Jarvis, a blacksmith, to help him achieve his revenge. When he encounters him, Absalom finds a ?red-hot coulter in the fireplace? (100), which he asks to borrow for a bit. In Absalom?s third attempt to receive a kiss from Alison, he has a very trite plan. Knowing they will once again try to fool him, he takes his grandmother?s ring and Jarvis? poker to the window where Alison and Nicholas lay. He knocks once again, and ?this Nicholas had risen for a piss? and put his arse out [the window]? (101). ?Ready with his hot iron? (101), Absalom shoves it into Nicholas? arse. The act of Alison and Nicholas sticking out their arses instead of Alison?s lips leads to Absalom?s great anger and sadness.
Before and after this incident, much trickery is used to plan out the whole revenge, which shows the malice in the dark and infernal realm. In preparation for Alison and Nicholas? night together, Nicholas has to fool John and make him believe a flood ?greater than Noah?s flood? (94) will hit the town. The first step in Nicholas? trickery is to have John ?swear? no man will you this word betray? (94), because ?it is Christ?s own word that I will say, and if you tell a man, you?re ruined quite? (94). John agrees that ?I never will it tell to child or wife, by Him that harried Hell!? (94), and continues to become engulfed in what Nicholas is about to say. Nicholas says he will not lie, but has ?found out, from my astrology? come Monday next? shall a rain fall so wildly mad? (94) and continues to say that ?this world, in less time than an hour, shall all be drowned? (94). In Cowan?s wheel, Nicholas is a figure who shows disinterest and manifests himself from time to time within the comic tradition. In this case, Nicholas is trying to save Alison from John?s jealousy and concentrates his efforts on the rescue of her, the victim. John becomes ecstatic and begins to worry about his wife: ?Alas, my wife! And shall she drown?? (94). John inquires if there is a remedy to this disaster, Nicholas replies with the story of Noah, and how his wife ?had one ship for herself alone? (95). Nicholas tells John to go retrieve three ?kneading-tubs, or brewing vats? (95) so that they can swim out once the flood comes. Nicholas continues to tell John to be sure to have sufficient food and water for one day only, and once again repeats, ?your wife I shall not lose, there is no doubt? (95). Once John had acquires the three tubs, Nicholas tells him to ?hang them near the roof-tree high? (95) so that no eye can see them. Nicholas finalizes his fiasco by telling John that ?not one of us must speak or whisper word? for this is God?s own bidding? (96). In the dark and infernal level of comedy, several vices are apparent, and in this case, both hypocrisy and treachery are prevalent. Nicholas repeats several times not to tell anyone because God will punish him, but God is going to punish both Nicholas and Alison when they sleep together, and commit adultery. Treachery is used in the whole incident between Nicholas and John. Near the end of Nicholas? lie, John runs crying with joy that everything will be all right, and whispers to his wife what was going to happen, but ?she was better taught thereof than he? (96). Acting dumbfounded, Alison tells John to haste and to not waste time: ?go, my dear spouse, and help to save our life? (96).
The two aspects of comedy that have so far been mentioned?revenge and trickery?can be summed up in one word: infidelity. The act of Nicholas and Alison is a betrayal to the whole community, in that it accepts what went on and has become ?the way of the world? (11). Nicholas? selfishness to have Alison all for himself is common in the dark and infernal level of comedy, in that it rises from malice and several of the vices are vindicated. Both deception and disguise are prevalent in The Miller?s Tale, and is used to gain advantage over both Absalom and John. One can find infidelity in the characters language when it?s filled with irony, for example when John runs to tell Alison about the flood ?she was better taught thereof than he, how all this rigmarole was to apply? (96). All of the characters in The Miller?s Tale, at one point, are disloyal to at least one other character, which basically proves the statement of ?you get what you give.? Both David Letterman and Jay Leno are striving to get back at this horrid and lengthy election, in a comedic way. Using aspects of the dark and infernal realm of comedy to achieve this, they become one with the community and are cynical about it, as is just about every other person in the world right now. To finish: why have dimpled chads when you can have pregnant chads?