Pilgrim’s Prize (Pt.3): The Miller’s Tale (Chaucer Journal)
A story of sex and cuckolding, the Miller’s Tale is one of steamy allusions and sit-com like pranks.
The story begins as it usually does: with an old man (the Carpenter) married to a much younger bride. Renting a room is a scholar (Nicholas) who lusts after the beautiful maiden. Unfortunately, Nicholas must compete with another serenader by the name of Absolon. Fortunately for Nicholas, the young maid loves him instead of this other so all’s they have to do to get freaky, is find some alone time.
Finding said alone time is harder than one thinks. Or at least it is in this comedy. Just like in sitcoms, where the absurd is somehow chosen as the default plan of action, so it is here: Nicholas convinces the old carpenter that God gave him a vision of a great flood and to escape this fate, he must tie several bathtubs of provisions to the roof of the barn and when the water rises high enough, cut the rope and float until the tides recede. It is ridiculous on the face of it but like in sitcoms it is followed to the letter.
Well, it will surprise no one that the plan goes askew in more ways than one. The short of it is that a bare bottom is kissed and the Carpenter is humiliated. Portrayed by Chaucer as a comedic tale, the cuckolding within is a classic of medieval literature. It is almost as though Chaucer watched an episode of The Big Bang Theory and wanted to emulate it in the most mocking way possible; ergo, bathtubs on roofs.
“Robbie Miller”, the modern tale-teller on Pilgrim’s Prize, decides to emulate this tale not through the medium of fanfiction, like the previous tale-teller, but through texting drama.
Most of the tale is told through screenshots of text messages. The final portion of the tale, where the rival romantic is shamed and the Carpenter is befuddled, is told via an email screenshot, truly the perfect way to encapsulate how ridiculous all four lovers appear to the town; after all, if there is a modern equivalent to public humiliation, it is probably multi-messaging drama.
Creatively, it is wholly unexpected. But it makes sense. Texting etiquette matches the secretive style of romantic cheating while email aligns well with mass-embarrassment. If Chaucer had written the Miller’s Tale today, I would not be surprised if he himself had chosen such a method to tell the tale. The fact that other people have had the idea to use texting to re-tell classics, is merely icing on the cake.
I give this adaptation a solid 8/10.
Cover Image Artist: https://ishali.deviantart.com/art/The-Miller-s-Tale-283798186