Pilgrim’s Prize (Pt.18): The Tale of Melibee (Chaucer Journal)
If you’re a fan of turning the other cheek, then this is the story for you!
The start of the tale we encounter Melibee, a hardworking man, and his wife, Prudence. One day, while working, three lawbreakers break into his home and viciously beat Prudence and Melibee’s young daughter. Have no fear, though, because the law is here to drag things out; well, morality drag things out. You see, Prudence wishes to do the Christian thing and let the men go, assuming they apologize, but Melibee wants blood and fire to be rained upon the ruffians. An obvious difference of opinion. To convince her husband that the men need to be released, Prudence quotes the Bible and pulls out all the argumentative stops. Truly, it is a moral blockbuster. The men go free after apologizing and Melibee sees that not all problems can be resolved through violence. The end.
As a tale, I was deeply indifferent to The Tale of Malibee. Maybe I read it too fast and missed key details or poetic beauty, but often, I was simply board. Presently, all I can say that until I learn more about medieval grammar, rhetoric, and argumentative processes, I can only say that this tale was a bore.
In other words, the modern-day re-teller associated with Pilgrim Literary, has their work cut out for them.
Tale-teller Domonic Solomon hits home with a grand slam and more than accomplishes the task of making this tale interesting. He created two podcasts totaling around thirty-minutes of audio. Each podcast took the form of a radio host taking callers chiming in on the proper punishment for the home invaders from Chaucer’s tale. The idea is that the home invasion has become a major news sensation and everyone is riled up by it.
This is a fantastic move. Should the contents of the Tale of Melibee happen today, it would hardly be surprising if the event exploded into a major controversial court case. Dominic’s remolding of the tale, then, into a radio program soliciting opinions from callers—people who debate one another on the proper punishment for the men while reiterating major points from the story—fits the narrative perfectly. As debate factor heavily into Chaucer’s original story, the back and forth communicative quality of radio debates harkens back to a simpler time in social media history not yet overtaken by trolls but still just far enough out that strong opinions and shouting out is prevalent. All of that is recaptured perfectly through Dominic’s sly acting.
Quite honestly, I feel this is probably the best-chosen medium of the adapted tales yet. Though Dominic strays some from the source material in terms of how close he chooses to represent the central protagonists, I feel this distance offers a much-needed degree of separation otherwise absent from previous adaptations. Dominic offers a well-crafted artistic piece balancing between the perfect amounts of modernism injected into a pre-modern text. So, a wee-bit of distance is to be expected from such an overhaul.
I heartily give this adaptation a 9.5/10. Sure, the original tale may be deficient but this adaptation is far from ill.