BOOK REVIEW - GEOFFREY CHAUCER – THE CANTERBURY TALES – THE MILLER’S TALE The second story slot was supposed to go to the Monk, but a drunken, impatient Miller interrupts to rudely tell his story. After some argument, the party agree to let him tell his story to shut him up. The Miller tells of a rich miser who is freshly married to a promiscuous, beautiful woman. The miser takes in a young lodger, called Nicholas, who quickly falls in love with the Miser’s wife. The lady, Alison, has another would-be suitor, a lecherous churchwarden called Absolen, who frequently begs her for kisses and more, but always without success. Nicholas fares better and one day he puts an absurd and elaborate plan into action. He stays locked in his room unmoving, until his landlord breaks in, convinced that he is hurt or dead. Nicholas breaks out of his fake trance to reveal a fake religious vision. He tells the miser that a great flood is coming, comparable to that in the story of Noah. This time, the only survivors are to be the Miser, his wife and Nicholas, but they must await the rising waters by sitting in bat tubs raised up on ropes near to the ceiling ready to ride on the water to come. The miser believes the nonsense and so three tubs are raised close to the rafters and the trio get into one bath each. When the miser goes to sleep, Nicholas and Alison get out of the bath and sneak into a bedroom to make love.
It is at this time that Absolen decides to sneak into the house and seduce Alison. She hears him at her window begging for a kiss in the dark. As a joke, she sticks her bare backside out of the window instead of her face, and Absolen kisses that. He leaves, wondering why he could feel a beard against his lips. After a while, he realises that he was duped so he gets a red-hot poker from a nearby smithie and goes back. Hearing him return, Nicholas decides that it is his turn to bare his backside, and he farts in the churchwarden’s face right before the warden sticks the red-hot poker up his backside. Absolen flees, choked on the fumes of flatulence, while Nicholas cries out for water. The miser is woken by the cry of water and thinks the flood has come at last. He cuts the ropes securing his bathtub boat, expecting to drop to the water. Instead, he drops to the wooden floor and breaks his arm. His wife and lodger run away and the story ends in much merriment – an elaborate silly, surreal joke well told.