Grade: Senior
Subject: Literature

#1342. Chaucer introduction

Literature, level: Senior
Posted Tue Oct 5 08:01:31 PDT 1999 by Jessica Beagan (
Machias Memorial High School, Machias, ME
Materials Required: The Miller's Tale (original or translated)
Activity Time: 25 minutes
Concepts Taught: Making connections between past and present, relevance of studying Chaucer

1. Start out by asking the class how many of them have ever
seen an episode of Jerry Springer. All hands will usually go
up. Ask them to relate some of the most outrageous stories
they've seen on the show.

2. Tell them you've heard another story even more startling
and launch into an abbreviated account of the Miller's Tale.
The closer you tell it to the student's slang, the better.

In a nutshell, the story is about this man named John, a
carpenter about 40 years old. He is married to a lively young
girl named Alison who is actually in love with a young student
at Oxford named Nicholas. The young lovers scheme to get rid
of the husband by telling him that a flood worse than Noah's
is coming and that he must find three bathtubs and rig them
up to the barn so that they will be above the water line.
When the flood comes, they will cut the ropes and float off
on the water when Nicholas gives the signal that the flood is
on it's way. So John gets all ready and the three each get
into their tubs and wait. Well, John falls asleep so Nicholas
and Alison sneak off for a tryst.

Meanwhile, the town priest Absalom, also in love with Alison,
decides that he's going to make his move with John out of the
picture and calls up to the room where N & A are for a kiss.

Alison tries to get him to
leave, but when he won't till he gets a kiss, she sticks her
rear end out the window. Absalom kisses her heartily, but
quickly realizes he's been duped. In a rage, he goes to a
blacksmith for a hot poker and returns to the window, asking for
another kiss. This time, Nicholas sticks his bum out the window
and gets the poker jabbed at him. Absalom feels quite vindicated
and Nicholas is screaming in pain crying out for water. John
hears Nicholas hollering and wakes up thinking Nicholas sees the
flood and he cuts the lines on the tub and crashes to the ground,
a sack of broken bones.

The story is a little bawdy, but it's all Chaucer and it has proven
to mesmerize even the most skeptical student. The key is to read
it so that you make it your own and tell it in a lively, engaging

Decent translations of the Miller's Tale and other Canterbury
Tales abound on the internet.

Good luck!