Now that students are on study leave we've got some time to dedicate to The Canterbury Tales. We had a full day working on The Miller's Tale - one of three which we're building the main show around. Up to now rehearsals have focused on the whole company as we're been developing the skills needed to support each other in the storytelling and large outdoor venues, but now, with just about a month to go, it's time to hone in a little more on the content of the stories themselves.
The medieval world is fascinating and the more time we spend with the tales, the more you realise how sophisticated the 'dark ages' actually are. Of course everybody loves Chaucer's bawdy and a poker up the arse is as much fun for an audience now as it must have been to those who originally gathered to hear the stories told; but Chaucer's world also reveals great humanity and humour.
The Wife of Bath's Tale, which we'll tackle tomorrow, has a beautiful proto-feminist moral with the Knight realising that what women want is sovereignty over their affairs. He is offered a choice by an old crone. He can either marry her as old, but faithful or she will change herself into a beautiful woman but will not promise him fidelity. He reverses the choice and is rewarded when she decided to be both beautiful and faithful. Have faith in your love, the story suggests, they will do right by you.
The Miler's story, though, includes some delicious black humour, made in the face of plague, disease and a life expectancy of less than forty. The carpenter at the centre, bemoans the fickle nature of death and tells the story of an astrology, who swore that the night stars could reveal the future, but in the darkness fell into a ditch and broke his neck. He didn't foresee that!