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In lines 493-548, John, the carpenter, carries out the instructions given to him by Nicholas. The extract is important to the tale as it furthers the plot, shows Chaucer’s attitude towards the action, shows Chaucer’s skill as a writer, heightens the realism of the tales setting and gives a clear presentation of John. The extract, and tale as a whole, show many literary forms and techniques. For example: fabliau, parody, satire and decorum. With regard to the plot, this extract is very important.
It shows the culmination of Alison and Nicholas’ affair, which is told by Chaucer, rather than the Miller or an omniscient narrator. This would appear to be the event that the entirety of action in the play is aiming for. In contrast to the rest of the tale, this event is less crude and not described in detail: ‘And thus lith Alison and Nicholas, In bisyness of mirth and of solas. ‘ Lines 544-545 The extract also shows much of the comedy and satire in the play through describing John’s actions.
He is shown to be gullible and superstitious; traits often laughed at by the educated. The extract also shows Chaucer’s attitude towards many of the events taking place. John is referred to as ‘this sely carpenter’ suggesting that Chaucer is well educated and can see the errors that John is making. It could also be suggested that Chaucer empathises with his character. Chaucer’s attitude towards the culmination of Alison and Nicholas’ affair is a contrast to the way in which the rest of the tale is expressed.
The event is written through Chaucer himself, rather than Chaucer using the Miller to tell the tale. Chaucer’s words are less crude than those of the Miller and rather than suggesting that they are in the wrong Chaucer uses a subtle and pleasant description. Although, empathy for John and for any human in love is clearly shown: ‘Lo, which a greet thing is affeccioun! Men may dyen of imaginacioun, So depe may impressioun be tale. ‘ Lines 503-505 Chaucer shows his skill as a writer by using satirical comedy to emphasise John’s actions.
As ‘The Canterbury Tales’ were likely to have been told to the educated members of society, from the 1300’s onwards, it is easy for Chaucer to create comedy by using the gullibility and simplicity of John the carpenter to appeal to the satirical point of view taken by the educated on the un-educated. Chaucer also uses John’s concern for the people around him, especially Alison, to create satirical comedy. It is ironic that John’s concern for his wife is allowing her to betray him.
Comedy is also added when John tells Alison of the flood and the plan to escape it as Alison knows the truth and is more educated than her husband. This reverses typical gender roles suggesting the John is even more un-educated than hinted at by his stereotype: ‘Help us to scape, or we been dede echon! I am thy trewe, verray wedded wyf’ Lines 500-501 John is also ridiculed by his servants, who he sends on a false errand to London. This is more ironic as it means they will not be there to witness Alison and Nicholas’ affair.