Why does Chaucer dramatize John’s humiliation in “The Miller’s Tale” using a Biblical re-enactment?

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Chaucer's dramatizing of John's humiliation in "The Miller's Tale" through means of a re-enactment of the biblical flood story would have resonated with medieval audiences. First, according to medieval theology, the flood occurred as a result of human sexual desires going out of control, which fits the theme of this tale. Second, as a carpenter, John would have been associated with traditional carpenter guild's stagings of the flood story that depicted Noah as a fool.

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Nicholas and eighteen-year-old Alisoun devise a scheme to get away from her overly watchful, elderly husband, John (a carpenter), through an ingenious story. Nicholas, an astrologer, pretends that he has seen a heavenly sign that another biblical flood is about to occur. He persuades John to build three tubs and dangle them from the attic rafters. Each one of them will sleep in a separate tub and be safe when the flood waters come. While John is fast asleep in his tub, the other two go down to the bedroom and make love.

The Noah's ark and flood motif would have had a special resonance for medieval audiences. First, the original flood, according to medieval theology, came about as a result of human sexual desires going out of control. That ancient story, therefore, fits a tale about adultery and lust. Second, the carpenter's guild traditionally sponsored the section in medieval mystery plays about Noah and the flood (as it took carpentry for the building of a wooden ark). Third, in these medieval retellings, Noah was often portrayed as a fool, jeered at by his neighbors for his ark building, just as John is jeered at by his neighbors as a fool at the end of the story.

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