“The Miller’s Tale” by Geoffrey Chaucer

Source: LibriVox (mp3)
Length: 55 minutes
Reader: Gord Mackenzie

The story: On an airplane ride across the country, I once had the misfortune of riding behind a very drunk specimen of what we Southerners call a good ole’ boy. This man proceeded to loudly tell unfunny and unwelcome jokes to his fellow passengers until he finally fell asleep. Reading this story, it’s nice to know some things haven’t changed in the past 600 years.

A group of strangers headed to the cathedral at Canterbury begin telling stories to pass the time. Chaucer’s character the Miller is drunk and obnoxious, as fellow travelers sometimes are. He tells a dirty story about student having an affair with his landlord’s wife. Unlike my aeronautical Bubba, the Miller’s story is actually pretty funny. His story encompasses the hypocrisy of the clergy, sexual infidelity, and lowbrow potty humor. When commentators complain about how dirty modern entertainment is, someone should remind them of the great classics of English literature.

Rating: 7 / 10

The reader: If you’ve ever seen a great Shakespearean actor make the Bard’s words sound fresh and real, you have some idea of what Gord Mackenzie is able to do with this even older poem. The version he’s reading has been slightly updated, but retains much of its Middle English character. Mackenzie breaths life into the difficult words, making their meaning abundantly clear through his suggestive tone of voice. I’m sure that having footnotes would have helped me get more of the definitions of archaic terms, but a great voice actor like this overcomes much.

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