We all know the Miller’s Tale is naughty, but. Chaucer tells the naughtiest tale himself. You didn’t know that? Right. Because notes tell us the story is dull with a monotonous rhythm. And we’ve been told that when the hero of the story—Thopas—pricks, it means he gallops.
Prick does mean gallop but it also refers to copulation as when a student (in the Reeve’s Tale) creeps into a hausfrau’s bed and pleases her as he ”pricks hard and deep as a madman.” And the “monotonous rhythm” is a 4-beat couplet followed by a 3-beat line which produces “a pattern of climax” over and over. Exactly!
The horse exemplified man’s unruly passion as far back as Aristotle and the Bible. Then how could Thopas “pricking on the soft grass” be understood only as riding a horse, ignoring the risqué ambiguity? After many coital escapades, Thopas is confronted by an enemy who, continuing the equestrian portrayal, threatens “to slay thy steed.”
A lot more creative two-faced language startles and surprises. You’ll find all the details in Pilgrim Chaucer: Center Stage. Find many more Chaucer activities at CelebrateChaucer.com