Nicholas as a social outsider in the Miller’s tale

Hi everyone, last year I wrote a paper about the character Nicholas in the Miller’s tale and how he is a social outsider mainly because he is merely a student that is between social classes and is never fully accepted or appreciated by anyone. In my paper I talk about the word “pryvetee” which roughly translates as secrets in the text, but can refer to the secrets kept between men and women within the public and private spheres of life as it pertains to their gender identity, sexuality and even religious beliefs. As a student, Nicholas is not as important in the eyes of the public as John the Carpenter, who owns his own home and has a paying job. However, Nicholas is able to breach John’s private life by catching the attention of Allisoun, and spends the tale taking advantage of her sexually and taking advantage of John mentally. While I understand that on the surface this tale was meant to be funny, filled with fart jokes and public humiliation, beyond the surface there are some really serious issues about how men and women live and work together within the home and from the outside. I took a more serious approach to the tale, noting that it seems Allisoun is just an object of desire for Nicholas, Absolon and even John, who feels that he controls or owns her. Since Nicholas is able to have free roam of John’s home while he is away at work, he is able to stop being a social outsider and force himself into John’s private life. I feel that Nicholas acts in a very malicious way, whether by taking advantage of Allisoun, humiliating Absolon or by using his intelligence and cleverness to trick John. As I’ve said, I wrote a whole paper about this tale, so I’ve given a lot of thought into the characters and their progression through the tale, so I’d love to hear outside opinions about the idea of “pryvetee” and if I’m possibly being too hard on Nicholas.

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Redemption through death (and lots of it)

Hi all, so I just finished reading Sir Gowther and Gowther’s character put me on an emotional rollercoaster. It is really hard for me to accept that a character that starts out so wicked can ultimately be forgiven of all his sins and be revered as a “varre corsent parfett”(727) (or a very pious person). I find it hard to believe that the Sultan who forces war over the Emperor that does not want to give his daughter away is more evil than Sir Gowther himself. For instance, from lines 181-204, Gowther is shown raping wives, killing their husbands, forcing friars to jump off cliffs and burning hermits and widows – all before seeking out his absolution. However, his path of destruction does not stop after seeking out the Pope, as he is shown cutting the heads off the Sultan’s men and destroying his army. Now, I’m not saying the Sultan didn’t have it coming, as he probably did, but Gowther is a killing machine and to think that he ends up becoming a holy figure really does not make sense to me. The ways in which he destroys people resemble that of Cu Chulainn in The Tain, though I feel that Sir Gowther kills for the goal of absolution whereas Cu Chulainn kills out of necessity of life. I’m interested in hearing what you all have to say about this, either on here or tomorrow in class.

On a lighter note (maybe), Gowther’s life as a child, killing nurses and ripping the nipple off another woman (his mother?), seriously reminds me of films involving children that are either spawned from Satan or possessed. Maybe films like The Omen or The Exorcist could draw comparisons to Gowther as a child.  Also, I’m interested in knowing if this story has been adapted for children as some sort of religious propaganda, possibly as a way to teach people that they can be forgiven of their sins, no matter how terrible they may have been. Anyway, I’m going to stop rambling now!

So, I found a few short cartoon clips from the same cartoon about The Tain, mostly focusing of Cu Chulainn. Unfortunately (for me, anyway), the cartoon seems to have been made for children as a way to ease them into the tale, as it portrays Medb as an evil queen and Cu Chulainn as strictly a caring hero. Also, the battle scene between Fer Diad and Cu Chulainn ends with the death of both men, which obviously is not the case in our book. The clip is only five minutes, so check it out! (the gae bolga in this looks so weak, too!). Cu Chulainn cartoon

I guess I’m still struggling with the fact that Cu Chulainn is regarded as a heroic figure by many people, as much of my research has much alluded to. I’d like to think that a true heroic character wouldn’t kill every living being that he or she comes in contact with. There are a bunch of comic images of the character here: cu chu and apparently he even fights Thor in one of the issues. He also seems to be regarded as one of the greatest warriors to come out of Ireland – and don’t get me wrong – he is very powerful, but I feel like people form opinions about his character without fully reading the text or having only seen adaptions like the cartoon clip from earlier. Anyway, I’ll stop rambling now, if anyone wants to give me some opinions about his character, that would be great. I’m going to be writing my final paper trying to dig deeper into his character and the hyper-masculinity portrayed throughout the text.

Human and Animal Relationships in Bisclavret

Hi all, after reading Marie de France’s Bisclavret, I have a lot of random thoughts about the text that I figured I would share. First, I am struggling with the idea that Bisclavret loses his gender identity while in werewolf form. He is immediately referred to as an “it” rather than “he,” as well as being directly called a “beast” when he first encounters the King in the forest. On page 185 in our book, the King says, “Look at this wonder, / how this beast humbles itself! / It has human understanding, it begs mercy” (lines 152-4). The King acknowledges his human-like qualities, but is unable to refer to Bisclavret in human-like terms, always calling him a beast. The word beast, as found in the Oxford English Dictionary, can mean a variety of things, but I feel that when the King and people around him refer to Bisclavret as the beast, they mean it in a derogatory way, as less than human. However, in Peggy McCracken’s article, she says that the King and Bisclavret are much alike, as the King also hunts for his prey in the forest, much like Bisclavret in his werewolf form. I wonder if there is anything to the idea that the King is just as animalistic, or beast-like, as the werewolf. On a lighter note, the story also made me think of other portrayals of werewolves and lycanthriopy in movies. Unlike Bisclavret, who only attacks the knight and his wife in the story, it seems that modern day werewolf tales show werewolves more as monstrous figures that will kill anything in it’s way. I was wondering if you all thought that maybe Marie de France wanted to show the relationship between Bisclavret and the King as a metaphor for the way that humans have treated animals over the course of history. Hopefully some of my random thoughts make sense. Also, one more thing quickly, I found it strange that there is no detail of the actual transformation that Bisclavret goes through, as these details are what make werewolves scary in horror movies and other texts involving werewolves. I’ll end this by posting a video of one of my favorite human to werewolf transformations in the movie The Howling. (don’t watch if you don’t like gross-looking things!) The Howling transformation scene Also, I found a video of some teens performing the story, which is pretty funny but pretty accurate as well! summary video