The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale Foolishness and Folly Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
They tolden every man that he was wood,
He was agast so of 'Nowelis flood'
Thurgh fantasye, that of his vanitee
He hadde y-boght him kneding-tubbes three,
And hadde hem hanged in the roof above;
And that he preyed hem, for Goddes love,
To sitten in the roof, par compaignye.
"Vanitee" here means not pride in one's appearance, but something closer to "vain illusion." This is not the first time that John has been the victim of fantasy; earlier in the tale it is the vision of Alisoun's drowning that prompts him to procure the three tubs so hastily. John's particular brand of foolishness seems to grow out of an overactive imagination.
For what so that this carpenter answerde,
It was for noght, no man his reson herde.
With othes grete he was so sworn adoun,
That he was holden wood in al the toun.
For every clerk anonright heeld with other:
They seyde, 'The man is wood, my leve brother.'
The sad thing about this passage is that it suggests that John is reasonable; it's just that nobody hears his reason. It suggests that madness may really just be an inability to get people to listen to and understand you.