John the Carpenter's reaction to the fake stupefaction of “hende” Nicholas in The Miller's Tale provides some of the poem's more sardonic comic elements. Not only is John characterized as foolish for believing his lodger's warnings about the upcoming deluge, but his response to seeing Nicholas sat silent and agape in his bedroom—casting as he does a “nyght-spel” to ward off elves, wights, and evil spirits (I.3479–80)—presents a picture of John as a credulous and unlearned man, completely at odds to the type of scholarly sophistication that Nicholas (ostensibly) represents.1 This of course is confirmed at the very end of the tale, where John's credulity, his misinterpretation of Nicholas's pained cry of “Water!”, results in his very literal downfall. If John is a figure of ridicule for both Nicholas (as a “sely jalous housbonde” [I.3404]) and the pilgrim-Miller (as a stand-in for the pilgrim-Reeve or carpenters in general [I.3142]),...

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