The Rake’s Progress


Amy Danielson

Lens Writer

It’s the 600th anniversary of Geoff Chaucer’s tales

And we gather to celebrate his lewd regales.


The Guthrie adaptation of The Canterbury Tales

Includes audience interaction and joyous wassails;

Five pilgrims compete in a storytelling competition,

But we feel included in this saucy rendition.

Director Michael Bogdanov, his tastes quite rapacious

(as with cowriter Kevin Kling), enjoys theater salacious

More than even beloved old Chaucer intended

So cover your ears if you’re easily offended.

On the dewy lawn of a Midwest parsonage

Cider and cookies tents grace the fair stage

Before the start of the show and then during intermission

But to lunch on the grass is to invite admonition.

The Guthrie advertises that Shakespeare this ain’t;

A relief to those who find the Bard somewhat quaint.

And while the Guthrie offers here performers assorted,

The talent, I fear, is mostly imported.

Bedizened in a full-length, fuchsia jacket-Nehru,

With glasses tilted on his brow, slightly askew

A doddering old pastor, played by Iglewski, R.S.

Introduces five tales,

accompanied by fiddles and guitar-es.


Here’s Mr. Miller, a cad, a damned interferer.

Is a catcaller from the audiences, a bitter, cruel jeerer

He hollers and jokes and he hollers and yells

And leaps on the stage as all protest that he smellsñ

Or stinks, so they judged in an early contest,

His tales they are crude, as to himself?

Just a pest.

But this judgment doesn’t deter saucy Miller,

And the reverend allows him rude jokes as filler.

Ten filthy old jokes he rises to tellñ

Did you heat of the quadriplegic who can ring a doorbell?

(He uses the member sought by an amorous lover.)

While these jokes may be awful, don’t run yet for cover.

For the tales bring both delight and amusement,

Although their rhyme scheme is tortured

And causes confusement.

Such as the Nun’s Priest Taleñit’s unduly comicñ

In which a rooster finds love with a chick who’s atomic

Their perch he makes wet because he’s so randy

Make it no mind at all, he’s a “cockadoodle dandy”!

Quite unfortunately then a sly fox found his way

To snatch the robust rooster and steal him away,

From his hen lover, who screeched, whilst tossing rocks

“Get my cock out of your mouth you silly fox!”

Then squire Miller told another foul joke,

Homely and local, telling of homely homefolk:

Ole and Sven they sat in a boat,

In the middle of a lake they languidly float,

And there, in the water, a bottle was floating!

And a genie appeared to offer one wish to those boating

“Turn the lake into beer,” dear Ole requested,

“But we’ll have to pee in the boat!”

Sven he protested.

And other tales are performed with hilarity,

Like the Reeve’s Tale with its comical rarity,

Telling of two wayward students who seek vengeful reckoning

On a miller, by answering his womenfolk’s beckoning.

One declares, Madame Miller, you were quite lusty.

It was I who oiled

where you were rusty.

Betwixt these vile tales one actress appeared

Wearing half of her dress, and the priest, well, he feared

That Governor Ventura would spy her this way,

But she looked askance and asked,

“The Governor? At a play?”


The Canterbuty Tales plays through April 28 at the

Guthrie Theater, (612) 377-2224.