From the Play
The original cast of CANTERBURY TALES used: 3 Women/5 Men
As is evident, a great deal of doubling is required, even to the point of having men playing women’s parts and vice versa. The specific choices that you make will be up to the exigencies of your individual casting and the type and numbers of actors that you select. If you want to cast twenty actors, that’s up to you, but part of the fun of the production is seeing a smaller cast challenged in a variety of roles.
(The cast enters and begin reciting lines in Middle English from the opening of Chaucer’s THE CANTERBURY TALES. Music under. )
ACTOR #1: What that Aprille with his shoures sote,
ACTOR #2: The droghte of Marche hath perced to the rote,
ACTOR: And bathed every veyne in swich licour
ACTOR #3: Of which vertu engendered is the flour,
ACTOR #4: When Zephirus eek with his swete breeth,
ACTOR #5: Inspired hath in every holt and heeth,
ACTOR #6: Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne,
ACTOR #7: Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,
ACTOR #1: And smale foweles maken melodye. . .
HOST: Then people long to go on pilgrimages
To seek the stranger strands
Of far off Saints, hallowed in sundry lands,
And especially from every shire’s end
Of England, down to Canterbury they wend.
(The cast does a lively pole dance to a Medieval folk tune.)
It happened in that season that one day
In Southwark, at The Tabard, as they lay
Ready to go on pilgrimage and start
For Canterbury, most devout at heart,
At night there came into my hostelry
Some nine or twenty in a company
Of sundry folk happening then to fall
In fellowship, and they were pilgrims all,
That towards Canterbury meant to ride.
WIFE OF BATH: I’m a worthy woman from Bath City.
In Company I like to laugh and chat,
And I know the remedy for love’s mischances,
An art in which I know the oldest dances.
HOST: She’d had five husbands, all at the church door,
Apart from. . . uhem. . . other company at youth.
No need just now to speak of that, forsooth.
The Miller is a chap of sixteen stone. . .
MILLER: I have a master hand at steal. . . handlin’ grain.
I feel it, like this, with my thumb and thus I knew
It’s quality. . .
HOST: For he took three times his due.
MILLER: A thumb of gold, by God, to guage an oat.
You cast aspersions my way and I’ll smote
You here to kingdom come, ya ‘ear?
HOST: His nose displayed a wart on which there stood a tuft of hair,
Red as the bristles in an old sows ear.
And then there is the Pardoner,
With a brimful of pardons come from Rome.
PARDONER: And here a holy relic, from the catacombs
In an ancient glass filled with St. Peter’s bones.
ACTOR: A Knight there was