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Middle English literature is not dull and boring. Many poems and even some prose texts show a good sense of humour. Remember, for instance, the Owl and the Nightingale's personal invectives during their debate, or Noah's problems to get his wife into the Ark in the Wakefield Pageants. Last but not least, Geoffrey Chaucer frequently invites his audience into overt or hidden comic situations, e.g. in The Miller's Tale when John, the Carpenter, can be persuaded to spend the night in a bath tub because he thinks the deluge is coming thus giving his wife and her lover the opportunity to amuse themselves in bed. Even serious religious texts, such as Pearl, have sometimes an underlying comic strain. The dreamer's obstinate resistance to the Pearl-maiden's teachings are presented in humorous and ironical verbal exchange.

More specifically, two texts are usually referred to as 'humorous tales', although they both can be cross-classified into other text groups: the one is Dame Sirith, perhaps the only real fabliau in Middle English, and the other is The Land of Cockaygne, one of the most prominent representatives of satirical writings in medieval literature.

When talking about humorous tales and comic scenes one should bear in mind, however, that each audience defines 'humour' according to their own norms.

Humorous Tales