The Reeve's Tale Notes from The Canterbury Tales

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The Canterbury Tales The Reeve's Tale

In a town called Trumpington near Cambridge, a miller named Simon (nick-named Symkyn) lived near a brook. The miller wore loud clothing, had a round face, flat nose, played the bagpipes, wrestled, and fished all the time, during which he always carried a knife. He had married into a noble family, of whom his father-in-law was a parson. Symkyn was constantly jealous of everyone else. He had two children with his pretentious wife: a twenty-year old daughter and a toddler.

Symkyn was extremely deceitful and dishonest in his work and cheated the college most of all. He stole corn and meal from the dying steward of Cambridge. There were two students of Cambridge, John and Aleyn, who had received permission to see the corn ground at the mill. While at the mill, Aleyn tells Symkyn that he must bring back ground corn to the ill steward. Symkyn slyly let the students' horse loose while they were grinding the corn, forcing them to rush after it, forgetting the meal. Symkyn took the flour and had his wife knead it into dough. When the students returned to the meal to retrieve their meal, they were shocked to find it stolen and begged the miller for help. Symkyn then offers them lodging for the night.

Topic Tracking: Loyalty 4

The miller's older daughter, Molly, slept in the same room as the students and Symkyn, who annoyed everyone in the room by snoring loudly. Aleyn desires to seduce Molly as revenge for his stolen corn, much to John's warning of the miller's danger. John is humiliated as Aleyn has sex with Molly so close to him. John thereupon seduces the miller's wife, to have his fun, as well. In the morning, Molly tells Aleyn where his missing meal was hiding and Aleyn tells John of his sexual exploits. Symkyn overhears the students' conversation and grabs Aleyn by the neck in an attempt to fight. Aleyn punches Symkyn and the two begin to fight. The miller unfortunately tumbles over his wife and breaks her ribs. The miller's wife then finds a staff to aid in the minor battle and tries to hit Aleyn with it, but unfortunately strikes her husband. The two students run away with their meal, leaving the couple lying on the ground. The deceitful miller got his just desserts: he was beaten, made a cuckold, lost a daughter to seduction, and lost his meal. The reeve reminds the group of the proverb: "And therfore this proverbe is seyd ful sooth, / Hym thar nat wene wel that yvele dooth; / A gylour shal hymself bigyled be." Reeve's Tale, l.399-401.

Topic Tracking: Sexuality 3
Topic Tracking: Violence 5
Topic Tracking: Loyalty 5

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