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Barron's Booknotes-The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer-Free Book Notes
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THE OTHER TALES

THE REEVE'S TALE

Oswald the Reeve, who is a carpenter, takes offense at the Miller's tale about a cuckolded carpenter, and says he'll pay him back in "force"- in the same coarse language and even in the same form (the French bawdy fabliau). The Reeve also gripes because the Miller's carpenter, like the Reeve, is an old man who can only talk about the things he can't do anymore. (Like his enemy, the Reeve is concerned with sexual matters.)


The rowdy tale concerns a Miller who steals grain, especially from a Cambridge college that takes its corn to him to be ground. Once, when the miller has stolen more than usual because no one's there to watch him, two students, Alan and John, decide to oversee the grinding. The miller decides he can outwit the students despite their highclass education. He unties their horse, and while Alan and John chase after it, the miller steals half their grain. By the time the horse is caught, it's dark and the students are forced to ask the miller to put them up. He does, although there's only one room. The miller and his wife are in one bed, the students are in another, and the miller's twenty-year-old daughter is in a third. To get even with the miller for playing a trick on them, one of the students sleeps with the daughter, and the other with the wife, who thinks she is sleeping with the miller! When the miller finds out, he starts beating up Alan. The wife, thinking the two students are fighting, slams the miller on the head with a stick. The beating and cuckolding, says the Reeve, is what the miller deserves for being such a liar and cheat.

As in the Miller's Tale, justice is done to those who deserve it, more or less. While the actions in the Reeve's Tale are just as farfetched as in the Miller's Tale, it is not as rollicking and funny, just as the Reeve is not as loud and boisterous as the Miller.

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Barron's Booknotes-The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer-Free Book Notes
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