THE REEVE’S TALE
He is a corrupt miller who steals from his clients. He is a jealous man and protective of his wife. He also has a young daughter and a new baby.
She is the chaste daughter of the miller who is seduced by Alan.
John and Alan
They plan to expose the miller’s dishonesty. They are university students and they hatch a plan of revenge.
There was a miller who lived in Cambridge who was a strong man and bullied
those around him. He was adept at using the knife and no-one dared to cross him. He would steal meal brought to his mill for grinding. His wife was well-rounded and had been raised in a nunnery.
They were both proud of their twenty year-old daughter and six month-old
One of the miller’s main clients was the large College at Cambridge, and
like his other clients, he would cheat them. One day, the College Steward was ill and unable to take the corn to the mill.
Two students at the College, John and Alan, learnt about the dishonest miller and decided to expose him. However, the miller was not stupid and when the students arrived, he suspected their game. When the students were not looking, he untied their horse and they escaped. When the students discovered this, they went out looking for the horse.
While they were away searching for the horse, the miller emptied half the
flour from the sack and gave it to his wife.
It was dark by the time John and Alan returned with their horse, and they asked the miller if they could spend the night in the mill. They offered to pay for food and lodging. The miller agreed, but pointed out that they only had one bedroom and that John and Alan would have to share a bed. There was no lighting in the room. The miller and his wife occupied one bed with the baby’s cradle at its foot, and their daughter slept in the third bed.
When everyone was asleep, John and Alan decided to take revenge on the
Alan gets up and goes to the daughter’s bed, and they got on just fine.
John was annoyed that he was left alone in his bed. Then he got up and
quietly moved the baby’s cradle next to his bed.
The miller’s wife got up in order to relieve herself of the large amount of wine she had consumed, and feeling her way back to bed, she of course went to the bed where her baby’s cot was. John immediately, “on this good wife he laith on sore (hard)”.
As dawn neared, Alan made his farewells to the daughter who told him where
to find the stolen flour. He returns to the bed that does not have the cradle and mistakes the miller for John. He whispers in the miller’s ear that he has had the daughter three times in the night.
In fury, the miller rises from his bed cursing Alan, only to find his wife in bed with John.
The miller’s wife thinking she was in bed with her husband, grabbed a club
and strikes her husband down.
Alan and John leave the mill in a hurry.
This is another good joke arising from the pen of Chaucer, but of course,
there is a moral to the story. The reader has no sympathy for the miller due to his dishonest behavior.
Millers were important members of the community providing an essential
service, and people trusted them to do their job well and honestly. Here we learn that the miller not only charged exorbitant prices for the work he did, but in addition, he stole his clients’ flour.
We also learn that the miller’s wife was the daughter of a clergyman, and
the miller married her in order to obtain some respectability, but the students have turned the miller’s home into a house of prostitution.
The Reeve’s tale is in response to the Miller’s story concerning the
Carpenter, and he is obtaining some degree of revenge. However, it is not as humorous as the Miller’s tale and there is a distinct bitterness connected with the story.
Although the Reeve’s tale is not as vulgar as the Miller’s tale, it is full
of innuendo. Terms such as ‘grinding’ and ‘grinding corn’ were commonly used in the Middle Ages as slang for sexual intercourse.
The two tales reflect the characterization of the Miller and the
Reeve. The Miller is described as a jolly drunk person, and the Reeve as “old and choleric, and thin”.
Again this joke is well received by the company and in particular the Cook,
Roger, who thinks what happened to the Miller, was poetic justice, and was only to be expected when you have such a small house.
The host invites him to tell his story, charging him to make it good to make
up for the stale pies he has sold them.