The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story
Competition Quotes Page 3
How we cite our quotes:
For leveful is with force force of-showve.
(Reeve's Prologue 58)
This is kind of like saying, "you've got to fight fire with fire." And by saying this, and therefore excusing himself for speaking rudely, the Reeve makes himself appear better – more polite than – the Miller (i.e., the Reeve is only speaking rudely because he's got to fight fire with fire, whereas the Miller is just rude by nature).
And, by your leve, I shal [the Miller] quyte anoon;
Right in his cherles termes wol I speke.
(Reeve's Prologue 63 – 65)
The way the Reeve's going to "quite," or get back at the Miller, is by speaking in the same terms he does. This sets the rules of the competition between them as a sort of "copycat" game, and gives us one way of looking at the Reeve's tale – that is, in comparison to the Miller's tale.
[. . .] I recche noght a bene
Though I come after hym with hawebake,
I speke in prose, and lat him rymes make.
(Man of Law's Introduction 94 – 96)
The Man of Law explicitly sets himself up in competition with Chaucer. In contrast to the Reeve and the Summoner, though, who want to fight fire with fire, the Man of Law proposes that the best way to overcome an opponent is to do something different than him and avoid the competition altogether. So, he announces he will speak in prose, rather than attempt to beat Chaucer at his own game.