The Canterbury Tales: The Reeve's Tale
Cunning and Cleverness Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
The millere seyde agayn, 'If ther be eny,
Swich as it is, yet shal ye have youre part.
Myn hous is streit, but ye han lerned art;
Ye konne by arguments make a place
A myle brood of twenty foot of space.'
(266 – 269)
John has just asked the miller to put him and Aleyn up for the night. Feeling self-satisfied, Symkyn takes the opportunity to tease the students. He tells them that although his house is small, he has no doubt the clerks can use arguments to increase it. With this he alludes to the idea that scholarly argument is so full of sophistry, or tricky arguments, that it can be used to prove ridiculous things.
'Lat se now if this place may suffise,
Or make it rowm with speche, as is your gise.'
(271 – 272)
By challenging the clerks to make his house roomy with their "speche," Symkyn draws attention to the different speech of the clerks. Not only do they talk in a sophisticated scholarly way from which Symkyn is excluded, they also speak a Northern English dialect that must have sounded alien to Southerners' ears.