The Canterbury Tales: The Reeve's Tale
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Reeve's Tale Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
And nameliche ther was a greet college
Men clepen the Soler halle at Cantebregge;
Thanne were ther yonge povre scolers two,
That dwelten in this halle, of which I seye.
(135 – 136, 148 – 149)
The two clerks, John and Aleyn, study at Soler Hall, which later became King's Hall, at Cambridge. King's Hall was known for drawing more students from the north of England than any other school. This detail is important since Chaucer has Aleyn and John speak a northern dialect of English.
John highte that oon, and Aleyn highte that oother;
Of o toun were they born, that highte Strother,
Fer in the north, I kan nat telle where.
(159 – 161)
Here John and Aleyn's northern origins are confirmed. It makes sense that they will speak exactly the same dialect, moreover, because they come from exactly the same town.
'Symond,' quod John, 'by God, nede has na peer.
Hym boes serve hymself that has na swayn,
Or elles he is a fool, as clerkes sayn.'
(172 – 173)
Here the northernism of John and Aleyn's dialect becomes clear. John replaces the o's in his words with a's, so that "no" becomes "na." He also uses the word "boes" for "must," which in London middle English would be rendered as "moste."