The Canterbury Tales: The Reeve's Tale
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Reeve's Tale Lies and Deceit Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
But now he was a theef outrageously,
For which the wardeyn chidde and made fare.
But therof sette the millere nat a tare;
He cracketh boost, and swoor it was nat so.
(144 – 147)
Symkyn has already committed the sin of stealing from a man on his deathbed, and now he adds another sin by lying about it. He denies any wrongdoing when the manciple (or purchaser) for the university confronts him about the missing corn. This passage contains a bit of ambiguity in the way it fails to specify whether the manciple is angry about the stealing, or about the "outrageousness" of it. Could it be that, in the past, the manciple simply put up with Symkyn's dishonesty but that now, finally, he has gone too far?
And hardily they dorste leye hir nekke
The millere sholde not stele hem half a pekke
Of corn by sleighte, ne by force hem reve.
(155 – 157)
Aleyn and John promise to make sure the Miller doesn't steal corn from the university if they are allowed to go to the mill themselves. By laying "hir nekke" that the miller won't steal from them, these two also lay their reputation on the line. You can imagine the two boasting to their dorm-mates about their superior ability to spot deception; the stakes are high for these two.
'By God, right by the hopur wil I stande,'
Quod John, 'and se howgates the corn gas in.
Yet saugh I nevere, by my fader kyn,
How that the hopur wagges tila nd fra.'
(182 – 185)
John and Aleyn's plan to prevent Symkyn from shorting them of their corn is to stand in the room with him as he grinds it. John will watch the corn as it goes into the "hopper" (grinder), while Aleyn stands below it to see the corn as it comes out. In this way, the two hope to prevent the miller from stealing any corn and from padding the sack with a less expensive grain, like bran.