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.
And up he roos, and softely he wente
Unto the cradel, and in his hand it hente,
And baar it softe unto his beddes feet.
(357 – 359)
Here, John plays the "cradle trick" on Symkyn's wife. This trick is a common one in medieval fabliau, or bawdy stories. In it, someone moves a cradle by which a woman knows her bed in the dark. When she finds it at the foot of another bed, she crawls in between the wrong sheets and ends up having sex with a man other than her husband.
Lo, swich it is a millere to be fals!
Here the narrator implies that Symkyn's cheating and deception is simply common to his profession. It makes sense that the Reeve would want to speak badly about the whole profession of millers, because he interpreted "The Miller's Tale" as an insult on the whole profession of carpenters.
And therfore this proverbe is seyd ful sooth,
'Hym thar nat wene wel that yvele dooth.'
A gylour shal hymself bigyled be.
(465 – 467)
The narrator implies that the "gyle" (deception) of the miller was rewarded with more deception – he was "hymself bigyled." It's true, of course, that Aleyn and John had sex with his wife and daughter secretly, and so, deceptively. But the sting of Symkyn's "punishment" is not that the clerks had sex with his wife and daughter without his knowledge – it's the fact that they had sex with the clerks at all.