The Canterbury Tales: The Reeve's Tale
How we cite our quotes:
'For John,' seyde he, 'als evere moot I thryve,
If that I may, yon wenche wil I swyve.
Som esement has lawe yshapen us.
For, John, ther is a lawe that says thus,
That gif a man in a point be agreved,
That in another he sal be releved.
Oure corn is stolen, sothly, it is na nay
And we han had an il fit al this day;
And syn I sal have neen amendement
Agayn my los, I will have esement.'
(224 – 232)
Here, Aleyn proposes to deflower the miller's daughter as "esement" for the stolen corn and bad day he has had. "Esement" can mean recompense paid you for a wrong you have suffered, use of another person's property, or release of bodily fluids. John's proposed "esement" uses all three senses of the term. His linkage of sex to flour through his proposal to exchange one for the other continues the association of sex with flour that began with the suggestive grinding of the corn.
And up he rist, and by the wenche he crepte.
This wenche lay uprighte, and faste slepte,
Til he so ny was, er she myghte espie,
That it had been to late for to crie,
And shortly for to seyn, they were aton.
Now pley, Aleyn, for I wol speke of John.
(340 – 344)
This passage suggests that Aleyn's sex with Malyne is basically rape. By saying that "it had been to late for to crie," it implies that Malyne would have protested if she could. The narrator's command to Aleyn to "pley" links this moment to the description of Aleyn and John and the beginning of the tale, which said that they loved "pleye and revelrye." This passage gives us an indication of just what kind of "pleye" that description was talking about.
'Allas!' quod he, 'this is a wikked jape;
Now may I seyn that I is but an ape.
Yet has my felawe somwhat for his harm;
He has the milleres doghter in his arm.
He auntred hym, and has his nedes sped,
And I lye as a draf-sak in my bed;
And when this jape is tald another day,
I sal been halde a daf, a cokenay!
I wil arise and auntre it, by my fayth!'
(347 – 355)
John describes Aleyn's sex with Symkyn's daughter as both "somwhat for his harm" and him getting his "nedes sped," or fulfilled, which matches up with the way Aleyn speaks of this act. To this description, however, John adds the idea of "auntring," or venturing, as in taking a chance. The idea is that one must be bold or enterprising in order to get sex.