The Canterbury Tales: The Reeve's Tale
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Reeve's Tale Sex Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
Withinne a while this John the clerk up leep,
And on this goode wyf he leith on soore.
So myrie a fit ne hadde she nat ful yoore;
He priketh harde and depe as he were mad.
(473 – 377)
Somehow this passage manages to both make John's sex with Symkyn's wife look violent and ugly, and to suggest that she enjoys it. The description of John thrusting "harde and depe as he were mad" paints this act as the vengeful and violent one it actually is. We might read the suggestion that Symkyn's wife has a "myrie" fit, or good time, as a product of a medieval misogynistic (anti-female) viewpoint that sees all women as just sex objects aching for a good "swyving," which John provides.
Aleyn wax wery in the dawenyge,
For he had swonken al the longe nyght,
'By God,' thoughte he, al wrang I have mysgon.
Myn heed is toty of my swynk to-nyght,
That makes me that I ga nat aright.'
(380 – 381, 398 – 400)
Aleyn thinks that he has "mysgon" or crept up to the wrong bed, because all the sex he's had has muddled his brain. In fact, John has moved the cradle to the foot of his bed to get Symkyn's wife into it, which is what confuses Aleyn.
He seyde, 'Thou John, thou swynes-heed, awak,
For Cristes saule, and heer a noble game.
For by that lord called is seint Jame,
As I have thries in this shorte nyght
Swyved the milleres doghter bolt upright,
Whil thow hast, as a coward, been agast.'
(408 – 413)
John's boast to Aleyn reveals that his motivation for wanting to have sex with Malyne was partly, like Aleyn's, because of rivalry with his friend. With his boast he contrasts his sexual boldness with his friend's presumed cowardice. He reveals sex to be a means of proving himself to be the "better" man.