The Canterbury Tales: The Reeve's Tale
How we cite our quotes:
This wenche thikke and wel ygrowen was,
With kamus nose and eyen greye as glas,
With buttoked brode, and brestes rounde and hye;
But right fair was hire heer, I wol nat lye.
(119 – 122)
The description of Symkyn's daughter, Malyne, would have suggested to a medieval reader that she was lusty, ready for sex. A "kamus nose," broad hips, and round, high, breasts all signal in medieval physiognomy – the 'science' of knowing things about someone's character by their physical characteristics – that she is ripe for plucking. Note the similarity of her physical appearance to the Wife of Bath's.
'By God, right by the hopur wol I stande,'
Quod John, 'and se howgates the corn gas in.
Yet saugh I nevere, by my fader kyn
How that the hopur wagges til and fra.'
(182 – 185)
This is the first of many double entendres – or sexual puns – that occur in "The Reeve's Tale." The punning has to do both with the motion of grinding corn, which mimics the motion of sex, and the puns on the word flour that occur later in the tale. Aleyn declares his intention to give Symkyn "the flour of il endyng," then has sex with his daughter, de-flour/flowering her as recompense for his stolen corn, in this way equating sex with flour. For these reasons it's not a big stretch to read the grinding of the corn as a sexual double entendre.
And whan the hors was laus, he gynneth gon
Toward the fen, ther wilde mares renne,
And forth with 'wehee,' thurgh thikke and thurgh thenne.
(210 – 212)
Horses were a symbol of sexuality in the medieval period. This horse, who bounds off to have his way with the nearby mares with a cry of joy when he is released, could be a foreshadowing of the sexual antics to come later that night.