The Canterbury Tales: The Reeve's Tale
by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales: The Reeve's Tale Society and Class Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). We used the line numbering found on Librarius's online edition.
And eek, for she was somdel smoterlich,
She was as digne as water in a dich,
And ful of hoker and of bisemare.
Hir thoughte that a lady sholde hire spare,
What for hire kynrede and hir nortelrie
That she hadde lerned in the nonnerie.
(109 – 114)
This passage makes its disdain for Symkyn's wife's high-class pretensions perfectly clear: it says that she is "somdel smoterlich" (besmirched, or possessing a damaged reputation) probably due to her status as the illegitimate daughter of a cleric. This status makes her as "digne" (worthy of reverence) as water in a ditch – in other words, not at all. Nevertheless, due to her kindred and high-class upbringing in a convent, she still believes noblewomen should greet her as an equal.
This persoun of the toun, for she was feir,
In purpos was to maken hire his heir,
Bothe of his catel and his mesuage,
And straunge he made it of hir mariage.
His purpos was for to bistowe hire hye
Into som worthy blood of auncetrye.
(123 – 128)
The parson has resolved to try to use his granddaughter to do what he couldn't do with his daughter (because she was illegitimate). His goal is to marry her into a noble family, thus ensuring an upwardly mobile progression for his heirs. He probably hopes that the combination of Malyne's good looks and the wealth he's stolen from the church for her dowry will convince some high-class person to marry "beneath" him.