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The Canterbury Tales: The Reeve's Tale

The Canterbury Tales: The Reeve's Tale

by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Canterbury Tales: The Reeve's Tale Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Lies and Deceit

In "The Reeve's Tale," a dishonest miller cheats all his customers by shorting them on corn, "padding" their sacks with a less expensive substance like bran. When two students attempt to outsmart h...

Sex

With his tale, the Reeve is "quiting," or answering "The Miller's Tale," which was a story about two clerks who tried to get a carpenter's wife into bed. In that tale, sex was joyous, even if illic...

Violence

When the narrator introduces Symkyn, the miller, he describes him as a man who loves wrestling and fighting, carries multiple weapons, and stands around the market all the time just itching for a f...

Wealth

The lengthiest discussion of wealth in "The Reeve's Tale" occurs in relation to Symkyn's female family members. We learn that his wife, and particularly his daughter, have dowries attached to them....

Rules and Order

When the miller, Symkyn, manages to cheat Aleyn and John of their corn, John declares his intention to receive "esement" for his wrong. "Esement" in Middle English is a loaded term that refers to b...

Cunning and Cleverness

When John and Aleyn arrive at Symkyn's mill and propose to watch their corn being ground into flour, Symkyn immediately recognizes their intention and takes it as a challenge. For him, the conflict...

Language and Communication

With the distinct northern middle English speech of Aleyn and John, we have the first example in English of an author trying to imitate a dialect not his own. There are many "northernisms" in the c...

Society and Class

"The Reeve's Tale" uses the upper-class aspirations of the miller and his wife as a source of comedy, mocking their pretensions to nobility. Symkyn's wife does have some high-class family members a...
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