The Canterbury Tales: The Reeve's Tale
How we cite our quotes:
A theef he was, for sothe, of corn and mele,
And that a sly, and usuant for to stele.
(85 – 86)
Symkyn regularly cheats his customers by shorting them of the corn and meal they bring to him for grinding. A miller was entitled to a certain portion of whatever he ground as payment for his labor. A miller might take more than his fair share, however, perhaps padding the customer's sacks with a less expensive substance, and in this way increase his profits.
A wyf he hadde, ycomen of noble kyn;
The person of the toun hir fader was.
With hire he yaf ful many a panne of bras,
For that Symkyn sholde in his blood allye.
(88 – 91)
Symkyn's wife's father, the town parson, has given her a dowry, represented here by many "panne of bras," or brass pans. In effect, he has paid Symkyn to marry her, a common practice at this time to offset the expense of "keeping" a wife and family. This passage is likely mocking everyone involved, however. A parson is not usually part of the nobility, and he gives his daughter a dowry of brass pans rather than gold or jewelry. The parson's daughter is "noble" only in relation to the working class from which the miller comes.
On halydayes biforn hire wolde he go
With his typet wound aboute his heed,
Ad she cam after in a gyte of reed;
And Symkyn hadde hosen of the same.
(98 – 101)
Certain colors of dye were more expensive than others, and red was one of the most expensive. The fact that his wife has a red skirt and Symkyn, red hose, signals that they are probably doing pretty well financially (maybe because of the extra profit Symkyn makes by cheating his customers).