Study Guide

The Canterbury Tales: The Reeve's Tale Lines 67 – 132

By Geoffrey Chaucer

Lines 67 – 132

(A Note: In this summary, "I" refers the narrator, the Reeve.)

  • At Trumpington, not far from Cambridge, flows a brook crossed by a bridge. On that brook is a mill. I'm telling you the truth.
  • A miller lives there. He is as proud as a peacock.
  • He can play the flute, fish, and mend fishing nets. He can drink and play cups, and wrestle and shoot.
  • By his belt, he always bears a long sword blade, and in his pocket, a pretty knife.
  • There is no man who dares to lay a hand on him, fearing danger if they do.
  • He carries a knife from Sheffield in his skin-tight pants.
  • His face is round, and his nose bulbous. His head is completely bald.
  • He is a very quarrelsome man: nobody dares to lay a hand upon him, because he swears he'll make him pay dearly for it.
  • He is a sly thief of corn and meal, accustomed to stealing from his customers by shorting them.
  • His is known as arrogant Symkyn.
  • He has a highborn wife, whose father is the town parson.
  • This parson gave his daughter a large dowry so that Symkyn would marry her.
  • She was fostered in a nunnery.
  • Symkyn had said that he would have no wife except for one who was raised well, and was a virgin, in order to preserve his rank in society.
  • His wife is proud, and as perky as a magpie.
  • It's a very pleasing sight to see Symkyn and his wife on holidays. Symkyn walks in front of her wearing a scarf on his head, and she comes after wearing a red skirt.
  • Symkyn has tight-fitting pants in the same color.
  • No one dares call Symkyn's wife by any other title but "dame," and no one is brave enough flirt with her along the way, for fear of being killed by Symkyn's cutlass, knife, or dagger.
  • For jealous people are always dangerous, or so they would have their wives believe.
  • Symkyn's wife is very haughty, full of disdain and sneering.
  • She thinks every lady in town should acknowledge her for her kindred and good upbringing of the nunnery.
  • Symkyn and his wife have a twenty-year-old daughter and no other children except for an infant six months old.
  • It lies in a cradle, a robust young thing.
  • Their daughter is thick-waisted and well-developed, with broad buttocks, a bulbous nose, grey eyes, and high, round breasts. But I cannot tell a lie: her hair is very fair.
  • Because she is pleasing, her grandfather, the parson, plans to make her the heir to his possessions and estate on the condition that she makes a good marriage.
  • His plan is to place her in a highborn family, with nobility in its ancestry.
  • He plans to bestow the inheritance in this way because he believes the possessions of the Church must be spent on those who descend from the blood of the holy Church.
  • Therefore the parson wishes to honor his own blood, though he feeds upon the Church itself in doing so.