The Reeve’s Prologue and Tale

February 5, 2011

The reeve, a wealthy landowner, is upset after the miller tells his tale of a cuckolded carpenter. The reason for this, of course, is that the reeve himself is a carpenter. Determined to get back at the miller, the reeve decides to tell his own tale of a miller being deceived and cuckolded. The reeve, however, worries that his age makes him weak and unable fully to get back at the miller.

In the Reeve’s Tale, a wealthy and sly miller has a beautiful wife, a twenty-year-old daughter, and a baby son. Two scholars from Cambridge come to the miller asking him to grind their grain. The miller decides to help them but, being the deceptive man that he is, he unties their horse, which runs intractably wild, and takes back half of the grain that he ground for them. When the two scholars finally catch the horse, they come back to the miller’s house and ask if they can lodge there for the evening. The miller agrees and sets up a bed for them in the same bedroom where he sleeps with his family. The miller gets drunk and goes to bed. One of the scholars, Alayn, goes to where the daughter sleeps and has sex with her. John, the other scholar, is jealous of Alayn’s pleasure and therefore goes and has sex with the miller’s wife. When Alayn is done having sex with the miller’s daughter, he whispers in what he believes is John’s ear (though it is actually the miller’s) that he has just had amazing sex with the miller’s daughter and that he now wants to take back the stolen grain and flee. The miller wakes up hearing this, is enraged, and starts strangling Alayn, who strangles him back. The wife wakes up, notices the commotion, and hits her husband on the head with a staff, thinking it is Alayn. The two scholars beat up the miller, steal back all of their grain, and escape.

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