Feb. 13 – The Reeve’s Tale

The Miller’s Tale and the Reeve’s Tale both include themes of cleverness, deceit, and a battle of wits between characters. Does the Reeve’s Tale conclude with a clear winner, like the Miller’s Tale seemed to do with ALisoun? How is the Reeve’s Tale another example of the fabliau?

6 thoughts on “Feb. 13 – The Reeve’s Tale

  1. The whole point of the Reeve’s Tale seemed to be about sticking it to the Miller because of his supposedly offensive tale to the Reeve. After the deceitful Miller is beaten and stolen from by the scholars, the narrator offers a moral to the story when he says, “Lo, swich it is a millere to be fals!” (4318). The Reeve tells us that because the Miller was false, he deserved what he got, and more besides that. The clear winner here is the scholars who won by exacting revenge upon the Miller.

  2. The Reeve’s Tale definitely has a clear winner like the Miller’s Tale but more importantly it has a clear loser. The Reeve’s whole purpose of the tale is to discredit the Miller, which is why in his tale the miller is the one who is made a fool. Aleyn and John are the decided victors of the exchange. They out trick the trickster and have sex with his wife and daughter (in one case unknowingly). They also find their untied horse, get a free meal, win the fight with the miller, and get back their stolen wheat as bread. The story is also considered a fabliau. It comments on the clergy and their chastity. It is also about the common people. Aspects of the story are meant to be funny, which shows how the values of culture have changed since then.

  3. I think it’s clear that the “winner” of the Reeve’s Tale is everyone but the Miller, who is set up to be an unsympathetic character and deserving of the shame and mockery that Aleyn and John put him through. There’s a sense of justice that every other character shares when the two protagonists outwit (if that’s the word for it) the Miller. The Reeve’s Tale also fits well into the fabliau genre. Not only is trickery and cunning one of the important motifs, but also it is a story rooted in the every day and the local––a tale of the common people. No doubt we will be talking about the casual sexual assault by the protagonists while we are in class, but fitting with the fabliau is the humor of the women being very satisfied with sleeping with Aleyn and John. The wife’s situation is particularly humorous because of the lack of information she has; she believes John is the Miller, and she is tricked into believing that her stale sex life has suddenly improved. The daughter’s positive reaction is questionable, but the fact that she is twenty years old and has no suitors might reflect poorly on the Miller, who seems to be sheltering her too much because of her perceived “lynage” (4272). Both events shame the Miller in way, which serves as part of the justice dealt in addition to taking the gifted cake.

  4. The Reeve’s Tale is the reeve’s direct response to the Miller’s Tale which he found offensive. Just like in the Miller’s Tale, the Reeve’s Tale consists of a fabliau about the common people and involves wit and deceit. Also like in the Miller’s Tale, much of the humor relies on the body, such as when the clerks make fun of the family snoring loudly. While Alisoun was the clear winner previously, having made a full of her husband and the two clerks who desired her, the Reeve’s Tale has a clear loser in the miller, while Aleyn and John are the winners. The women in the story are also tricked, but are commodified more and are merely used to inflict further pain on the miller.

  5. While you could certainly make the argument that Aleyn and John are the winners here, having had sex with both the Miller’s wife and daughter, stealing what he stole from them back, and stealing a bit of extra on top of that, I think the tale focuses more on what the Miller loses: his dignity and social standing. Considering the medieval conceptualization of r-ape (stop trying to censor me, blog) as a crime against the father, the Miller is the one who bears the brunt of this, seemingly inordinate punishment, despite the fact that he isn’t the one who is raped. Clearly, the Reeve is upset at the Miller’s relatively light-hearted tale of extra-marital sexuality and intends to match it with a much darker and more moralizing tale.

  6. The entire situation of who came out on top can be seen much clearer in a qualitative vs quantitative perspective. The Miller who had been stealing for a significant amount of time had only been growing worse with his bad deeds. Never once had the Miller mentioned putting an end to his stealing, but only planned to steal more than ever before. After the two scholars returned with the horse that the Miller let loose, they quickly began working their way back to being even with the corrupt Miller. Both Aleyn and John broke societal norms that have been known to disorient an entire families current position in society. Taking the Virginity of the daughter could potentially be the single action that put John and Aleyn not just even, but “ahead” of the thieving Miller. Tallying up all the exchanges of wins and loses, the boys were sexualy involved with the Miller’s wife and daughter, and gained a loaf of bread in the process seems to be more than enough to prove John and Aleyn as the qualitative and quantitative winners.

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