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Describe Chaucer's Reeve from The Canterbury Tales.

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a-lovely | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 16, 2009 at 11:05 PM via web

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Describe Chaucer's Reeve from The Canterbury Tales.

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robertwilliam | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted February 16, 2009 at 11:25 PM (Answer #1)

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The Reeve, according to the General Prologue, is a slender and choleric man, with a very close-shaved beard and hair cut round by his ears:

  The REVE was a sclendre colerik man.
His berd was shave as ny as ever he kan;
 His heer was by his erys ful round yshorn;

He had long, thin legs like sticks - and you couldn't make out his calves: 

  Ful longe were his legges, and ful lene,
 Ylyk a staf, ther was no calf ysene. 

The Reeve knows ("wiste") very well how seed will behave in drought, or in rain, and he knows all about his master's sheep, dairy, swine, horse, stores of grain, and his poultry: 

Wel wiste he by the droghte and by the reyn,
 The yeldynge of his seed and of his greyn.
 His lordes sheep, his neet, his dayerye,
His swyn, his hors, his stoor, and his pultrye...

The Reeve was also very crafty, and he knew every man's secret: and every man was scared of him:

Ther nas baillif, ne hierde, nor oother hyne,
 That he ne knew his sleighte and his covyne;
 They were adrad of hym as of the deeth. 

 The Reeve sat on a gray horse called Scot, and carried a rusty sword by his side. He came from Norfolk.

 This Reve sat upon a ful good stot,
 That was al pomely grey, and highte Scot.
 A long surcote of pers upon he hade,
And by his syde he baar a rusty blade.

He's a bitter, choleric crafty character, who can't really be trusted. And there you have him - in Chaucer's own words!

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