illustration of a clergyman with Canterbury cathedral behind him

The Canterbury Tales

by Geoffrey Chaucer

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The Reeve’s Tale Summary

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The Reeve’s Prologue Summary

The Reeve takes great offense at the Miller’s tale and says that he will tell one of his own. Just because he is an older man does not mean that he has no desires. In fact, he says, older people are generally well-versed in boasting, anger, lying, and greed. The Host tells him to stop preaching and tell his tale, and the Reeve vows to get even with the Miller through his story.

The Reeve’s Tale Summary

At Trumpington, there lives a proud miller named Symkyn who focuses on living the good life and cheating his customers out of their grain. His wife is a haughty woman who has been educated in a convent, and Symkyn is a highly jealous man. The couple has a twenty-year-old daughter and an infant son. The miller is determined to marry his daughter well.

The miller grinds wheat for a college, and since the manciple is ill, two clerks, John and Aleyn, ask permission to take the grain. They are determined not to let the miller cheat them. John will stand and watch the grain go in while Aleyn watches it come out. Symkyn just smiles. He will get the better of these two, he thinks, and he unties their horse and chases it onto the moor.

Aleyn and John must go after their horse, and while they do, the miller steals a half a bushel of flour and has his wife bake it into a cake. By the time the clerks catch the horse, it is night, and they must stay with the miller and his family (and pay well for it). They all get drunk and go to bed in the same room.

Symkyn, his wife, and his daughter all snore loudly, and Aleyn decides to get even with the miller by having relations with his daughter. John figures he must do something too, so when the wife gets up, John moves the baby’s cradle to the end of his own bed. When the wife returns, she climbs into bed with John instead of her husband, and the two have sex.

Toward morning, Aleyn leaves Malyne (the daughter) to return to his own bed, but he accidentally climbs in with the miller. At that point, chaos ensues. The clerks beat Symkyn, and in the confusion, the miller’s wife hits her husband on the head. The clerks take their flour and the cake and ride off. The miller’s pride has been broken.

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The Miller’s Tale Summary


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