And the punchline is rape! – Summary of The Reeve’s Tale by Chaucer

So much to summarise, so little time. I will be summarising some of Chaucer’s works, but not all of them, because ain’t nobody got time for that. It’s more like, I need to solidify what happens and the most important bits in my mind so that I can go into the exam fresh and ready to face it. Reeve’s tale is short and sweet, and honestly one of my favourites because of its crude humour and fast pace. It leads directly from The Miller’s Tale, which is right after The Knight’s Tale, so we can see how quickly everything falls apart as we give into our love of comedy! The other interesting thing about the Reeve’s tale is the direct competition he initiates WITH the Miller. I’ll go into more detail about the relationship between The Knight, the Miller, and the Reeve later on.


tl;dr: Reeve is a carpenter who is upset at the Miller’s tale, tells a tale about a Miller who steals, cheats, and is horrible. Two students, John and Alayn, go to the Miller to get flour. The Miller releases their horses and steals some of the flour he just ground. It’s dark by the time they find their horses, so the Miller says to stay with them. The Miller has two kids, a hot daughter and a baby. The Miller and his wife sleep in one bed, with the cot next to their bed, whilst John and Alayn sleep in the other. Alayn decides to get revenge by screwing the Miller’s daughter, and in a series of silly events, John ends up screwing the Miller’s wife. And then after that, Alayn sleeps in the wrong bed and tells the Miller how he screwed his daughter. He gets mad, there’s almost a fight, and the MIller’s wife accidentally smashes his brains out. The students leave with their good, and this story is basically really gross.

The story begins with the prologue, where the Reeve claims that he’s upset with the Miller, and is all like, hey man, I might be old but I can still be cunning and cool! Don’t get me wrong! Host just goes, dude, get the heckie on with it, and he’s like fine, but take this as a challenge Miller, I will reign supreme.

The tale begins by describing a Miller who is a conman, who likes to steal flour and cheat people of their money. He’s well known for being a cheat and a scammer, but apparently he’s like the only miller in town so he monopolises on the economy and so everyone’s essentially screwed over by him. So John and Alayn are two students who are like, we won’t get tricked by him we’ll WATCH him grind the corn! So they watch him, and Miller sneaks out, releases their horses, and they’re like OH SHIT. So whilst they’re freaking the heck out, the Miller steals some of their freshly ground corn.

It’s night time, so the Miller offers for Alayn and John to sleep over the night, offering them all sorts of luxurious foods that just prove how untrustworthy he is. A normal good miller wouldn’t be able to afford this variety of meet for supper! And they head off to bed. The Miller sleeps with his wife and the baby’s cot next to their bed, whilst Alayn and John share the adjacent bed. Their super hot teenage daughter is somewhere else.

Alayn turns to John and says, dude, you know what? I’ll get back what I want. I deserve to rape the Miller’s daughter because he stole our corn. Yeah, this is a justified rape! Because apparently the Reeve things positive retribution is actually sexual violence against the women in some dude’s life. So he heads off to commit rape, because as much as SparkNotes says it’s ‘seducing’, it’s literally rape. John feels super lonely in his bed, and so he takes the baby’s cot and brings it over to his side.

The Miller’s wife gets up ‘to pisse’, literally said in those lines in Middle English. And when she comes back, it’s dark and she goes to her bed, but sees the cradle isn’t there! She laughs and is like haha oops almost went to bed with those clerks! And goes to sleep in John’s bed. John, like the filthy entitled opportunist he is, rapes the wife who thinks she’s with her husband.

Alayn returns, sees the cot, and goes over to the Miller’s bed, leaning in real close to whisper how he screwed the Miller’s daughter three times that night. The Miller gets ANGERY and there’s this huge hullabaloo where he sees that not just his daughter’s been raped, but his wife!! And so it starts a big fight, but the wife grabs a bar, and sees the shimmering light of her husband’s bald head, thinking it’s the boy’s nightcap, and smashes his head in. The two students run off and steal back their corn.

Basically this is an awful story with a ridiculous amount of sexual violence against women just because men believe they’re entitled to it and as if women are bartering chips in a trade or something.


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