The Reeve's Tale

Third story of The Canterbury Tales

Who is the Reeve?

The Reeve is described as a very slender man, who is also quite well kept. He not only helped manage a large and successful estate, but was also a carpenter. The Reeve is quite successful in managing the estate, and can estimate the yields of his master's crops and livestock based solely on the rainfall from year to year. He is said to steal from his lord's property, financially outsmarting his master as did the Manciple. The miller's tale is based around his mockery of carpenters, which leads the Reeve to tell a story of which mocks and ridicules a miller and his family.


The Reeve's tale revolves around a Miller who is quite sneaky and dishonest, and steals corn and meal that is brought to his mill to be grinded. On one of the days, the miller is able to steal pervasively from the manciple of the college, due to his illness. Shortly after, John and Alan (two students at the college) hear of this theft and make plans to stop the miller from stealing in the future. They voluntarily bring sacks of corn to the miller, and tell him they are in charge of watching the work be done. But being the sneaky and dishonest man that he is, the miller lets the students horses go free, causing them to leave the mill and chase after them and allowing the miller to steal flour once again.

After retrieving the horses, the boys return and ask the miller if they can stay the night. Due to the darkness, the miller agrees. The miller has a wife, daughter, and infant son, and all six of them share one room for the night. Craving revenge for the countless acts of theft, Alan exclaims that he is going to sleep with the miller's daughter, while John ends up sleeping with the wife after she mistakes his bed for her own. Once the night is over, Alan gets into the miller's bed mistaking it for John's, and tells him how he had I three times with the daughter. The miller than angrily gets up, but the wife beats him down thinking he was one of the students. The boys than grab all of the food that the miller stole and quickly flea.

What does this reveal about the narrator?

This tale doesn't have a moral, per say, but does in fact follow the lines of many other tales during that time, which is to repay another person for their tale. In this case, the miller mocks and ridicules a carpenter and his wife, thus the Reeve than one ups him by telling a tale that ridicules a miller, his wife, and his daughter. This tale reveals that the narrator is exactly how he is described in his prologue; choleric. His tale, relative to the millers, is much less comical and is filled with much more rage and revenge.

My research:

In order to understand the purpose and view point of the Reeve's tale, I first had to research the description given to him in his prologue; choleric. To find the purpose or the moral of the story, one must find the narrators personality. In this case, choleric described the Reeve as someone who is short tempered and irritable, which goes hand in hand with his tale. He is so angered by the miller's mockery of carpenters, that he goes ahead and ridicules a miller and his family. Something only someone who is "choleric" would go through with.


1. Blackguard- Someone who behaves in a dishonorable way.

2. Palfrey- A docile horse used for riding.

3. Plumbed- Experience or explore fully.

4. Peck- A measure or capacity for dry goods.

5. Mote- A tiny piece of substance.

Essential Questions:

1. To what extent does the Reeve's tale represent and describe his "choleric" trait as stated in the prologue?

2. How does the shift in tone between the Miller's tale and the Reeve's tale reflect and describe their two opposite personalities?

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By: Kyle Andersson