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Canterbury Tales

By katrina1128 Feb 27, 2013 770 Words
Katrina Nicholas
Ms. Dixon
British Literature
November 9, 2012
Revenge is Sweet – Affairs are Sour
The Reeve’s and Miller’s Tale contradict each other in many ways towards the characters ambitions and personalities. The Miller and Reeve try to get revenge on each other by insulting one another through these parables. The main themes in these stories are as follows: jealousy, revenge, and trickery. Jealousy is shown in the Reeve’s Tale because the scholars and the miller try to get even with each other throughout the entire story. Revenge is also exhibited in the story whereas the students, Alan and John, copulate with the daughter and wife of the miller, respectively. Trickery was applied in both stories, but most famously, the Miller’s Tale because John, a carpenter, is unknowingly involved in an affair with his wife, Alison and a scholar, Nicholas. Therefore, the themes and characters of each story do have similar traits, but contradicting points about the characters deception to the main character of each story.

First, the Reeve’s Tale teaches that the people whom you stole from can come back to haunt you. This tale does not teach finder-keepers-losers-weepers, but thieves can be stolen from as well; as it is said, “Who evil does should not expect some good” (Chaucer 4320) One of the names in the stories are the same, such as John, whom in the Reeve’s Tale was one of the scholars along with Alan whom copulate with the wife and daughter of the miller, Simkin, respectively (Chaucer 4195 – 98; 4228 – 33). While in the Miller’s Tale, John is the rich, old carpenter that has an eighteen-year old wife, Alisoun, whom he is overprotective of and gets extremely jealous easily. These two characters contradict each other as one is a jealous old man, while one is an attractive college student. It shows that there is a pattern; for example, Nicholas can be compared to the John from the Reeve’s Tale and the John from the Miller’s Tale can be compared to Simkin from the Reeve’s Tale.

Secondly, the Miller’s Tale shows the theme: trickery and deception because John not only was tricked to believe the next Great Flood was coming (Crowther 327 – 35), but unknowing that his wife was cheating on him with a young scholar. Nicholas did not have a partner in crime like the two scholars from the Reeve’s Tale, but a rival, Absolon. Absolon can be a very jealous man as well, and very selfish just like Alisoun’s husband. The miller however, can also be compared to the carpenter because of his pride over his wife. The trick in the Miller’s Tale is quite complicated and revolting; John, the scholar, deceives the wife to have sex with him as do, Alan, whom deceives the daughter.

Lastly, Absolon and Nicholas’ rivalry can be contradicted to John and Alan’s friendship. Nicholas and Absolon were not exactly neither friends nor enemies until they met Alisoun, the girl whom they both fall in love with at the same time. John and Alan were poor and young (Chaucer 4002) as were Absolon and Nicholas. However, the rivals fought over love while the friends fought for bread. While the friends were equally passionate, the rivals were very different in affection. Absolon would try everything to get the girl he wanted (Crowther 162- 77; 197 – 99) but these advances were in vain however, as Nicholas has already stolen Alisoun’s heart. Both rivals do know how to sing (Crowther 28-29: 142), play the guitar (Crowther 27; 174), and have a favorite type of study such as astrology for Nicholas and drama for Absolon.

In conclusion, the Reeve and the Miller seem to try to take retribution of one another because of their personal differences in these tales. Some of the characters personalities can be similar but may be disparate. While the Reeve’s story is mostly about theft, the Miller’s story is about deception. In both, adultery or cheating was involved along with the storyline and the themes of the stories. The short stories may also be a way to insult one another by mixing up each other’s story to make it seem like a tease to show that one’s story is better than the other; which is probably why is slightly similar but also different.

Works Cited
Chaucer, Geoffrey. "The Reeve's Tale." The Reeve's Tale. Trans. Ronald L. Ecker and Eugene J. Crook. N.p., 1993. Web. 08 Nov. 2012. <>. Crowther, John, ed. “No Fear The Canterbury Tales.” SparkNotes LLC. 2009. Web. 17 Oct. 2012.

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