Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chaucer Fuss - The Reeve's Tale

Chaucer's "The Reeve's Tale" continues the theme of illicit sexual activity in medieval England while providing an account of a traveling scholar.

A few months ago I read The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England. Within those pages Ian Mortimer suggested that England's medieval population often helped neighbors in plight. Chaucer's story seems to be constructed on a subversion of this notion. "The Reeve's Tale" portrays travellers as mischievous and deviant. It is the traveling scholar seeking hospitality who attacks the honour and respect of the family providing his room and board.

I am disillusioned by this segment of Chaucer's story. "The Reeve's Tale" seems to grow naturally from the preceding tales, but it almost seems too similar. A tale of adultery involving a tradesman and a scholar sounds mighty familiar.

The tale also invokes the notion that a woman's worth is based on the maintenance of her chastity. Archaic? Yes. But is is medieval England.

Bibliographical Reference:
Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. New York: Barnes and Noble Classics, 2006.

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