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Susan's Blog

Consent and Lemman in Geoffrey Chaucer’s "The Reeve’s Tale"

My essay, "Consent and Lemman in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Reeve's Tale," has just been published in Notes and Queries. If you would ike a pdf, do let me know! The article begins:


The use of the Middle English word lemman—loved one, paramour, or sweetheart—by Malyne, daughter of the miller Symkyn in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Reeve's Tale, complicates an already fraught speech (I.4240–4247). It is uttered after her sexual encounter with the university student Aleyn. Their intercourse remains charged in Chaucer studies because of (1) the nature of how coitus is initiated and (2) Malyne's reaction afterwards—a speech followed by weeping. Understood within Chaucer's own biography—his release from charges of raptus by Cecily Chaumpaigne—this tale has inevitably generated charged controversy. The word lemman occurs over a dozen times in the Chaucer corpus, mainly in The Canterbury Tales. Most notoriously, it occurs twice in Malyne's sole speech. This essay reads the use of lemman within the Chaucerian corpus, concluding to concur with other scholars who interpret Aleyne and Malyne's sexual encounter as rape.

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