Oxford, UK - Oxford University; Fitchburg, MA - Fitchburg State Univeristy



Oxford, UK - Oxford University; Fitchburg, MA - Fitchburg State Univeristy

Catalog Entry

How exactly do Oxford University, Fitchburg State University, and The Reeve’s Tale compare with one another? I promise you it’s not because they’re all related to England in some form or another. What they all have in common revolves around education and universities.

Oxford University is the oldest university in the English-speaking world and was only established as a university around 1167 when Henry II banned students from studying at the University of Paris (“Introduction and History.”). This fact alone sparked some interest in our tale, The Reeve’s Tale, since revenge and a bit of pettiness are sparks of inspiration for this story. Fitchburg State University hasn’t exactly been around as long as Oxford has. It was established in 1894 and was known as State Normal School in Fitchburg (“History of the University.” ). What’s interesting is that Oxford started out as a school solely for men while FSU started as a school solely for women.

So how do these three compare to one another? Despite both of the schools' rich history, the comparison among the three focuses on the two college students who are main characters in The Reeve’s Tale. John and Aleyn are two students from a college in Cambridge. They’re your usual overly confident college students who think they can outsmart the miller, Symkyn, who is known for cheating and stealing from people who come to use his mill. The part that shocked me the most was when Symkyn actually looked down on the college students because of their educational background (Benson). Ironically, the students come from an educated class whereas the miller does not have an education.

Oxford University is believed to have been established due to the fact that Henry II didn’t want students going to the University of Paris while Fitchburg State was only opened to women for teaching and was not allowed to offer bachelor's degrees until years and years later. Both the universities and the students were stumped by some sort of roadblock. Luckily for us today, that so called roadblock was cleared. Oxford is now a highly prestigious school that is open to both male and female and offers many more fields of study. Fitchburg State University has grown in size, is open to both males and females, and has moved passed from just offering an associate's or bachelor's, but now has several master’s programs as well. Lastly, in The Reeve’s Tale, the college students, John and Aleyn, took back control and not only did they prove their wits, but they were able to retaliate successfully (Benson). Now, whether that retaliation was positive or negative is up for debate.


Chaucer, Geoffrey. "The Reeve's Tale." Translated by Larry D. Benson, 2008, sites.fas.harvard.edu/~chaucer/teachslf/rvt-par.htm.

“History of the University.” Fitchburg State University, fitchburgstate.edu/about/history-of-the-university/.

“Introduction and History.” University of Oxford, ox.ac.uk/about/organisation/history?wssl=1.

“University of Oxford.” Encyclopædia Britannica, 27 Jan. 2017, britannica.com/topic/University-of-Oxford.

Catalog Entry Author(s)

Ivy Benoit, Student, Fitchburg State University

Research Assistant(s)

Emma Page, Student, Fitchburg State University


Kisha G. Tracy

Accessible Description of Image(s)

First image: The photograph is an overlooking shot of a city from a leftward view. The main focus of the photo is an old-looking building with a dome roof. There are large windows scattering the building. It also has multiple entrance ways. This takes up around half of the photo. In the middle of the photo there is a walkway of sorts and people are walking on it. To the right is an open courtyard with building behind it in the city. The top of the photo contains the sky.
Description by: Colin Fagan, Student, Fitchburg State University


“Oxford, UK - Oxford University; Fitchburg, MA - Fitchburg State Univeristy,” Cultural Heritage through Image, accessed February 23, 2024, https://culturalheritagethroughimage.omeka.net/items/show/23.

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