What are some differences and similarities between The Wife of Bath and the Manciple?

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linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many more differences between the two characters than there are similarities. The greatest difference is that the Manciple believes in saying very little, and the Wife of Bath can't seem to stop talking. This difference in apparent in their tales.

The Manciple tells the story of Phoebus, who kept a pet raven who could talk. One day when Phoebus returned home, the raven told him that his wife had been unfaithful to him, and in a fit of rage he kills her. Despondent over her death, he attacks the raven, pulls out all its feathers, and curses it to be black forever and to never again talk. The moral of his story is to be careful what you tell people; you can't get in trouble for saying too little.

Before she even begins her story, the Wife of Bath goes on and on about her own marriages, proclaiming that the woman should be in control. She should always accuse him of infidelity so that he will always try to make her happy. Then her tale is about a knight who rapes a young girl. Incredibly, the queen feels sorry for the knight and sentences him to travel the country for a year to ask women what it is they really want. He meets an ugly old hag. When he shows no attraction for her, she tells him she can change her appearance, but he has to decide for her to stay old but faithful or young and unfaithful. He chooses for her to be faithful, she becomes young and beautiful, and they marry. The moral: don't judge by appearance.

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The Canterbury Tales

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