What does the manciple look like in The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer?

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iandavidclark3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although Chaucer describes the physical appearance of many of the pilgrims in The Canterbury Tales, he does not actually tell us what the manciple looks like. The only description we get of the man pertains to his professional life. The manciple buys provisions (which we can assume to be food) for the court and lawyers, and Chaucer describes the man as a shrewd agent with an in-depth knowledge of the markets of his field. Chaucer also implies the manciple is able to outthink the lawyers for whom he works, and so it seems that he's a particularly clever individual. That said, Chaucer also calls him "vulgar (8)," suggesting the manciple does not always use his intelligence for honest ends. Thus, we can surmise that the manciple is a smart and somewhat disagreeable man of average appearance. Indeed, if he were to have any distinguishing physical characteristics (such as pimples or missing teeth), Chaucer would have mentioned them.

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The Canterbury Tales

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