What is the Manciple's personality like in The Canterbury Tales?

Expert Answers
wshoe eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Canterbury Tales, by Chaucer, the Manciple's job is to purchase food for a group of lawyers, much like a caterer.  Although he is illiterate, he is able to bargain shop and spend less on the food than what the lawyers have paid him. Of course, he keeps the leftover money for himself. The Manciple is proud of the fact that he is able to trick the educated lawyers week after week.  He feels a great sense of accomplishment in this because he is uneducated. 

roundsk | Student

In The Canterbury Tales the Manciple can be described as clever, as well as charismatic. He is illiterate, however he doesn't let this effect his position in the world. He works with a group of 30 lawyers, all of whom he extorts money from. In the Manciple's prologue one can see his cunning by his decision to not continue his heated argument with the Cook. He realizes that insulting and having bad blood could be bad for his business, especially because the Cook seems to have knowledge about the Manciple's bad behavior when it comes to thievery. 

The Manciple's tale also imparts an important lesson that relates to his streets smarts. He tells of Phoebus who has a gorgeous pet crow, as well as a gorgeous and young wife, who he does not trust. As the story goes, Phoebus leaves and his wife takes her lover to their wedding bed. The crow (snow white in color, and a beautiful singer) witnesses the entire thing, and when Phoebus returns, the crow tells him everything. Phoebus, furious at his wife's behavior, murders her, however, immediately after feels intense remorse and takes his guilt out on the crow, ripping his beautiful white feathers out and taking away its gorgeous voice.

Although the story is classical in nature, and the theme usually interpreted as a lesson against marital infidelity, the Manciple chooses to emphasize the importance of knowing when to keep your mouth shut. This echoes his behavior from earlier on in his prologue, regarding his decision to keep his mouth shut when it came to his fight with the cook.

Read the study guide:
The Canterbury Tales

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question