What social class did the Physician of The Canterbury Tales belong to in "The Physician's Tale"?

Expert Answers
litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The physician is a member of the middle class.  The Canturbury Tales are listed in order of status, with the highest status first.

“The Knight’s Tale” is listed first because the knight has the highest status.  “The Physician’s Tale” is preceded by “The Franklin’s Tale” and followed by “The Pardoner’s Tale.”  The physician is nearly at the bottom.

The tale begins by introducing us to the physician, who is described as a “doctor of physic.”  Back then, being a doctor was more about guessing than learning.  Nonetheless, the physician is well-educated.

In all this world was none like him to pick

For talk of medicine and surgery;

For he was grounded in astronomy

The physician seems talented at healing his patients using stars, herbs, or magic.  The physician seems to be pious and prudish, and definitely conservative.  He “kept the gold” he earned from his profession and was “measured as could be” in diet.  It makes sense that his tale would also be conservative.  

"The Physician's Tale" is sometimes considered out of place or irrelevant.  It is a tale about the value of virtue, except that there is no reward for virtue.  The virtuous Virginia dies.  Unlike in other tales, there is no reward for honor.

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The Canterbury Tales

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