Chaucer’s Placement and Description of the Manciple and the Reeve in the General Prologue
962 Words4 Pages
On Chaucer’s Placement and Description of the Manciple and the Reeve in the General Prologue
In the general prologue of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, the manciple and the reeve are described one after the other. Given the proximity of characters such as the prioress, the friar and the monk to each other, while the parson is hundred of lines away, Chaucer clearly grouped characters not only by social standing, but by character and attitude as well. This is shown in Chaucer’s placement of the manciple and the reeve, as these two characters have similar occupations, social standing, though these are contrasted through their urban and rural viewpoints. However, each has similar attitudes towards their…show more content…
The manciple lives and works in London, a business agent who deals not only with his clients, an enclave of lawyers, but also with a variety of food providers on a daily basis. His is an urban lifestyle. The reeve, on the other hand, encounters a fairly fixed group of people every day. However, these lifestyle differences seem to have little effect on Chaucer’s portrayal of the similarities between the two characters.
The manciple and the reeve perform similar duties. Each cares for the needs of another of higher social status more adeptly than their superiors could do for themselves. Their most basic similarity, and the one which Chaucer highlights in most detail, is the excellence in which they perform their labors. They are each hard-working, effective, and, when compared to most of the other pilgrims on their way to Canterbury, morally sound as well.
The manciple had “maistres… mo than thries ten / that were of lawe experte and curious…/ and yit this Manciple sette hir alle cappe! (578-9, 589)” According to Chaucer, the manciple was more skilled at his duties than even the lawyers he worked for, who were to “worthy to be stewards of rente and lond / of any lord that is in Engelonde (583-4).”
The reeve is charged with controlling much more than his lord’s foodstuffs. Indeed, “His lordes sheepe, his neet, and his dayerye, his swin, his hors and his pultrye was hoolly in