The Manciple’s Tale

In the Open Access Companion, Seaman analyzes the presence of, or lack thereof, a voice for the wife in the Manciple’s Tale. While she is a central figure in the story, she never speaks a line, thus “correctly represent[ing] medieval women’s experience as it comes to us: almost exclusively through men’s voices.” Seaman acknowledges the parallel language used for her and the crow, both being under her husband’s ruling. In the tale, even though the crow is clearly depicted as male with the use of ‘he’, is severely punished for speaking out, further emasculating the creature and equating it with femininity, as women’s voices are not heard. However, the end of the tale exhibits women’s wisdom through experience with words from the Manciple’s mother. This wise woman character is featured in other tales of Chaucer’s, such as the wife in the Wife of Bath’s Tale. It is interesting that this figure appears again in a tale where femininity seems to be a doomed position, leading to violence. Further, since the crow is paralleled against women, does he too encapsulate this wisdom?

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