Summary and Analysis The Manciple's Prologue and Tale



Seeing the Cook drunk, asleep, and swaying in his saddle, the Host tries to awaken him in order to demand a tale. But in spite of the Host's efforts, the Cook falls from his horse. The pilgrims halt and, with great effort, restore the Cook to his saddle. The Manciple offers to tell a tale instead.

In a faraway land, Phoebus is the ideal man: a great warrior, a skilled musician, and very handsome and kind. He has a wife whom he loves more than life itself and bestows upon her all the kindness and love at his command, but he is extremely jealous.

In Phoebus' magnificent household is a marvelous, pure white crow that can repeat the words of any thing it hears. While Phoebus is gone, his wife's secret lover comes to the home and makes passionate love to her. Upon Phoebes' return, the crow tells him the scandalous sight he has seen. In a rage, Phoebus kills his wife. As his rage cools, the sight of his wife's dead body brings great remorse. In anger, he pulls out the crow's white feathers and replaces them with black ones. Then before throwing him out, Phoebus removes the crow's ability to sing and speak. The Manciple ends his tale by admonishing all people to restrain their tongues.


While this tale is quite simple, the Manciple's ornamentation turns the simple legend found in Ovid's Metamorphosis into something almost ludicrously overblown. He alludes to all sorts of classical lore, relevant or not. He even stops his narration for digressions and piles up pointless rhetorical devices. The moral he appends to the tale is clear: Repeating scandal is a dangerous business, so one should restrain one's tongue and think upon the crow.


Bob-Up-And-Down a town very near Canterbury; the pilgrims must be in the vicinity of the Cathedral of Canterbury.

'Dun's in the Myre refers to a type of rural game in which a group of youths brought in a log and pretended it was a horse stuck in the mud.

Phoebus Phoebus Apollo, the Greek god of light, or the sun.

Bacchus the god of wine and interceder in quarrels.

Amphion the king of Thebes and husband of Niobe; he was noted for his beautiful singing voice.

plumb your wif have sexual intercourse.