Jenifer Sutherland

April 3




April 3

Pasolini's "The Creation of Eve"

by Nicole Girardin


How do you end the Canterbury Tales? How can you bring this pilgrimage to a close?

The Manciple’s and Parson’s Tales close the Canterbury Tales.

Manciple’s Portrait:
The Manciple is a caterer (buys and supplies food) for the lawyers. He is very good at doing this. In fact, the Manciple is so good at what he does that he is placed in better standing that other learned men. This is because he has dealt with high standard (or high class) men (i.e. rich of the rich lawyers), and can afford to live well because of their support. The Manciple in spite of the intelligence and wealth of the lawyers pulls the wool over their eyes. The Manciple is thus set up as a high class, deceptive thief.

Manciple’s Tale: events leading up to the tale
We’re in a town 5km away from Canterbury. Suddenly, it appears as if we’re back in the first fragment of the Canterbury Tales as the cook (who hadn’t finished his tale) is drunk and back on the scene. He (the Cook) is called on to tell a tale, so people try to wake him out of his drunken stupor. The Cook is so drunk that he’d rather sleep than drink some more. So instead, we hear from the Manciple (who is presumably well off) who speaks to the cook. The Manciple starts off formally. He addresses and asks permission to tell his tale first from the cook, then the host. However, we soon see that he is getting personal with the cook (i.e. by the Manciple telling the Cook that he looks pale and that he has foul breath). These comments show bad taste from the Manciple. At hearing the Manciple’s words, the Cook grows angry. The Cook is now angry and drunk. The Cook wants to speak in his own defence, but falls to the ground, swine drunk, and in an unmovable heap. The pilgrims, however, are so close to Canterbury that they collectively work at getting the Cook off of the ground. Meanwhile, the Host is mad at the Manciple for humiliating the Cook the way he did. The Host calls for the Manciple to tell his tale, but that the Manciple has gone too far to do this (Note: remember the competition that’s been going on from the beginning_ whoever tells the best tale would be rewarded financially in the end). The Host notes that since the Manciple has demeaned the Cook, the Cook will get revenge on the Manciple (and we all know, from the prologue, that there’s things the Manciple is definitely guilty of_ i.e. being a thief). The Host thus identifies an endless cycle of competition. The pairings could turn to repairing and the insults could go on. The Host wants the competition and the insults to end. But how can it end?

The Manciple claims that he’s not that easy to go down. The Manciple claims that he was joking. So not only will the Manciple say that he was kidding when he was insulting the Cook (which is a round-about way of retracting or apologizing for his comments), but he then offers the Cook more to drink. The Cook accepts, and all is forgiven and forgotten. Then the Manciple gives an apostle to Bacchus (God of Wine). But we don’t want the Canterbury Tales to end irrationally. Drunkenness + unconsciousness = not a good way to end the Canterbury Tales. So the Manciple speaks.
Note: language and marriage are to be talked about in the Manciple’s Tale.

Manciple’s Tale:
The tale starts off with a tale from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Phoebus (associated with the sun and arts_ a high character in the classical tradition), along with being a high character is good looking, and possesses a lot of musical instruments that he can all play.

Anaphora (a form of repetition that’s very notable because it’s a whole clause/phrase that is being repeated_ i.e. "Now had Phoebus in his house…") leads the audience to draw a parallel between his wife and the crow. They have a cage in common (this is a reminder of Boethius: bird in a cage is a reminder of how nature responds to its natural order and returns to its normal state). Phoebus takes care of the crow, and Phoebus teaches the crow how to speak (to tell tales and sing as well as a nightingale). The wife, however, should not be caged (its like the Miller’s tale--older husband with young wife. Also similar to January and May’s tale--he wouldn’t let her go). You cannot cage a wife because if she is a shrew, she’ll have her way, and if she’s a good wife, then caging her is useless.
The parallel between the crow and the wife focuses on a sense of containment that goes against nature.

Theory of language: it’s just a convention to attach a word to a thing. It doesn’t actually have any significance.
However, it turns out the Wife is a shrew after all, and she does have a lover outside of her marriage. The crow sees all, and never says a word. The crow bides his time and waits for Phoebus to come back. When Phoebus comes back, the crow sings a song about his wife’s infidelity. Phoebus questions the song, so the crow bluntly elaborates. Then suddenly (like the Summoner’s Tale_ sermon on anger), Phoebus jumps up and shoots his wife, then he breaks his musical instruments. All he had been famous for is now gone. So Phoebus speaks to the crow and calls the crow a traitor because Phoebus never intended on teaching the crow to speak like that. Phoebus speaks of his wife now as if he believes that she was innocent of adultery. Phoebus then says that he’s going to kill himself. He doesn’t do this. Instead, Phoebus curses the crow. The crow will now be black, will only be able to make a terrible cawing noise, and all men will curse the crow and he’s sent to the devil.
It’s an encompassing curse of the truth speaker.

Bizarre ending: Perhaps one of the funniest moments in Chaucer. Cynical story told by a man who’s cheating rich folks while living off of them. It’s a story of love, language, marriage and truth_ while my mother told me (you know its true because your mother told you), not Solomon, because he is not well learned. The mother, however, is preaching a very repetitive sermon. She’s hypocritical_ she wants her son to hold his tongue, but she babbles on (the Manciple may not have read Soloman, but his mother has).
Don’t be a part of gossip. Blend into the crowd. If you tell someone a tale, you become their slave. Don’t be the author of new tidings (similar to the House of Fame).
This is a strange moral/fable to have nearly at the end of the pilgrimage.

Problems/ conclusions to be drawn about the truth language and the poet:
1) Would the crow want to live in a cage singing well for the prince? Or cursed black? Eating worms?
2) Could be a comment on the role of lawyers_ truth speaking, manipulating the truth. Lawyers working on technical formulations of things, but not necessarily for the sake of the truth.
3) It could be an analogy between tale telling in the story and tale telling between the pilgrims.
4) Problem of telling people not to tell tales or new tales when this is all the pilgrims have been doing on the pilgrimage. Its an underlying irony of the tales_ it undermines the tales.
5) Mother figure telling her son not to talk_ associating her, possibly, with the Wife of Bath (free spoken, telling people how to function, overbearing, mouthy woman). You can see this as a division between the public and the private. Power of woman at home versus the powerlessness of women in society. The man, by speaking too freely, could damage his place in society.
6) The mother and son relationship could be considered parallel to the relationship between the Manciple and Cook _ warning against free speech retaliation.


Parson’s Portrait:
It’s one of the longest. He taught the gospel and he consumed the gospel. This is a very good man who gives a good example through work. He talks to and respects everyone regardless of their class. He follows the teachings of Christ and the apostles.

Prologue to Parson’s Tale:
Its late in the afternoon and the Host asks the Parson for a fable to tie together the tales. However, the Parson won’t tell a fable_ divine training is faith and not myth. In scripture, fables are a turn away from divine training. The Parson calls his tale a little treatise, a little meditation. The host calls for it to be short, but its not. It’s written in prose.
You could read the Parson’s Tale as an alternative to the other tales, complete, in and of itself. The Parson picks up themes from other tales and provides a new perspective. This tale is also a testament to Chaucer’s old age. Chaucer wrote this close to when he died. Its truly conclusive.

We’re focusing on marriage, a theme that appears throughout the tales.
We start with a specific statement (like the Yeoman’s tale) speaking of the pilgrimage as a road_ not just indicating the presence of a road, but the direction to the right path. Where the alchemist didn’t succeed in turning the road to gold, the Parson makes the road symbolic of the heavenly city of Jerusalem.

The Parson’s Tale is a penitential manual for ordinary people. The way to the heavenly city is penitence. This concept is in agreement with the cultural importance of attending sermons and confessing.

Four theories about how the Parson’s Tale works:
1) Moral absolutism: absolute moral position that is there in every tale_ all about caritas refuting cupiditas.
2) Retrospective commentary for a revised reading: so you can go back and see things differently after gaining the Parson’s knowledge.
3) The last contribution_ just another tale.
4) It’s a pious and conventional gesture to an ending, not sincere in any way. Chaucer is just doing the correct thing (since the voice is so different from all the other tales).

Professor Sutherland supports the concept that the Parson’s Tale does act as retrospective commentary. Yet, the tales are entertainment. The tales are profound and work on us because the voices are valid and different, yet the tales work together to form a larger effect.

The three-part structure matches the three-part structure of penitence.
In this tale, the metaphysics of sin (sin = absence of good) act as a derangement of divine order. The structure, order, and coherence in the tale appear to invoke the order and appearance of divine reality. If everything is working well, its natural law and things should and will continue as such. Sin disrupts this natural law.

This tale is not dramatic (we see this in the depiction of the 7 deadly sins). This is a very conservative work. The story of Adam and Eve is retold. Adam’s sin is considered worse than Eve’s sin because it was reason that led to the sin of the flesh. For Eve, her sin was only of the flesh. Man is the head (rationale/sense) of a woman, and the woman must submit to him. If a woman were to marry more than once, a woman would have more than one head (think of the Wife of Bath in relation to this).

We end with the last lines of pilgrimage_ through penitence will result the endless bliss of heaven. The body that was frail is now healthy and strong (opposite to Phoebus in Manciple’s tale who started strong and then ended weak after the murder).
The way there is hard and the result is heaven.

We almost end here. There’s an opposition between the host (literalist who likes fables) and the Parson (symbolist who uses words and structure to provide divine cosmic order, and who likes doctrine). The Host begins the tale and Parson ends the tale. Chaucer ends the Canterbury Tales.

Chaucer’s Conclusion:
It’s seen, sometimes, as a retraction: All that is written is for our doctrine. That is my intent and my intent is good. His conclusion is like penitential writing. Chaucer asks for grace to relieve guilt. It’s last words and he is on the verge of death, yet a lot of medieval writers make these kinds of retractions.



To Top April 3