The Manciple's Tale:
Many critics have argued the meaning of placement and order of each tale in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. Accordingly, the arrangement of The Manciple's Tale, next to last and before The Parson's Tale, has been supported by both the Ellesmere and Chaucer Society (Storm 2). Chaucer's decision to place a tale teaching sin and silence just before a tale preaching truth and repentance surely has a meaning far beyond chance. A tale of evil followed by a tale of good matches the overall theme of The Canterbury Tales: a pilgrimage leaving sin (the inn) and traveling toward redemption (the cathedral.) Likewise, The Manciple's Tale is saturated with contradictions and contrasts that are common to The Canterbury Tales as a whole.
Chaucer's main source for The Manciple's Tale, Ovid's Metamorphoses, and its hero, Apollo, is the first of many ironic twists that Chaucer incorporates in this tale.
Chaucer reverses Apollo's traditional qualities and shows his unsuccessful attempt as a human lover. Michael Kensak in his essay Apollo exterminans: The God of Poetry in Chaucer's Manciple's Tale agrees that Phebus in The Manciple's Tale bears all the traits of Apollo, "the classical god of music and medicine, art and eloquence." The Manciple describes Phebus as "Pleyen he doude on every mynstralcie" and "Was wont to beren in his hand a bowe" (lines 113,129). Also, like Apollo, Phebus is the height of male attractiveness. No less than three times in the first twenty lines Phebus' manliness (lusty baccilar) and good looks ("seemliest man" and "noon so faire enslave") are mentioned (107,119,122). However, Chaucer's Phebus reduces these attributes and contradicts the "illumination, healing and truth" that constitutes this Olympian deity. By the end of the tale, there is little resemblance to the traditional Apollo...