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The Canterbury Tales
Transcript of The Canterbury Tales
Held many jobs over the course of his life from the lowly to positions in the King's court
Known as the "Father of English Poetry" and is considered the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages
Authored many works including "Troilus and Criseyde" and "Parlement of Foules" but is best known for "The Canterbury Tales" "The Canterbury Tales" A story that brought lots of different people together for a pilgrimage
Pilgrimage = journey to a sacred spot
Like modern travelers, medieval pilgrims must have been eager to while away their time
Chaucer uses this fact to set his story in motion Setting the Stage Begins with the Prologue
Here, the narrator (presumably Chaucer himself) meets 29 other pilgrims at Tabard Inn
As they prepare for their journey, the inn's host, Harry Bailey, sets a challenge
Each pilgrim must tell 2 stories on the way to Canterbury and 2 on the way back
The person who tells the best tale will be treated to a feast hosted by the other pilgrims
Everyone accepts and Bailey decides to tag along as judge The Prologue Here, he sketches a brief but vivid portrait of each pilgrim, creating a lively sense of medieval life
Begins his survey with the courtly world - centered on nobility like the Knight
The middle ranks were learned professionals like the Doctor and wealthy businessmen
The lower orders were craftsmen, storekeepers, and administrators like the Reeve and the Manciple
The church, a cornerstone of medieval society, are represented by characters like the Prioress and the Summoner
Presented as real people, as individuals who defy categorizing, meaning that he is defying the stereotypes of the time A New Form Popular genres of the day
Romances - tales of chivalry
Fabliaux - short, bawdy, humorous stories
The stories of saints' lives, sermons, and allegories - narratives in which the characters represent abstractions such as Pride or Honor
Chaucer wrote much of the Tales using his own form, the heroic couplet
This is a pair of rhyming lines with five stressed syllables each Stories within stories This is known as a "frame story"
Each section consists of one of the pilgrims tales
Brief transitions, as one storyteller finishes and another begins, link the stories
In this way, the work is actually a story about stories - 24 tales set within the overarching tale of the pilgrimage
Structure is based on the characters themselves, not on the actual stories The Pilgrims Described by:
The type and color of their clothing
Their “accessories” (jewelry, pets, other portables)
The way they act
Their status in society as a whole
The way they speak/their slang or accent
Their mode of transportation Traveling from here To here From London to Canterbury Why travel to Canterbury?
It was an important religious center and religion was a huge part of medieval life
Religion was important because heaven was the best thing that people during the Middle Ages had to look forward to in a world with
High infant mortality rate
Short life expectancy
Harsh living conditions (especially for peasants)
People of all classes went on pilgrimages to holy sites, like Canterbury, to ask for help with medical, financial, or other issues It became a site for pilgrims to offer their prayers to St. Thomas a Becket
Becket was a trusted adviser and friend of King Henry II who named him the Archbishop of Canterbury
Eventually, Becket's outspoken style angered the king and the king wondered aloud whether no one would rid him of the "meddlesome priest"
Three knights rode in and found him praying at the alter of Canterbury Cathedral and there they murdered him Canterbury Cathedral Themes Religion
Religion played an important role in the middle ages - several of the pilgrims were religious figures and the pilgrimage itself was a religious one
Social class and conventions
Expectations of each class
Constant conflict between the classes - "those who pray", "those who fight", and "those who work"
Relativism vs. realism
The characters express vastly different views of reality and their perception of how things work, creating an atmosphere of relativism, and thus the reader is unable to come to any definite truth or reality The shrine honoring Becket at Canterbury Cathedral