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Copy of The Canterbury Tales Background
Transcript of Copy of The Canterbury Tales Background
Medieval esates satire: when a writer describes people from different parts of medieval life with satire.
"And specially, from every shire's end
Of England, down to Canterbury they wend
To seek the holy blissful martyr, quick
To give his help to them when they were sick."
-Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales
Who is Chaucer? Who cares?
Why does he matter?
During a time when French was widely spoken in educated circles, Chaucer was one of the first writers to show that English could be a respectable literary language.
Chaucer has been called the father of English poetry.
not noble but fairly well off
son of a wine merchant
parents placed him with a royal family
therefore, he recieved a good education and learned the customs of the upper class
fought in the Hundred Years' War
was appointed a knight
member of parliment
involved in politics and diplomacy
14th Century England
Pilgrimage: spiritual journey
During this time period, commerce was expanding, which was what helped bring the middle ages to an end.
Due to trade, there was an emerging middle class, which led to a more complex social structure and the ability to rise in status.
Through Chaucer's experiences and observations, he understood this complex social structure; he understood how a variety of people spoke and acted.
Chaucer properly represented an assortment of individuals.
He gives a lifelike picture of English society in 1300s.
He points out many universal truths about human nature that we can still see today.
What to expect? What on earth are we about to get into?
Frame story: a plot structure that involves the telling of one or more stories within another story
Expect to see statements about the following:
experience vs. authority
Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(so priketh hem nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of engelond to caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.
Bifil that in that seson on a day,
In southwerk at the tabard as I lay
Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage
To caunterbury with ful devout corage,
At nyght was come into that hostelrye
Wel nyne and twenty in a compaignye,
Of sondry folk, by aventure yfalle
In felaweshipe, and pilgrimes were they alle,
That toward caunterbury wolden ryde.
The chambres and the stables weren wyde,
And wel we weren esed atte beste.
And shortly, whan the sonne was to reste,
So hadde I spoken with hem everichon
That I was of hir felaweshipe anon,
And made forward erly for to ryse,
To take oure wey ther as I yow devyse.
But nathelees, whil I have tyme and space,
Er that I ferther in this tale pace,
Me thynketh it acordaunt to resoun
To telle yow al the condicioun
Of ech of hem, so as it semed me,
And whiche they weren, and of what degree,
And eek in what array that they were inne;
And at a knyght than wol I first bigynne.
Chaucer begins his story with a prologue that introduces each character. While his words are important, the underlying message is vital. One must put the puzzle of his description together.
According to Chaucer, each pilgrim was to tell four tales, two on the way there and two on the way back, for a total of 124 tales. Chaucer died before he could begin his 25th tale, 20 complete, 2 incomplete, and 2 intentionally cut short.
What format do the tales take?
Fabliau--a short verse tale with coarse humor and earthy, realistic, and sometimes obscene descriptions that present an episode in the life of contemporary middle and lower class people. Plot development often depends on a prank, a pun, a mistaken identity, or an incident involving the characters' intrigue.
Chivalric Romance (courtly love)--the knights exhibit nobility, courage, and respect for their fair ladies and the ladies exhibit elegance, modesty, and fidelity. In conflicts between good and evil, justice always prevails.
Exemplum--a short narrative in verse or prose that teaches a moral lesson or reinforces a doctrine or religious belief. This lesson must be the central focus of the tale.
Arthurian Romance--a type of work in which a knight in the age of the legendary King Arthur goes on a quest.
Beast Fable--a short story in verse or prose in which animals are the main characters.
Satire--literary work or technique that attacks or pokes fun at vices or imperfections.
Burlesque--a literary work or technique that mocks a person, a place, a thing, or an idea by using wit, irony, hyperbole, sarcasm, and/or understatement. A hallmark of burlesque is its ongoing exaggeration, almost to the point of being absurd.
Low Comedy--a type of comedy that is generally physical rather than verbal, relying on slapstick and horseplay and focusing usually on ordinary folk.
Breton Lay--a 14th Century English narrative poem in rhyme about courtly love that contains elements of the supernatural.
Allegory--a literary work that ascribes secondary or symbolic meaning to characters, events, objects, and ideas.
From Southwerk, England, The Tabard Inn
To Thomas A Becket Shrine, Canterbury, England
His story has the following characters:
1 narrator (Chaucer himself)
1 Pilgrim (canon's yeoman) who joins late
1 Host at the Tabard Inn, who accompanies them
The journey on horseback would have taken 3-5 days with stops at inns along the way.