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The Canterbury Tales
Transcript of The Canterbury Tales
1. The Middle Ages in England
Events that influenced English History and Literature
Society in the Middle Ages
Women in the Middle Ages
2. Chaucer's Biography
3. The Canterbury Tales
Characters: "The Prologue"
4. The English Language in the 14th Century
Chaucer and Dialectology
5. The Canterbury Tales on the Screen
The Reeve's and Miller's Tale
Events that Influenced
English History and Literature
The Crusades (1095 - 1270) were a series of wars waged by European Christians against Muslims
1. Jerusalem and the Holy Land was the prize
2. The Europeans failed, but they benefited enormously from contact with the higher civilization of the Middle East
Thomas Becket (1170)
Thomas, a Norman, has risen to great power under his friend King Henry II (reigned 1154-1189)
All Christians belonged to the Catholic Church
The Pope in those days was enormously powerful and controlled most of the crowned heads of Europe
Henry hoped to gain the upper hand in disputes with the Church but often Thomas took the pope's side
Four of Henry's knights murdered Becket in his own cathedral. Becket became a martyr, and public outrage turned against King Henry
This outrage helped to develop the concept of corruption in the Church because the Church was allowed to gain greater power
The Shrine of Saint Thomas Becket became a popular destination for religious pilgrimages during the Middle Ages
In 1215 English barons forced King John (who was backed strongly by the pope) to sign the Magna Carta as an effort to curb the Church's power
- Heralded a return to older, democratic tendencies
- This document later became the basis for English Constitutional Law
Hundred Years' War
The English and French entered into the Hundred Years' War (1337- 1453) because two English kings were claiming they were to take the French throne
The English lost the Hundred Years' War, but in the process they began to think themselves as British rather than Anglo-Norman
- This may be considered the first national war waged by England against France
- Based on dubious claims to the Throne of France by two English Kings: Edward III and Henry V
- After the war England was no longer best represented by the knight. Instead, they were represented by the yeoman (small landowner)
- English national consciousness gradually developed
The Middle Ages in England
The Canterbury Tales
The English Language in the 14th Century
The Canterbury Tales on Screen and other Curiosities
The Knights' Tale
But for to tellen yow of his array,
His hors were goode, but he was nat gay.
Of fustian he wered a gypon
Al bismotered with his habergeon,
For he was late ycome from his viage,
And wente for to doon his pilgrymage.
the Knight's Tale is a romance, though a very unusual one, rather than a pseudo-classical epic;
its high style, learned astrological references, and heavy infusion of philosophical, mainly Boethian themes set it apart from most English popular romances of the time.
Yet its emphasis on the noble life, the courtly love of Palamon and Arcite for Emelye, and the concern with duels, tournaments, and aristocratic ceremonial show its concern with matters of romance in its broader sense.
The Miller's Tale
A swerd and bokeler bar he by his syde.
. . .
A whit cote and a blew hood wered he.
A bagpipe wel koude he blow and sowne,
And therwithal he brought us out of towne.
Prefers sport to work - also gre and dishonest
The Miller's Tale is Chaucer's finest fabliau; indeed, it is the best of all the fabliaux in English or French.
It embodies two widespread motifs -- "The Misdirected Kiss." and the "Second Flood."
The Miller's Tale also makes full use of the parodic echoes of courtly love so often found in the fabliaux, though Alisoun is more a barnyard beauty than a courtly lady
The Miller is a churl who attempts to "quit" the Knight's Tale, so admired by the "gentils."
The Reeve's Tale
The Reeve sat upon a ful good stot
That was pomely grey and highte Scot.
A long surcote of pers upon he hade,
And by his syde he baar a rusty blade.
The Reeve's Tale is, of course, one of Chaucer's fabliaux, and it is apparently based directly on a previously existing French fabliau
The Reeve's Tale is notable for its use of the Northern dialect in the Clerk's speech. The Northern dialect was especially grating on the ears of those who spoke the Midlands or Southern varieties of speech
The Cook's Tale
(The Cook extends a dish in one hand and holds a meathook in the other.)
Wel koude he rooste, and sethe, and broille, and fry,
Maken mortreux, and wel bake a pye.
But greet harm was it, as it thought me,
That on his shin a mormal hadde he.
For blankmanger, that made he with the beste.
A servant low on the social ladder
The Man of Law's Tale
The Ellesmere portraitist did not have much to work on in his portrait of The Man of Law; he provided him with the "coif" that marks a Sergeant at Law, and followed what little description Chaucer provided:
He rood but hoomly in a medlee cote,
Girt with a ceint of silk, with barres smale;
Of his array telle I no lenger tale.
The Tale told by the Man of Law also appears in John Gower's Confession Amantis.
That fact is important to the Introduction to The Man of Law's Tale: in that introduction, the Man of Law first praises Chaucer for his exaltation of women and he lists the heroines of Chaucer's Legend of Good Women (along with others who may or may not have been intended for later inclusion in that work).
Then he says that Chaucer would never tell such "cursed stories" as the tales of Canace and Machaire and of Appolonius of Tyre. Both are stories of incest; both tales also appear in the work of his friend, John Gower in his Confessio Amantis
The Wife of Bath's Tale
The Wife of Bath's whip comes from her Prologue (cf. line 175); the other details are from the portrait in the GP:
Upon an amblere esily she sat,
Ywympled wel, and on hir heed an hat
As brood as is a bokeler or a targe;
A foot-mantel aboute hir hipes large,
And on hir feet a paire of spores sharpe.
Thinks herself higher in rank
The Wife of Bath's tale is a brief Arthurian romance incorporating the widespread theme of the "loathly lady," which also appears in John Gower's Tale of Florent.
It is the story of a woman magically transformed into an ugly shape who can be restored to her former state only by some specific action -- the feminine version of "The Frog Prince" in fairy tales. For example, the Lady of Sinadoune in the Fair Unknown romances is transformed into a serpent
It is almost as surprising to find this doctrine of love in The Wife of Bath's Tale as it is to find her quoting Dante
The Friar's Tale
For ther he was nat lyk a cloysterer
With a thredbare cope, as is a povre scoler,
But he was lyk a maister or a pope.
Of double worstede was his semycope,
That rounded as a belle out of the presse.
Lower level of clergy - Chaucer's Friar is corrupt
The mendicant friar is a frequent figure, often satirical, in later Middle English.
The Friar's Tale is directly aimed at the Summoner, who is his professional rival
The Friar is a preacher and his tale employs a favorite device of preachers of the time, the exemplum. This is a brief story told to illustrate a moral point. They were a very popular form of literature.
The Summoner's Tale
In his hand the Summoner holds a summons:
A SOMONOUR was ther with us in that place,
That hadde a fyr-reed cherubynnes face,
For saucefleem he was, with eyen narwe.
. . .
A gerland hadde he set upon his heed,
As greet as it were for an ale-stake.
A bokeleer hadde he maad hym of a cake.
The Summoner's Prologue and Tale belong to the extensive body of contemporary literature attacking the Friars, so-called "Anti-Fraternal" texts
The tale belongs to the category of "the satiric legacy," of which there are a number of examples
The Summoner's Tale is a fabliau , but the surviving fabliaux offer almost no analogues. The only one that comes anywhere near Chaucer's tale in either action or in respect to characterization is a French fabliau by Jacques de Baisieux:
The Clerk's Tale
As leene was his hors as is a rake,
And he nas nat right fat, I undertake,
But looked holwe, and therto sobrely.
Ful thredbare was his overeste courtepy,
. . .
For hym was levere have at his beddes heed
Twenty bookes, clad in blak or reed,
Of Aristotle and his philosophie
Than robes riche, or fithele, or gay sautrie.
The Host pleads with the Clerk not to use the high style, and the Clerk complies with a tale told in a simple and straightforward manner
The tale is ultimately based on some folk tale such as that embodied in the story of Cupid and Psyche, first told by Apuleius (2nd Cent. B.C.), a variant of the Beauty and the Beast motif.
Most interpretations of the tale assume it is a "religious fable," as Petrarch seemed to believe. The tale is taken as purely symbolic and Griselda is regarded as a type of Job.
The Merchant's Tale
A MARCHANT was ther with a forked berd,
In mottelee, and hye on horse he sat;
Upon his heed a Flaundryssh bever hat,
His bootes clasped faire and fetisly.
More facade than real wealth
The most important sources of the Merchant's Tale appear among the Canterbury Tales themselves. The debate on marriage draws upon the Prologue of the Wife of Bath,
The Squire's Tale
A lovyere and a lusty bacheler,
With lokkes crulle as they were leyd in presse.
. . .
Embrouded was he, as it were a meede
Al ful of fresshe floures, whyte and reede.
Syngynge he was, or floytynge, al the day;
He was as fressh as is the month of May.
Short was his gowne, with sleves longe and wyde.
Wel koude he sitte on hors and faire ryde.
The Squire's Tale is left unfinished; perhaps that is just as well: the plot implied in the final lines would require a tale longer than the Knight's Tale for its completion.
Like Sir Thopas, it is a romance, but whereas Thopas is an old-fashioned minstrel romance, tbe Squire's Tale is in the mode of the fantastic verse romance which was to come to flower in the works of Boiardo, Pulci, and Ariosto in the next century.
The Franklin's Tale
Whit was his berd as is the dayesye;
Of his complexioun he was sangwyn.
. . .
An anlaas and a gipser al of silk
Heeng at his girdel, whit as morne milk.
The Franklin's Tale has long been regarded as the culmination of "The Marriage Group," the discussion of marriage that extends at least from the Wife of Bath's Prologue to the the Franklin's Tale, which has traditionally been taken as in some sense resolving the "marriage question" proposed by the Wife of Bath -- who should rule in a marriage?
The Franklin is a man who loves domestic ease and (one assumes) tranquility; compromise, some critics argue, comes naturally to him as the easy way out.
The Physician's Tale
The "urinal" that the doctor is examining comes from Harry Bailey's words in the Introduction to the Pardoner's Tale, the richness of his attire from the General Prologue:
In sangwyn and in pers he clad was al,
Lyned with taffata and with sendal.
And yet he was but esy of dispence;
He kepte that he wan in pestilence.
For gold in phisik is a cordial,
Therefore he lovede gold in special.
The Pardoner's Tale
This Pardoner hadde heer as yelow as wex,
But smothe it heeng as dooth a strike of flex;
By ounces henge his lokkes that he hadde,
And therwith he his shuldres overspradde;
But thynne it lay, by colpons oon and oon.
. . .
Swiche glarynge eyen hadde he as an hare.
A vernycle hadde he sowed upon his cappe.
His walet, biforn hym in his lappe,
Bretful of pardoun comen from Rome al hoot.
. . .
He hadde a croys of latoun ful of stones,
And in a glas he hadde pigges bones.
The Pardoner's Prologue is, like those of the Wife of Bath and Canon's Yeoman, an "apologia" or "literary confession," in which a character explains his or her way of life
The Prioress's Tale
The Prioress rides side-saddle, a lady-like practise that had but recently come into style:
Ful semyly hir wympul pynched was,
Hir nose tretys, hir eyen greye as glas,
Hir mouth ful smal, and therto softe and reed.
But sikerly she hadde a fair forheed;
. . .
Ful fetys was hir cloke, as I was war.
Of smal coral aboute hire arm she bar
A peire of bedes, gauded al with grene. . .
Closer to aristocracy than other clergy
The Prioress' Tale is a "miracle of the Virgin," a popular genre of devotional literature. The stories are short, often like children's fairy tales, with the figure of the Jew playing the part of the "boogie man," from whom the Virgin, like a fairy godmother, protects the heroes and heroines.
It appealed especially to nineteenth-century poets and critics. Matthew Arnold used a line from it to illustrate Chaucer's finest verse, and William Wordsworth translated it into modern English.
Despite the teaching of the Popes, anti-semitism remained a permanent feature of medieval life; and Chaucer repeats the calumny.
1340-45 Birth of Chaucer.
1348-50 The Black Death; see the chilling description of the Plague in Boccaccio's Decameron, the introduction to the First Day.
1349-51 Boccaccio's Decameron.
1357 Chaucer a page in the household of the Countess of Ulster.
1359-60 Chaucer serves in the war in France.
1360 Chaucer, captured by the French, is ransomed (for 16 pounds).
1360's Langland's Piers Plowman (The "A text").
1366 Chaucer marries Philippa Roet, a lady-in-waiting in the Queen's household.
1366 Chaucer travels to Spain.
1366 Death of John Chaucer, Chaucer's father.
1367 Birth of Chaucer's son, Thomas.
1367 Chaucer serves as a "valettus" and later as a squire in the court of Edward III; granted a payment of 20 marks per annum for life.
1368 Chaucer travels to the continent (France probably) on "the King's service."
1369 Chaucer serves with John of Gaunt's army in France.
1370 Chaucer again serves with the army in France.
1370 Birth of John Lydgate, admirer and imitator of Chaucer (died 1450).
1372 Chaucer's wife Philippa in the household of John of Gaunt's wife.
1372 Chaucer travels to Italy (Genoa and Florence) on a diplomatic mission.
1374 Death of Petrarch.
1374 Chaucer granted a gallon pitcher of wine daily for life.
1374 Chaucer is appointed controller of the customs; granted a lease on a dwelling over Aldgate.
1380 Birth of Chaucer's second son, Lewis.
1380 Chaucer writes The Parliament of Fowls.
1381 Death of Chaucer's mother, Agnes Chaucer.
1382-86 Chaucer writes Boece, Troilus and Criseyede.
1385-89 Chaucer serves as justice of peace for Kent.
1386 Chaucer serves as member of Parliament for Kent
1387-92 Chaucer begins The Canterbury Tales.
1392-95 Chaucer writes most of The Canterbury Tales, including probably "The Marriage Group.
1396-1400 Chaucer writes the latest of the Tales, including probably The Nun's Priest's Tale, The Canon's Yeoman's Tale (though part is probably earlier), the Parson's Tale, and several short poems, including the envoys to Scogan and Bukton and the "Complaint to His Purse."
1400 Chaucer's death (on 25 October, according to tradition).
Framed tale. The bringing together of a collection of stories
The work - unfinished 22 finished at death ( 120 original idea)
It was nothing like it in English language
A. Chaucer's Three Estates
1. The Clergy - those who pray
2. The aristocracy - those who fight
3. The commons - those who work
Tale - an attempt to portray and reach all social classes
B. 13th - 14th century - emerge of a bureaucratic and commercial class- more literature in colloquial speech. Expansion of the language of the common person.
C. Readership in Chaucer's time
1. Includes the upper ends of the commons
a. Non-noble rural gentry
b. Upwardly mobile set of urban population
c. Many urban people wanted to inmate the lifestyle of the aristocracy (The Monk)
D. Attempt to write for all
E. Chaucer's characters - chief classes of English 14th century not including ROyals or serfs - except the idealized plowman
First characters -
The Canon's Yeoman's Tale
The Canon's Yeoman joins the journey too late to be described in the General Prologue; the illuminator made little use of the indication of the Yeoman's appearance in his Prologue and Tale, unless we are to take his reddish face as the result of his work in the laboratory (though the Canon's Yeoman himself says his cheeks are without redness (CYT 1097).
The Renaissance rather than the Middle Ages was the age in which alchemy flourished; however, alchemy was becoming increasingly popular in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and it was discussed in popular treatments of science, such as that found in Gower's Confessio amantis, which includes a survey of scientific knowledge, and in the popular handbook for princes, the Secreta secretorum, which purported to be a letter from Aristotle to Alexander containing instructions necessary to a ruler.
a. Not as high as aristocracy - Responsible for spiritual "well-being"
b. By 14th century - many seem more interested in living like aristocracy in spiritual well-being
a. secular priests - parish priests, rectors, vicars ... not sworn to celibacy
b. regular clergy - monks, friars, nuns
General Prologue - reflects common view of the clergy in medieval times - rarely devout or spiritual
The Monk's Tale
Ful many a deyntee hors hadde he in stable,
And whan he rood, men myghte his brydel heere
Gynglen in a whistlynge wynd als cleere
And eek as loude as dooth the chapel belle
Ther as this lord was kepere of the celle.
I seigh his sleves purfiled at the hond
With grys, and that the fyneste of a lond;
And for to festne his hood under his chyn,
He hadde of gold ywroght a ful curious pyn;
A love-knotte in the gretter ende ther was.
His bootes souple, his hors in greet estaat.
Now certeinly he was a fair prelaat;
His palfrey was as broun as is a berye.
A "wannabe" aristocrat
The Monk has seemed to many a very bad monastic type, flouting all the rules of his order.
The Parson's Tale
The Parson is represented in a suitably devout pose, with his arms solemnly crossed, but the illustrator found little else for his characterization. It is the one portrait in The General Prologue without a single line of physical description.
The "idealized" one. Prefers common people to clergy
The tale he tells is in prose (he scorns verse) and is not a fable, a tale, but rather a treatise on penance,
The Nun's Priest's Tale
The Nun's Priest is barely mentioned in the General Prologue, where we are told only:
Another NONNE with hire hadde she,
That was hir chapeleyne, and preestes thre.
We learn later, in the Prologue to the Nun's Priest's Tale that his horse is a very poor one:
Be blithe, though thou ryde upon a jade,
What though thyn hors be bothe foule and lene?
Beyond that, the illuminator was left to his own devices; he did not do very well, even with the horse.
The Nun's Priest's Tale is ultimately based on the fable "Del cok e del gupil" ("The Cock and the Fox") by Marie de France .
Use position for person gain
97% of population
The Shipman's Tale
He rood upon a rouncy, as he kouthe,
In a gowne of faldyng to the knee.
A daggere hangynge on a laas hadde he
Aboute his nekke, under his arm adoun.
The hoote somer hadde maad his hewe al broun.
Seems more of a pirate
The Shipman's Tale is a fabliau . Its setting in France and even its use of French phrases, perhaps as a touch of "local color," distinguish it sharply from works such as the Miller's and Reeve's Tales, which are clearly set in Chaucer's own place and time
The Manciple's Tale
There is no physical description of the Manciple in the General Prologue; perhaps the general prosperity of this figure reflects his sharp practices.
A gentil MAUNCIPLE was ther of a temple,
Of which achatours myghte take exemple
For to be wise in byynge of vitaille;
For wheither that he payde or took by taille,
Algate he wayted so in his achaat
That he was ay biforn and in good staat.
Smart but low in the social scale
The Manciple's Tale is the last work of fiction in The Canterbury Tales
Represent the criminal world
Job to protect clergy and commons
Only 1% of population
The Black Death or bubonic plague ( 1348- 1349) delivered another blow to feudalism
1. Very contagious; spread by fleas from infected rats
2. Reduced the nation's population by 1/3
- This was approximately 34 million people
- This caused a labor shortage which gave the lower class more leverage against their overlords
3. One long term result was the serfs' freedom and greater power to lower class
4. This led to the end of feudalism marking the end of the Middle Ages
5. Common Remedies: Apply sterile egg whites, give the patient a treacle, Swaddle the patient and shave the sign of the cross into her head
Women in the Middle Ages
Peasant Women - clean, bear children, field work
Higher Station supervise housework
A woman was always expected to be subservient to a male - regardless of relation
A woman’s husband or father’s position in the feudal system determined her position.
No political rights
Chivalry led to an idealized attitude toward women and gave rise to a new form of literature - the Romance
A. Chivalry was a system of ideals and social codes governing the behavior of knights and gentlewomen
1. Adhere to one's oath of loyalty to the overlord
2. Observe certain rules of warfare
3. The Code of Chivalry did not extend to peasants
a. The "weak" was widely interpreted as "noble women and children"
b. Thus, knights were often brutal to common folk
c. Knights could rape young peasant women without fear of reprisal, all because they were part of the upper class.
Should honor, serve, and do nothing to displease ladies and maidens
Were members of the noble class socially as bearers of arms, economically was owners of horse and armor, and officially through religious orientated ceremony
Believed in the code of chivalry
Promised to defend the weak
Be courteous to all women
Be loyal to their king
Serve God at all times
Were expected to be humble before others, especially their superiors. They were also expected to not "talk too much"
Were to give mercy to a vanquished enemy
However, the very fact that knights were trained as men of war belied this code
Came from rich families, but many were not the firstborn, so they did not receive an inheritance
Plundered villages or cities that they captured, often defiling and destroying churches and other property.
Belonged to a multitude of specific Orders,each established for one purpose or another
Most orders emphasized components of piety, faith, humility, chastity or some other worthy ideals
Society in Middle Ages
The three estates
1. The clergy - those who pray
2. The aristocracy - those who fight
3. The common - those who work
SETTING : April, The Tabard Inn
Prologue - 29 pilgrims, the narrator, and the inn host are introduced
The 29 are spending the night at the Tabard Inn.
The Narrator says he will describe and repeat everything he hears no matter how offensive
The Host proposes that each pilgrim tell 2 tales on the way To Canterbury and back
The best tale will win dinner at the Inn.
The Miller's and Reeve's Tale
Juliette Deer - Suggests trying to determine the origins of the pilgrims and/or of the characters dealt with the tales. In fact, it looks as if he wanted to hint at the origin of some of his pilgrims, leaving it open for us to understand or not from which part of the country they come.
In Chaucer's own words, the pilgrims come "from every shires ende"
1) from definite places in England ( to exclusion of London and East Anglia)
1) CLERK : from OXFORD
2) SHIPMAN : from DARTMOUTH
3) WIFE OF BATH : from BATH
2) from anywhere: he is clearly not interested in their geographical origins: lack of information in the General Prologue but also in the tales:
2) SQUIRE: his son
3) no precise localization, but let us guess:
1) MAN OF LAW and FRANKLIN: They seem to have been identified with real persons from LINCOLNSHIRE or NORFOLK, besides the English part of the Man of Law's Tale takes place in Northumbria. He has reached a high position in social hierarchy
2) MILLER: information of him is from his tale and conversational sections. He localized his tale in OXFORD. Important opposition between the Miller and the Reeve. (Oxford - Cambridge opposition)
4) from anywhere in the country ( but not London), the place has a positive value. The point is that it is outside London
1) PARSON : He does not follow the general tendency to go to London to make money: Langland and Chaucer deplore that most parish priests should try to settle in London because their parishes have become too poor to live in.
Canterbury Tales = London = represents money and prestige
5) from LONDON
1) FIVE GUILDSMEN
4) PRIORESS : Her French it is a well-known fact as been French of STRATFORD ATTE BOWE (outside London, few miles from Greenwich) This variety of French has social implications: she has not learn French at the court, but paradoxically enough, that detail also informs us about her English
5) SECOND NUN and 3 PRIESTS:
6) PARDONER : Charing Cross
6) from East Anglia (YORKSHIRE and NORTHUMBERLAND)
3) SUMMONER : he localizes his tale in YORKSHIRE (linguistically UGLY)
4) REEVE: from Baldeswell, NORFOLK . Place of important source of immigration to London
Chaucer dialects = geographical origins = matter of social integration gradation in process of Londolization.