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Transcript of Geoffrey Chaucer
and the Canterbury Tales
The Canterbury Tales
is a collection of
stories written in
at the end of the 14th century.
The tales are presented as part of a story-telling contest
by a group of pilgrims during their journey to the shrine of
S. Thomas Becket at the Canterbury Cathedral.
Who are Geoffrey
Geoffrey Chaucer, know as the father of
English literature, is considered the greatest
English poet of the
Period (lasted from the 5th to the 15th century)
and was the first poet to have been buried in
Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey.
Chaucer was born in London sometime around 1343, but the precise date and location of his birth remain unknown.
He joined the army in the
Hundred Years' War
and because of this he had the opportunity to travel in France, Spain, Flanders and
(in 1373) where he visited Genoa and Florence and maybe came into contact with Petrarch and Boccaccio. They introduced him to Medieval
Italian poetry and
the forms and stories he used later.
He is believed to have died of unknown causes on 25 October 1400, but there is no firm evidence for this date, as it comes from the engraving on his tomb, erected more than one hundred years after his death.
While he achieved fame during his lifetime as an author, translator, philosopher, alchemist and astronomer, composing a scientific treatise on the astrolabe for his ten year-old son Lewis, Chaucer also maintained an active career in the civil service as a bureaucrat,
(wrote exclusively for the nobility) and diplomat.
After a long list of works written earlier in his career, including
"The Book of the Duchess"
"Troilus and Criseyde"
"House of Fame"
"Parliament of Fowls"
The Canterbury Tales
was Chaucer's magnum opus.
Chaucer is a crucial figure in developing the legitimacy of the
, at a time when the dominant literary languages in England were French and Latin.
The Canterbury Tales was written during a turbulent time in English history.
Political clashes, such as the 1381
and clashes ending in the deposing of King Richard II, reveal the complex turmoil surrounding Chaucer in the time of the Tales' writing.
The Catholic Church was in the middle of the
and, though it was still the only Christian authority in Europe, was the subject of heavy controversy.
No other work prior to Chaucer's is known to have set a collection of tales within the framework of pilgrims on a pilgrimage. It is obvious, however, that Chaucer borrowed portions of his stories from earlier stories reading during his journey and was influenced by the general state of the literary world in which he lived. Storytelling was the main entertainment in England at the time, and storytelling contests had been around for hundreds of years.
, he may have read during his diplomatic mission to Italy, by Giovanni Boccaccio contains more parallels to the Canterbury Tales than any other work. Like the Tales, it features a number of narrators who tell stories along a journey they have undertaken (to flee from the Black Plague). It ends with an apology by Boccaccio, much like Chaucer's Retraction to the Tales and most of the Tales are similar in both works. A few sources are used frequently over several tales like poetry by Ovid, the Bible and the works of Petrarch and Dante. Chaucer was the first author to utilise the work of these last two, both Italians.
So the Tales reflect diverse views of the Church in Chaucer's England. After the
, many Europeans began to question the authority of the established Church. Rise new monastic orders or smaller movements that reveal
in the behaviour of the clergy, sale of false church relics or
abuse of indulgences
. Several characters in the Tales are religious figures: in particular the
Pardoner and the Summoner
are both portrayed as deeply corrupt, greedy, and abusive.
Churchmen of various kinds are represented by the Monk, the Prioress, the Nun's Priest, and the Second Nun. The Monk and the Prioress, on the other hand, while not as corrupt as the Summoner or Pardoner.
Pilgrimage was a very prominent feature of medieval society. Saint Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, had been murdered in Canterbury Cathedral by knights of Henry II during a disagreement between Church and Crown. Miracle stories connected to his remains sprang up soon after his death, and the cathedral became a popular pilgrimage destination.
Canterbury Tales is a
collection of stories
, largely linear, built around a
or frame tale, a common and already long established genre of its period.
In the General Prologue, Chaucer describes, not the tales to be told, but the people who will tell them, making it clear that
structure will depend on the characters rather than a general theme or moral
. There isn't a hierarchical order of the stories in fact is created a
free and open exchange of stories
among all classes present.
Lastly, Chaucer does not pay much attention to the progress of the trip, to the time passing as the pilgrims travel, or specific locations along the way to Canterbury. His writing of the story seems focused primarily on the stories being told, and not on the pilgrimage itself.
There are 83 known manuscripts of the work from the late medieval and early Renaissance period. This is taken as evidence of the tales' popularity during the century after Chaucer's death.
The most beautiful of the manuscripts of the tales is the Ellesmere Manuscript
He uses the tales and the descriptions of its characters to paint an ironic and critical portrait of English society at the time
Chaucer uses the same meter throughout almost all of his tales, with the exception of Sir Thopas and his prose tales. It is a
, probably borrowed from French and Italian forms, with riding
(form of heroic verse) and, occasionally, a caesura in the middle of a line. His meter would later develop into the heroic meter of the 15th and 16th centuries and is an ancestor of iambic pentameter. Chaucer is known for metrical innovation, inventing the
(a seven line rhyming stanza).
Chaucer is sometimes considered the source of the English vernacular tradition. His achievement for the language can be seen as part of a general historical trend towards the
creation of a vernacular literature
, after the example of Dante, in many parts of Europe.
Although Chaucer's language is much closer to Modern English than the text of Beowulf, there are
many differences on the pronunciation of the words
: Chaucer's generation of English-speakers was among the last to pronounce e at the end of words.
A KNYGHT ther was and that a worthy man,
That fro the tyme that he first bigan
To riden out, he loved chivalrie,
Trouthe and honour, fredom and curteisie.
Ful worthy was he in his lordes werre,
And therto hadde he riden, no man ferre,
As wel in cristendom as in hethenesse,
And evere honoured for his worthynesse.
At Alisaundre he was whan it was wonne;
Ful ofte tyme he hadde the bord bigonne
Aboven alle nacïons in Pruce;
In Lettow hadde he reysed and in Ruce,—
No cristen man so ofte of his degree.
In Gernade at the seege eek hadde he be
Of Algezir, and riden in Belmarye.
At Lyeys was he and at Satalye,
Whan they were wonne; and in the Grete See
At many a noble armee hadde he be.
A knight there was, and he a worthy man,
Who, from the moment that he first began
To ride about the world, loved chivalry,
Truth, honour, freedom and all courtesy.
Full worthy was he in his liege-lord's war,
And therein had he ridden (none more far)
As well in Christendom as heathenesse,
And honoured everywhere for worthiness.
At Alexandria, he, when it was won;
Full oft the table's roster he'd begun
Above all nations' knights in Prussia.
In Latvia raided he, and Russia,
No christened man so oft of his degree.
In far Granada at the siege was he
Of Algeciras, and in Belmarie.
At Ayas was he and at Satalye
When they were won; and on the Middle Sea
At many a noble meeting chanced to be.
The Knyght portrait
con sottofondo musicale: