The Canterbury Tales

Front Cover
Wordsworth Editions Limited, 2012 - Canterbury (England) - 743 pages
During his life, Geoffrey Chaucer (born c.1340) was courtier, diplomat, revenue collector, administrator, negotiator, overseer of building projects, landowner and knight of the shire. He was servant, retainer, husband, friend and father, but is now mainly known as a poet and 'the father of English literature', a postion to which he was raised by other writers in the generation after his death. It was Boccaccio's Decameron which inspired Chaucer, in the 1390s, to begin work on The Canterbury Tales, which was still unfinished at his death in October 1400. It tells the story of a group of 30 pilgrims who meet at the Tabard Inn in Southwark, on the south bank of the Thames opposite the city of London, and travel together to visit the then famous shrine of St Thomas Becket in Canterbury cathedral. The tavern host, who accompanies them, suggests that they amuse one another along the way by telling stories, with the best storyteller awarded a meal in the tavern (paid for by all the others) on their return. The stories told by the pilgrims range from bawdy comedies through saints' lives and moral tracts to courtly romances, always delivered with a generous helping of Chaucer's own sly wit and ironic humour. Although basing his characters on the stereotypes of 'estates satire', Chaucer succeeds in his aim of producing an overview of his times and their culture, for posterity, in the manner of Italian, proto-Renaissance, writers.This transcription and edition is taken from British Library MS Harley 7334, produced within ten years of Chaucer's death. The on-page notes and glosses aim to enable readers with little or no previous experience of medieva

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About the author (2012)

Geoffrey Chaucer, one of England's greatest poets, was born in London about 1340, the son of a wine merchant and deputy to the king's butler and his wife Agnes. Not much is known of Chaucer's early life and education, other than he learned to read French, Latin, and Italian. His experiences as a civil servant and diplomat are said to have developed his fascination with people and his knowledge of English life. In 1359-1360 Chaucer traveled with King Edward III's army to France during the Hundred Years' War and was captured in Ardennes. He returned to England after the Treaty of Bretigny when the King paid his ransom. In 1366 he married Philippa Roet, one of Queen Philippa's ladies, who gave him two sons and two daughters. Chaucer remained in royal service traveling to Flanders, Italy, and Spain. These travels would all have a great influence on his work. His early writing was influenced by the French tradition of courtly love poetry, and his later work by the Italians, especially Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch. Chaucer wrote in Middle English, the form of English used from 1100 to about 1485. He is given the designation of the first English poet to use rhymed couplets in iambic pentameter and to compose successfully in the vernacular. Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is a collection of humorous, bawdy, and poignant stories told by a group of fictional pilgrims traveling to the shrine of St. Thomas a Becket. It is considered to be among the masterpieces of literature. His works also include The Book of the Duchess, inspired by the death of John Gaunt's first wife; House of Fame, The Parliament of Fowls, and The Legend of Good Women. Troilus and Criseyde, adapted from a love story by Boccaccio, is one of his greatest poems apart from The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer died in London on October 25, 1400. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, in what is now called Poet's Corner.

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