The Canterbury Tales

Front Cover
Oxford University Press, 1971 - Christian pilgrims and pilgrimages - 632 pages
A retelling of the medieval poem about a group of travelers on a pilgrimage to Canterbury and the tales they tell each other. With their astonishing diversity of tone and subject matter, The Canterbury Tales have become one of the touchstones of medieval literature. Translated here into modern English, these tales of a motley crowd of pilgrims drawn from all walks of life-from knight to nun, miller to monk-reveal a picture of English life in the fourteenth century that is as robust as it is representative.

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About the author (1971)

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.

Walter William Skeat, English philologist, was born in London on November 21,1835, and educated at King's College School (Wimbledon), Highgate School, and Christ's College, Cambridge, of which he became a fellow in July 1860. His grandsons include the noted palaeographer T. C. Skeat and the stained glass painter Francis Skeat. Skeat's principal achievement was his Etymological English Dictionary. While preparing the dictionary he wrote hundreds of short articles on word origins for the London-based journal: Notes and Queries. Skeat is responsibel for coining the meaning of a "ghost word" --- a meaningless word that came into existence or acceptance, not by being derived through long-standing usage, nor by being coined at need, but only as the result of an error. His other works include: A Concise Dictionary of Middle English (1888), in conjunction with A. L. Mayhew; A Student's Pastime (1896), a volume of essays; The Chaucer Canon (1900); and A Primer of Classical and English Philology (1905). Skeat died in 1912.

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