Notes on “The Canterbury Tales”
in-class essay (2008)
Mr. Cleon M. McLean
A.P. English
Ontario High School
Big Picture Issues
What is the difference between data and
Still, a lot of telling (NOT correct thing to do),
and not a lot of showing (correct thing to do)
Telling is simply a restating (non-processing) of
information; there is no analysis here
Showing requires description and some level of
analysis of information so that the
listener/reader gains new insight or mental
Big Picture Issues
Whenever you’re given a particular
phrase or word in your prompt, use
it repeatedly—in many forms—in
your essay.
E.g., “thoughtful laughter”
• Thought=think, ponder, reflect, cogitate,
study, surmise, infer, muse, etc
• Laughter= merriment, glee, amusement
Big Picture Issues
What are the differences among
commentary, analysis, and
Commentary: to express an opinion
about something
 Analysis: the process/method of
studying the nature of something
 Judgment: a conclusive opinion
reached after an analysis
It is down-right offensive to not capitalize Old
English, Middle English, or English. Remember,
the people who will grade your AP essays might
be hoary, traditionalist AP English teachers,
much like your own.
When should you use “who” versus when should
you use “whom”? You only use WHOM after a
preposition. (A preposition shows the relation
between two nouns). The ball is on the table.
E.g., for whom, to whom, by whom, on whom, etc
Spell numbers under 10
 The apostrophe “s” is used either to
show possessive or to show
contraction. It is not some random
thing that anglophiles love to do.
E.g. of possessive: Mary’s hat. (The hat
belongs to Mary)
 E.g. of contraction: It’s hot! (meaning
“it is” hot)
Spelling issues
 Herd (meaning “heard”)
 Writting
 Descuised
 Beautifull
 Truely
Proscriptions: what NOT to
Do not say, “Chaucer says this quote…”
(even in this setup, you are prepared to
tell information, instead of showing it…as
you should)
Rather, say, “In these blank verse lines,
Chaucer paints a picture of…
Shy away from using “in conclusion”…it is
too training-wheels and passive-like.
Try using “In brief,” “In essence,” “In
short,” “In closing”…all of these sound
Proscriptions: what NOT to
DO NOT use rhetorical questions
(questions which do not require
answers) in your literary analysis
William the Conquer did NOT invade
England in the Late Medieval Period.
 Any doodling of any sort will earn
you a lower grade on your AP
essays, because graders see this as
a waste of valuable time!
 What is wrong with the following:
“TCT” uses literary devices…
In literary analysis essays, refrain
from using personal pronouns, such
as “I” and “you”.
Literary analysis essays need to be as
objective as possible. Personal
pronouns only make them subjective
• Subjective means coming from the
• Objective means based on facts and
Never say “which” for a person.
Never miss a chance to weave in a literary term,
background information, or any piece of specific
WRONG: “The old man which the rioters meet..”
RIGHT: “The old man who the rioters meet…”
E.g., The Pardoner, a corrupt Late Medieval church
official, preaches against the dangers of avarice, while
ironically living just such a life.
Death is personified in “The Pardoner’s Tale,” so
capitalize the “D”
…about “TCT”
Distinguish between the Prologue (first
story) and the 24 tales (second stories).
For “TCT”, you should not simply say “the
story,” because that would be confusing
Given that a few students used the VHS
version of “The Pardoner’s Tale” to
SUMMARIZE! The tale, I am thinking of
not showing any more videos. What do
you think?
…about “TCT”
No need to thank Chaucer for anything! “Thanks
to Chaucer, Middle English was accepted…” (This
is a gross generalization)
There are three types of ironies, so it is
important that you specify about which one you
are referring.
Dramatic irony: when the reader/audience knows more
than the character
Verbal irony: the meaning that the speaker implies
differs from the meaning that is expressed.
Situational irony:when a situation turns out differently
than expected (not as an opposite)