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The Canterbury Tales
 1342-1400
 Born
to a middle class family
 His father was a wine merchant who
believed his child should have a formal
 Odd jobs = page, courtier, diplomat, civil
servant, scrap metal collector
 Travelled all over Europe
 Fluent
in English, Italian, Latin, and
 Worked as a government official under
three different kings = high social status
 Was captured as a POW during the
Hundred Year’s War  King paid his
 Died of unknown causes – murder
 Chaucer was one of the first writers to be
buried in the Poets’ Corner in
Westminster Abbey.
Often called the father of English poetry
Most scholars still wrote in Latin
Felt English lacked sophistication and had a limited
Only local stories and ballads written in English
He wrote in the vernacular or language of the commoners
Now known as Middle English
A story in which the character, settings, and events stand for
abstract or moral concepts.
 It has a literal meaning and a symbolic meaning.
 Popular in the Middle Ages.
Satire: a way of criticizing something such as a group of
people or a system, in which the writer deliberately make
them seem funny so that people will see their faults.
Rhythmic pattern: he introduced the iambic pentameter.
Lack of alliteration
Best known for writing The Canterbury Tales, but also
produced several other works
During the French period he wrote poems modelled on
French romance styles and subjects like:
The Romaunt of the Rose (before 1373), which introduces the
reader into medieval court behaviour in relation to courtly love;
 The Boke of the Duchesse (ca. 1369), a personal elegy in which the
knight in black tells of his grief for the loss of his wife and this
grief is then made the universal grief of all men for the death of
all young, good wives.
During the Italian period he wrote
The Parliament of Foules (ca. 1380) which introduces the reader
into one of the most popular genres of medieval literature, the
Bird and the Beast Fable.
 The House of Fame (ca. 1383), a masterpiece of comic fantasy
dealing with the contemplation of the vanity of human wishes.
 The Legende of Good Women (ca. 1385) which is about the
unhappy fate of women who suffered in the cause of love.
 Troylus and Criseyde (ca. 1380-5), a long poem adapted from
Boccaccio which reveals a subtle psychological insight into the
development of characters.
Although the work was never completed, The Canterbury
Tales is considered one of the greatest works in the
English language
 The narrator meets 29 pilgrims at the Tabard Inn in
London and travels with them to the shrine of St.Thomas
Becket in Canterbury. The host of the inn suggests that
each pilgrim should tell two stories while going to
Canterbury and two on the way back: whoever can tell
the best tale wins a dinner at the inn when they get back,
courtesy of the other travelers.
o While the genre of the Canterbury Tales as a whole is a
"frame narrative," the General Prologue to
the Canterbury Tales is an example of "Estates
Satire," a genre which satirizes the abuses that occur
within the three traditional Estates (in particular, the
Feudal society was traditionally divided into three
"estates" (roughly equivalent to social classes).
The "First Estate" was the Church (clergy = those
who prayed).
The "Second Estate" was the Nobility (those who
fought = knights). It was common for aristocrats to
enter the Church and thus shift from the second to
the first estate.
The "Third Estate" was the Peasantry (everyone
else, at least under feudalism: those who produced the
food which supported those who prayed and those
who fought, the members of the First and Second
Begun: 1386
Planned: 120 tales
Completed: 22 and 2 fragments
Narrator (“Chaucer”)
Host = L’Oste
Knight = Il Cavaliere
Squire = Lo Scudiero
Yeoman = Il piccolo
proprietario terriero
Prioress = La Madre Priora
Second Nun = La seconda
Three Priests = Tre preti
Monk = il Monaco
Friar = il Frate
Merchant = il Mercante
Clerk = il Chierico
Man of Law = L’uomo di
Franklin = L’Allodoliere
Guildsmen = Gli uomini della Gilda
Cook = Il Cuoco
Shipman = Il Marinaio
Physician = Il Medico
Wife of Bath = La signora di Bath
Parson = Il Parroco
Plowman = L’Aratore
Manciple = L’Economo
Reeve = Il Fattore
Miller = Il Mugnaio
Summoner = L’ Apparitore o cursore
Pardoner = L’Indulgenziere