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Chaucer and Canterbury Tales

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a brief overview of the life of Chaucer and of his Canterbury Tales; adapted from Guadalupe Roque Polo

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Chaucer and Canterbury Tales

  1. 1. Geoffrey Chaucer and Canterbury Tales
  2. 2. GEOFFREY CHAUCER • He was born in London in the early 1340s. • He came from a merchant family, but due to his father’s wealth he became a page in the household of Prince Lionel. • He served in the Hundred Years’ War both as a soldier and a diplomat. • He was sent several times on important diplomatic missions to France and Italy. • In Italy he might have met Boccaccio, whose writing influenced his work, and Petrarch • He held many important positions as a government official such as Controller of the Customs, justice of the peace, Clerk of the Works, etc. which meant that he could learn a lot about how things worked in the country at the time • He died on October 25, 1400, and was buried at Westminster Abbey.
  3. 3. BY GEOFFREY CHAUCER
  4. 4. The Canterbury Tales • The Canterbury Tales documents the various social tensions in the manner of the popular genre of estates satire • However, the narrator refrains from making overt political statements, and what he does say is in no way thought to represent Chaucer's own sentiments.
  5. 5. The Canterbury Tales • Estate satire is a genre of writing from 14th Century, Medieval literary works. The three Medieval estates were the Church (those who prayed), the Nobility (those who fought) and lastly the Peasantry (those who labored). These estates were the major social classes of the time and were gender specific to men. They praised the glories and purity of each class, but estate satires were used as a window to show how society had gotten out of hand.
  6. 6. The Canterbury Tales • Chaucer's project was to create a literature and poetic language for all classes of society, and he succeeded at that •Today Chaucer still stands as one of the great shapers of literary narrative and character. •The Canterbury Tales is written in Middle English, which bears a close visual resemblance to the English written and spoken today.
  7. 7. The Canterbury Tales In late 1370s Chaucer began to develop his vision of an English poetry that would be linguistically accessible to all—obedient neither to the court, whose official language was French, nor to the Church, whose official language was Latin. Instead, Chaucer wrote in the vernacular, the English that was spoken in and around London in his day. Undoubtedly, he was influenced by the writings of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, who wrote in the Italian vernacular. Even in England, the practice was becoming increasingly common among poets, although many were still writing in French and Latin.
  8. 8. The Canterbury Tales • Chaucer had been influenced by the great French and Italian writers of his age, works like Boccaccio's Decameron • However, these were not accessible to most English readers, so the format of The Canterbury Tales, and the intense realism of its characters, were virtually unknown to the readers in the fourteenth century before Chaucer
  9. 9. The Canterbury Tales The work stands as a historical and sociological introduction to the life and times of the late Middle Ages. (During Chaucer's time, regardless how brilliant and talented one might be, there was no way for a commoner to move from his class into the aristocracy. Chaucer, however, made that leap as well as anyone could. As a commoner, he was familiar with and was accepted by the lower classes as well as by the higher classes; thus, throughout his life, he was able to observe both the highest and the lowest, and his gifted mind made the best of these opportunities.)
  10. 10. The Canterbury Tales Chaucer came up with the ingenuous literary device of having a pilgrimage, a technique that allowed him to bring together a diverse group of people (in Decameron, all the characters belong to the same class). Thus Chaucer's narrators represent a wide spectrum of society with various ranks and occupations - from the distinguished and noble Knight, we descend through the pious abbess (the Prioress), the honorable Clerk, the rich landowner (the Franklin), the worldly and crude Wife, and on down the scale to the low, vulgar Miller and Carpenter, and the corrupt Pardoner.
  11. 11. PLOT OF THE CANTERBURY TALES At the Tabard Inn, the narrator joins a company of 29 pilgrims. The pilgrims, like the narrartor, are travelling to the shrine of the martyr Saint Thomas Becket in Canterbury.
  12. 12. The narrator gives a description of 27 of these pilgrims, including for example: Perfect and genteel man who loved truth, freedom and honor. The most socially prominent person on the journey; the battles he fought were all religious wars of some nature. Rich and powerful rising middle class; well- dressed. No one would tell he was deeply in debt. Student at Oxford; extremely thin on a thin horse; he wears worn clothes; and he is one of the most admired people in the group of pilgrims.
  13. 13. He is poor, but rich in holy thoughts and works; live the perfect life first and then teach it. True Christian priest. A church official who had authority from Rome to sell pardon and indulgence to those charged with sins. One of the most corrupt of the churchmen. In the prologue to his tale, he confesses to his hypocrisy. He knows astronomy and something of nature; but nothing of the Bible. Made a lot of money during the plague. He loves gold. He is an able lawyer; makes people think that he is busier and wiser than he really is.
  14. 14. She is a lively woman who has been married five times and makes many humorous remarks about sex. Her story provides insight into the role of women in the Late Middle Ages She is a woman of two faces. She is introduced in the General Prologue as an aristocratic, genteel, pious nun, but she is a raving bigot, because her tale is full of anti-Semitic attitudes. It is what her tale says about her, however, that is at the core of Chaucer's intent in her depiction: she is shallow, unworldly, un-Christian, and childish of character, and this is what Chaucer wants the reader to understand about her
  15. 15. The host suggest that the group ride together and entertain one another with stories. He decides that each pilgrim will tell two stories on the way to Canterbury and two on the way back. And the man who told his story best was to be given an expensive dinner by the other pilgrims.
  16. 16. PRINCIPAL THEME He provides the reader with a picture of a disorganized Christian society in a state of decline and obsolescence. He draws an ironic portrait of the Prioress and presents satiric portraitures of the Monk, the Friar, the Summoner, and the Pardoner. The description of an ideal Parson in turn serves to indicate the sins of the average priest in the fourteenth century. His ironic praise of the Prioress’s affectations, classical beauty, and attachment to worldly concerns only serves to highlight her inappropriateness as the head of a religious convent. His approbation of the Monk’s delight in the finer things of life and passion for hunting is aimed at eliciting the reader’s disapproval as they go against his monastic vow of poverty. Chaucer’s critique of the church of medieval England

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