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The Canterbury Tales

3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  133,313 ratings  ·  2,193 reviews
This new reprint of the existing Everyman CANTERBURY TALES retains the essentialingredients of A C Cawley's highly respected edition, but adds a new prefactory introduction by Professor Malcolm Andrews of The Queen's University Belfast;a new suggested reading list;and a new chronology of Chaucer's life and times.Whether read for study or purely pleasure, the CANTERBURY TAL ...more
Paperback, 612 pages
Published July 15th 1990 by J.M. Dent & Sons (first published 1390)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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MJ Nicholls
When confronted with the painful choice of whether or not to read Chaucer in the original Middle English, I agonised for precisely four seconds and decided to read Nevill Coghill’s modern translation in lovely Penguin paperback. In the same way I wouldn’t learn German to read Goethe, or unlearn English to read Dan Brown, I refuse to learn archaic forms of English for pointless swotty scholar-points, and grope instead for selfish readerly pleasure, two-fingering the purists and bunking down with ...more
Rebecca
I'm gonna start texting in Chaucer's English.

*declares war on abbreviation*

Manny
A classic that has worn well... the psychology, in particular with regard to women, seems remarkably modern! It's funny, and not just in one style either. Sometimes he's subverting the popular cliches of the day, sometimes he's slyly campaigning for women's rights, and sometimes he's just having fun telling dirty jokes. I'm having trouble deciding which style I like most - they're all good, and often mixed up together too.

I once spent a pleasant bus trip sitting next to a grad student who was do
...more
Brian Levinson
Look out, Bocaccio -- there's a new author of clever, bawdy rhyming tales, and his name is Geoffrey Chaucer! Whether you're a reeve, abbot, or just a simple canon's yeoman, you're sure to find something delightful in this witty, incisive collection. My personal favorites were the one about Chaunticleer the rooster and the one where the dude gets a red-hot poker shoved up his butt. I read it while I was laid up with the plague, and Chaucer's insouciant descriptions and intricate plotting helped i ...more
Jonfaith
A wife destroys her husband and contrives,
As husbands know, the ruin of their lives


Much as the theme of estrangement dominates a thread of traditional songs, (see Wayfaring Stranger, Motherless Child etc) much of early Modern literature appears concerned with faithless brides and the looming spectre of cuckoldry. It is possible that I am full of shit in tall weeds, but that said, I do think that there is a link between the themes (alienation and infidelity) and that both are understood in terms
...more
Lada
Purifying tales of the best kind of pilgrimage trip to Thomas Becket tomb to Canterbury encompassing the best part of the english society, the most representative kind, apart from high nobility.The frame is the inn - traditional travel setting. They tell tales . All in their own manner, from their personality, and life's philosophy. Verse in iambic pentameter, which will become blankverse in Shakespere, Milton, Pope. Unforgettable Characters, and their tales. Wife of Bath, Prioress, The Second N ...more
Chris
Writing a "review" of The Canterbury Tales is difficult, not because the book/collection isn't worthy of a review, but because it is so widely variant and has so many nuances to be discussed.

For those who don't know, The Canterbury Tales is a book containing a bunch of stories told by individuals traveling together on a pilgrimage to Canterbury. The book is written in the late 1300s with the pilgrimage set in the same basic time. It begins with a "General Prologue" providing a description of ea
...more
Chris
One of the questions that people ask is why do we still read old books? What's so great about them anyway? My brother asked me this after I was shocked that he hadn't read Canterbury Tales. I undoubtably get the same shocked expression when I hear someone hasn't read over a dozen other things.

So why should we read Canterbury Tales? Well, I suppose the technical answer would be because each tale represents a style or type of writing. The collection is different forms that were popular in the day
...more
Michael
The Canterbury Tales is a collection of over 20 stories which were written near the end of the Fourteenth Century, just prior to 1400. While this is often referred to as an essential in medieval fiction, it is possible to narrow it down a little further and say this is a glimpse of life during the time of the Hundred Years’ War. The collection of tales helps break up this book a bit but it also contains a loose narrative framework throughout the entire The Canterbury Tales. I could go into deep ...more
Mark Adderley
Mar 12, 2010 Mark Adderley rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nobody whatsoever.
This might be not only the worst translation of Chaucer, but the worst translation of anything ever written.

First of all, there shouldn't be translations of Chaucer. Much of Chaucer's meaning comes through the language he uses. Take away the language, and what's left is no longer Chaucer. I can see an argument for translating Chaucer into German, French, Italian, Tagalog, whatever. But into Modern English--that's insulting.

If you can't read Chaucer's Middle English, just skip The Canterbury Tale
...more
anique Halliday
I really love this collection of stories. Who didn't love the Wife of Bath? Or the Friar (a timely parable all Priests and Pastor should read). I loved The Canterbury Tales so much that I memorized the prologue in Old Middle English (and can still partially recite it)...

"Whan that Aprille with his shoures sote
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the rote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour,
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every hol
...more
Alan
English literature is downhill from Chaucer. Even as a Shakespeare scholar, I would argue this, since there are several characters in Chaucer who are as if live: The Wif of Bath, the Pardoner, the Host, the Canon's Yeoman,
and a half dozen others, at least. Shakespeare's characters, on the other hand, are all stagey, bigger than
life, infused with the stage. Or so it seems to me. Chaucer's Wif even makes colloquial grammar mistakes when she self-consciously describes what men like about women's bo
...more
Robyn Blaber
I don't think I've ever felt more humbled while reading a book. Of course I had read some of these tales as a schoolboy, but really hadn't the education to understand what I was reading. Chaucer's characters are so varied in style and spirit, yet with great ease manage to drop references from Solomon to Ovid, Catullus to Cato, Boethius to Dante and sometimes all within a single paragraph.

How can it be that some fellow from the Dark Ages could be better read than my modern self? How is it possibl
...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

The CCLaP 100: In which I read for the first time a hundred so-called "classics," then write reports on whether or not they deserve the label

Essay #44: The Canterbury Tales (~1380-1400), by Geoffrey Chaucer

The story in a nutshell:
Written in stops and starts from roughly 1380 to 1400, Geoffrey Chaucer's Th
...more
Katie
I read this in Middle English, so it was extremely challenging, but well worth the extra effort. The "Canturbury Tales" are a collection of stories, all but two of which, were written in verse. In the framing story, 24 pilgrims are on their way from Southwark to Canturbury to visit the Saint Thomas Becket shrine at Canturbury Cathedral. When they stop along the way, they entertain the group with tales, some serious, some hilarious, some racy, some satirical, and some laced with religious themes. ...more
Madeline
Not bad, I spose. But I should have read the modern translation instead of trying to struggle through the Middle English version, which is just close enough to modern English to be readable, but far enough away to require footnotes every five words just to help the reader figure out what the hell they just read. After twenty pages or so, this got very, very old.

Read for: Early British Literature
John Yelverton
Granted, this is arguably the very first piece of English literature, but that just goes to show you why all skills must be practiced first.
Sara
Entire literary journals are dedicated to the works of Chaucer, so it's hard to know how to say anything worthwhile about his most famous book. I'll settle for making some simple observations about a couple of the facets of the work I personally enjoyed: its form and authorial voice.

The Tales' format, famously modeled on Boccaccio's Decameron, has a frame narrative into which the discrete tales fit. Instead of plague-fleers, Chaucer's storytellers are a motley crew of pilgrims on their way to Ca
...more
Judy
I need to get back to this half-read book - don't know why haven't I finished it, as it's quite entertaining....

Update Jan 2011: Finished! There's little that I can add to the appreciative reviews of this charming work, apart from observing that you you don't need to know anything about the historical context (late 14th-century England) to enjoy the collection.

Anyone who loves stories and the whole idea of storytelling will get a buzz from the Tales - they are packaged within the framework of a
...more
DeAnne
I've read both the Middle English (original) version and a few of the translated versions, and I've decided to go back to the original and revisit some of my favorite stories. The Tales, like Don Quixote, are one of those works that I'm *always* reading. They are lifetime books, in that there is always something new there, some nuance I've previously overlooked, some linguistic trick, some emotional capture...always something. Always. It is, I believe, probably one of the finest things ever writ ...more
Michael Kneeland
Harold Bloom makes a strong case that Shakespeare gave us the fullest depictions of humanity before or since the Elizabethan era, and though I agree with him, I cannot discount Chaucer's influence on the Bard. (And to be fair, neither does Bloom.) Consider how the Pardoner is a template for Iago; how the Wife of Bath's wit and filthy mind uncannily reflect those of Falstaff; how two young men struggle over a young lady under the supervision of an Athenian duke named Theseus, much as occurs in 'M ...more
Nikki
I actually reread this in my copy of the Norton Critical edition, which is very good, with glosses, notes, and a lot of supplementary material. Unfortunately, you can't put two read dates in, so. Here we go.

I decided to reread The Canterbury Tales because a) I've read Troilus and Criseyde twice now, and loved it, and b) I had to look at the Wife of Bath's tale as a Gawain romance. Gawain is always going to be a draw for me, so I settled down to read it. I find it frustrating, in its unfinished a
...more
Jan-Maat
I first read the Coghill translation. Then I struggled through the original text, slowly at first enjoying the colour and richness of the original language, then reading it again and again, enjoying more each time.

If you have a little French or German from school and can be flexible enough to understand that 'sonne' is 'sun', then give it ago. Once you're comfortable with it the language becomes a rich pleasure of it's own.

It's become a book that I like to return to and reread on a regular basi
...more
Heidi'sbooks
I finished the selections from The Canterbury Tales that my WEM bookclub read. We read The Prologue, The Knight's Tale, The Miller's Tale, The Wife of Bath's Tale and Prologue, The Pardoner's Tale and Chaucer's Retraction. This is one epic poem that I might return to in the future to read all the way through and study on a deeper level.

About The Canterbury Tales. The poem is about a varied group of people on a spiritual pilgrimage to Canterbury. The knight, priest, miller, pardoner, etc are some
...more
Tristram
A Vat-o‘-fine-tales

To do ample justice to the Canterbury Tales is something I will not even try in this review because the whole collection is such an ambitious and multi-faceted enterprise that it would only be fair to devote to each of the different tales – and the General Prologue – a detailed text in its own right.

Possibly with the intention to emulate Boccaccio, Geoffrey Chaucer introduces his readers into the company of pilgrims on their way to Canterbury. It is a motley group indeed, incl
...more
Lorena Beshello
Few years ago I read the Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio, and while reading the Canterbury Tales I felt like I was back in time. I really enjoy reading the Medieval books, the romantic ones with the well known chivalry style, and noble characters.

On the contrary, Decameron and The Canterbury Tales represent more the "measly" middle ages. Thus the plague, the peasantry, the religious dogmas, and the real life of people from each degree such as the religious ones, nobles, and knights.

It is neces
...more
Erik Graff
May 14, 2014 Erik Graff rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anglo-Americans
Recommended to Erik by: Mr. Silkowski
Shelves: literature
Before the beginning of each school year at Maine Township High School South we students had to go to pick up our books at the gymnasium ahead of time. Prior to the senior year I went alone and was very excited by the required texts. Having finished all my state requirements for graduation, I was only taking advanced placement courses and the texts were all college level.

One of them was Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in the original, albeit with copious notes. The middle English was daunting, but, i
...more
Everyman
Okay, so the language is a bit strange, you don't understand all the words, but go with it. Don't read it in a modernization and miss all of Chaucer's magnificent language (and much of his sly humor). You'll get used to it pretty soon, I promise you. And if you have any musicality in your soul, the cadences and richness of his imagery will captivate you.

If you thought the 14th century was prudish about its language and strict about its morality, you're in for a shock. Chaucer's richness includes
...more
Sophia Ramos
Finally, after a semester of grueling self-torture, I have finished the Canterbury Tales, perhaps one of the greatest love-hate relationships known to high schoolers everywhere. It's not that they're bad - quite the contrary. Teenagers love condescending stories that devote at least one scene to ass-kissing and flatulence. It's just the other 75% of the jokes, the "you-had-to-be-there" references that we just aren't going to take the time to research later, that make this seem dense. That couple ...more
Michael
Here are my little critiques of Chaucer's masterpiece, tale by tale.

The General Prologue

A nice introduction to Chaucer's conceit, his characters, storytellers all, and his conversational style. One thing that surprises me, is Chaucer's tendency to halt his narrative for little asides about his choices in detail. It's all a little meta for 14th century literature and disruptive to say the least - I mean, who needs to be told why Chaucer tells us of a character's dress and complection, but not of
...more
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1838
Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343 – October 25, 1400?) was an English author, poet, philosopher, bureaucrat, courtier and diplomat. Although he wrote many works, he is best remembered for his unfinished frame narrative The Canterbury Tales. Sometimes called the father of English literature, Chaucer is credited by some scholars as being the first author to demonstrate the artistic legitimacy of the vernacu ...more
More about Geoffrey Chaucer...
The Riverside Chaucer Troilus and Criseyde Chanticleer and the Fox The Canterbury Tales: Nine Tales and the General Prologue: Authoritative Text, Sources and Backgrounds, Criticism The Wife of Bath

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