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The Canterbury Tales o...
 
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Geoffrey Chaucer
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The Canterbury Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer

3.45 of 5 stars 3.45  ·  rating details  ·  105,443 ratings  ·  1,985 reviews
Chaucer's most celebrated work, The Canterbury Tales (c.1387), in which a group of pilgrims entertain each other with stories on the road to Canterbury, is a masterpiece of narration, description, and character portrayal. The tellers and their tales are as fresh and vivid today as they were six centuries ago.
Paperback, 0 pages
Published July 1st 1986 by Doubleday Books (first published 1390)
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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
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
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
Tony
Ackroyd, Peter. THE CANTERBURY TALES by Geoffrey Chaucer: A Retelling. (2009). ****. Many of us probably have bad memories of struggling with Middle English in school, trying to translate Chaucer and make sense out of it. What made it worse was that our teachers always gave us versions that were edited to a “G” rating, down from the “R” that really described the originals. Many of us – me included – found translations to help us, but found that they were stilted verse versions of the original, w...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
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
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
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 Abbott Harris
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
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
Kyle Muntz
of the translations I used as a reference point, i enjoyed this one the most despite how intensely liberal it is (not a translations but a "retelling), as its the only one i've seen that holds up on an aesthetic basis--though, i think it's pretty important to remember, the aesthetic is ackroyd's, not chaucer's, and in a lot of ways this is a completely different book
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.
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
Heather Scheer
I read the "Miller's Tale". There once was a trade carpenter who lived him Oxford. There was also Nicholas, a poor cleric. Nicholas was madly in love with the carpenter's wife, Alison, and wanted to be with her. One day they were flirting and he grabbed her and told her to make love with him that very moment or he would die. She told him she would not kiss him by her faith though she wanted to. Nicholas and Alison came up with a plan so they could be together for the night without her jealous hu...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
Rebecca
Update: So I went and read some of this book in it's original Olde English and found that I probably wouldn't have been as offended (though the story is the SAME... so why not?!) had I read it instead of the translation.

It is also possible that I might have been a bit over-sensitive and reactionary.

One day I may attempt to read this in its original tongue. Maybe.


******


Wow. This was not what I thought it would be (Aesopian or in the vein of the Brothers Grimm). Where should I start?

I didn't fini...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
Janice
It's disconcerting to me to look at the "published" date on the listing and see 1390!

I'll admit I probably didn't delve into this as much as scholarly appropriate - I read the translation mostly since plowing through the old english seemed a bit unnecessary since I wasn't reading it for a class. I do appreciate the magnitude of the work however - don't get me wrong.

I was pretty much surprised by the misogyny and the graphic sexuality contained within. I don't know what I expected really but I g...more
Thomas
I did not read the whole book in English class, but I wish I did. After only reading the Prologue and a few of the tales, I am interested in reading more of the tales. They seem different from other books I have read in English, so to speak. Humor, satire, and other forms of literary narrative were present, and although the old English was a bit unappealing at first it was actually beautifully written.

Maybe more to come when I become an English major? We'll see.

Want to read more of my reviews? F...more
Nathanial
Jan 18, 2008 Nathanial added it  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: bawdy minstrels and blushing maidens, or blushing minstrels and bawdy maidens
i love that the pilgrimage never ends, that they're always going somewhere, and that someone always has a story to tell to pass the time. my favorite part is when chaucer breaks into the mix of voices (each distinct and characteristic) to mock himself as an orator and then proceed to proclaim a long, extensive essay into the histories of judgment, reason, and passion. of course, it's the part of the book that this edition has cut out.
Alex
I suppose this is my own Ulysses. Canterbury Tales is certainly one of those books, like Ulysses or Proust or Golden Bowl, that no one's actually read or if they have they hated it or if they didn't they're lying because they think it'll impress you. But I took a whole class on this in college and I had this terrific professor, and she showed me how awesome this is. Really, it's a heap of fun. Are you impressed?
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
Anne Nikoline
Apr 15, 2014 Anne Nikoline rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: fans of historical lit
Recommended to Anne Nikoline by: no one
I read "The Canterbury Tales" by Geoffrey Chaucer as the last in my Read-a-Thon 2013, and my feelings for it might be coloured by the sleep in my eyes and the squeezing pain in my head as I had only had three hours of sleep.

“People can die of mere imagination."

Is piece of literature is a British treasure of most importances, and I can honestly understand why. It has affected lots of other great literary works including "The Tales of Three Brothers" by J.K. Rowling. The concept is fairy fine and...more
Jessica
I chose David Wright's Modern English prose translation, written in 1964. I decided on a prose version because I really just wanted to know the stories, and if I'm reading a translation anyway, I might as well read it in prose form. As Wright points out in his introduction, it can be difficult to translate poetry while trying to maintain the poem, creating difficulties for the reader. One thing I found interesting was that for two of the tales, Wright simply gives the reader the gist of it, and...more
Krys Gut
Chaucer as a master in poetry is universally acknowledged. Written in Middle English (a direct ancestor of Present Day English), the original text is difficult to follow without translation, but there are plenty of on-line resources to help.

In the spring, a spiritual trip made by many is to Canterbury, where it is said has healing powers. At an inn, is a group of 29 men and women who are making this pilgrimage. None had really known each other before, and it was a diverse group from all walks o...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
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The Riverside Chaucer Troilus and Criseyde The Canterbury Tales: Nine Tales and the General Prologue: Authoritative Text, Sources and Backgrounds, Criticism The Wife of Bath The Miller's Prologue and Tale

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