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The Canterbury Tales: A selection

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  568 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
The Canterbury Tales, compiled in the late fourteenth century, is an incisive portrait, infused with Chaucer's wry wit and vibrant, poetical language. He evokes a spectrum of colourful characters, from the bawdy Wife of Bath to the gallant Knight, the fastidious Prioress and the burly, drunken Miller. As they wend their way from Southwark to Canterbury, tales are told to p ...more
Paperback, Penguin Popular Classics, 342 pages
Published 1996 by Penguin (first published 1390)
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Mar 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I do plan on finishing up the rest of these tales in another edition, so I think I'll wait until then to comment on the stories themselves, and I'll focus on the translation for now.

I managed to tackle 90-95% of this in the original Middle English.

It's admittedly slightly harder than Shakespeare, but the interlinear translation made it really easy to flick my eyes down a fraction whenever I needed, so I didn't have to go too far out of my way when I needed help.

Since this book is so bulky and
Adrian Colesberry
Delightfully bawdy. There are stories in here that sound like stock jokes. I think this is where the man is bedding the miller's wife and to prove that the miller is asleep, they keep pulling hairs out of his arse before they do it. The miller wakes up an one point and says they can have sex all they want but stop taking a talley on his arse.
Or maybe that is a stock joke. Many moons ago.
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Greate stuffe.
Jan 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medieval
The Crown Jewels of English literature as funny, saucy, thought-provoking and dramatic as they were when they were written some six-hundred years ago, full of memorable characters and tales that beg to be re-read and re-read.

I put off reading Chaucer for years, worried that the language would be too old to be easily understood and I did not want to read a modern prose translation. But thankfully Chaucer spells phonetically and with a little perseverance one gets used to his idioms and dialect qu
Lynn Cullivan
Dec 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Disclaimer: I can't read middle English, but I did slog my way through a couple of the Tales in college. I think this edition captures the sense of the original, and makes Chaucer fun to read. If you liked Chaucer, you'll enjoy this. If you hated Chaucer, give this version a try -- he's too important an influence on English literature to be overlooked.
Rick Davis
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction
Technically, Chaucer doesn't need to be translated. He is writing in English, and anyone with a reasonable amount of patience, and perhaps the aid of a dictionary from time to time, ought to be able to read Chaucerian English. In fact, the level of difficulty is not much different from that of trying to read one of George MacDonald's dialect-laden Scottish novels from the 1800s. However, the fact remains that there are plenty of words and phrases that will trip you up as you read Chaucer and mak ...more
Jan 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-faves
Loved it. The stories are naughty, bawdy, funny, romantic, spiritual and entertaining. I rue the fact that we don't have story tellers anymore. The Canterbury tales take us to the day of yore when story telling was an art and each tale was passed down through several generations.
It's important NOT to read a revised version in easy English. Read this book in prose like the original.
There are some excellent tales like the Wife Of Bath's Tale which questions the role of a woman in society and is
Alas, only a selection of the entire collection of tales (even though the whole thing, in itself a huge project, was left incomplete by Chaucer)! But the stories chosen are still immensely entertaining. Especially, the Pardoner's Tale around the end of the book is very funny, almost silly, as, both before, during and after the actual story, the storyteller does not mind giving us all a sound moral lesson on greed (or avarice), and how it should be avoided, even though the pardoner himself comple ...more
Feb 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic
This selection contained about half of the tales along with some prologues. Although the tales themselves were fairly straightforward and often amusing and bawdy (lots of sex and bums and the like) the language was hard going. I think that although there was some translation in my version it wasn't a full translation to modern English, so still required a lot of effort to read.

I'm sure that there was a lot of subtlety and so on that I missed, but even with that, I enjoyed the flow of the text. T
Feb 24, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
With the editor's notes, this edition is very easy to read and quite enjoyable. While reading this, the sing-song nature of the verse echoed in my head at random times of the day. I wonder if that middle-English schwa ending is the carry over that I have heard in older preachers and poets that like to end every spoken line in "ah".

I enjoyed the stories and also being able to see more clearly the relationship that English has with the other Romance languages.

Reading Chaucer is like making a conn
Jan 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is quite a nice (although incomplete) edition of the Tales. The Middle English text is shown with a "translation" into Modern English prose on the facing page. While there are a few notes about specific words or phrases, the editor is very judicious about providing them. The advantage to that is that the text is uncluttered. I'm finding that many ME words that initially look strange can be decoded with the help of the translation and a bit of etymological decoding. It's helpful to be famili ...more
Hollisann Harrison
Jul 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Hollisann by: My Grandmother
Shelves: favorites
Beautifully worded, and thank goodness for the glossary in the back!

I own my grandmother's copy of this book, and honestly, this is the most treasured book in my entire collection, seeing as how it is long since out of print. My grandmother had a subscription with some company or another, and for 25 cents she could purchase a hardcover book.

If you can get your hands on a First Edition copy of "Selections From The Canterbury Tales" (published by Books, Inc.), then you'll see why I love this book
Bob G
Sep 26, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top100
This is not the entire set of tales, so I'm not sure my comments apply to all editions.

This is on one of my top 100 book lists, and am glad I read it. The language is so unlike modern English that it was difficult to comprehend. To make it easier, I found I enjoyed it better reading it out loud. It also helped to read the introductory material that explained some of the pronunciation rules of the time. This helped to bring out the poetry of the work. Read aloud the stories were understandable m
The Book : An Online Review at The New Republic
IN 1989 THE MIDDLE ENGLISH text of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales was published by Norton in the Critical Editions series. It did very nicely, and in 2005 a second edition appeared. Commenting on this text in the Customer Reviews column of Amazon, several readers stressed how essential it was, for anyone wanting to appreciate Chaucer properly, to make the effort to read him in the original. Read more...
I bought this book as a challenge of my English understanding a couple of years back.[return]I have started reading it but lost the enthusiasm after about the third of the book, and I didn't continue. Its a hard read, and you have to constantly look up Middle English words (there is a dictionary at the back, but I didn't find out about it till much later).[return]In the future I plan to buy a translated version (either into modern English or Hungarian).
Apr 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Yes, if they were a "reading fan".
have no idea WHY I bought this, it was on a whim. But read it I did. I found reading the pronunctation key and trying to read as it would have been spoken, instead of reading it as I would speak it, made the book FLOW for me... Chaucer was an incredible raconteur. My favorites in this book were, A Knights Tale, and A Shipmates Tale. (thank goodness for the footnotes!)
Mark Flowers
Jan 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'll be reviewing this for SLJ, but I'll just say here that this is a tremendous translation, despite my belief that anyone who really wants to can read Chaucer in the original.

Here's the SLJ review:
Apr 19, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Took a class just on this book while finishing up my English degree. I had an awesome professor who was very passionate about the time and the author. He explained many nuances and taught we learned much about the variances in middle English while forcing us to discover the social and political context.
Carlos Irizarry
Feb 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A epic poem that wells it's song in it's patterned throb. This is the work that put the English (Middle Stepson ok) on the map. Has a Medieval and yet also Enlighten spirit (Classical Antiquity is used more then what one would expect). Tales of varied diameters are done "Wife Of Bath" is my personal favorite though.
May 13, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: post-bacc
The Canterbury Tales’ frame narrative incorporates themes of courtly love and church corruption; mixes popular medieval genres (e.g., estate satire and fabliau); and uses the description of characters such as their social position and physiognomy to paint a sardonic portrait of English society. Chaucer wrote in the Middle-English vernacular.
Oct 17, 2016 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
It was surprisingly difficult to find a complete edition of this at Half Price Books that I didn't think was too modernized. This edition seemed like the best compromise. It has a decent looking pronunciation guide and notes on the text at the bottom of each page. I'll just have to look up the parts that aren't included online.
Mar 01, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I quite liked it. The language was a bit incomprehensible but footnotes were a lot of help.I haven't read all of them but those I have I liked. The stories were interesting and some of them really funny at times.
Jun 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, poetry
I have not read all of the tales - but I have read a number, due to repeated exposure through high school and college.
And I can still recite the first 18 line of The General Prologue, with atrocious pronunciation....
Oct 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some of the tales are good, some are a little crazy, some are preachy.
I found the interlinear layout very helpful - before I was too far into the book, I had learned many of the key middle English words and could understand all but a few lines without referencing the modern English.
Sep 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely needs a translation to make it enjoyable to read, and some of the humor is lost due to time, but you can definitely see why this is cosidered a classic work. Intelligent, political statements without it being obvious, and humorous, worth a read.
Jul 19, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I recognize it's historical significance, but most of it was pretty boring. The miller tale was amusing, if rather lewd...
May 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful translation by a wonderful professor.
Sep 21, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
not the full monty of tales, but impressive nonetheless
Read some of these tales for English class. They're very interesting! I also wrote an essay about the representation of women, which was fun. Maybe I'll come back and read some more tales later!
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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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