Geoffrey Chaucer�s Canterbury Tales by W766SDWu

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									Geoffrey Chaucer’s
Canterbury Tales


         The Wife of Bath’s Tale
Geoffrey Chaucer’s Life

 “emerging middle class” – born into
 mercantile family; educated; served
 Court as Squire – traveled as
 diplomat
 Born in London ~ 1340; died 1400
 Work as a poet more of a sideline /
 hobby for him
 Patronized by royalty
Literary Scene in Europe ~ 1350

 Dante has introduced the idea of
 “poetry in the vernacular” for serious
 epics
   Divine Comedy
 Latin still preferred for serious work –
 Virgil’s Aeneid considered best epic –
 Latin for religious and diplomatic and
 scientific writing
Italy = cultural center of Europe
 In addition of Dante’s Divine Comedy
   Petrarch’s lyric sonnet sequence and
   letters in Italian
      First writer to make himself & his
      feelings the centerpiece of his writing
   Boccacio’s Decameron
      Collection of 100 popular tales told
      over ten days by ten people trying to
      while away time in quarantine against
      the plague
Literature in verncaulars

 Long tradition of “romances” – poetry
 written in vernaculars about knights
 and their adventures
   Arthurian adventures
     “Celtic tradition” – focus on Gawain;
     Quenevere fairly unsympathetic
     French tradition – focus on Launcelot and
     the love triangle
     England has both traditions
Popular literature

 Literature in vernacular because
 consumed by ordinary folks
   Ballads and songs
   Religious dramas
   Lyric poems celebrating seasons,
   religious figures, natural world
   Robin Hood tales
   Riddles, animal fables
Chaucer’s innovation

 Attempts serious works in English in a
 culture which –
   Still sees French as the language of the
   aristocracy
   Has no tradition of “high” culture in the
   English language (after the Norman
   Conquest)
 C tries to do in London’s English what
 had been done in Florentine Italian
Canterbury Tales & all else
 Today, Canterbury Tales is the
 masterpiece of Chaucer’s work
   His creation of tales and tellers that seem to
   match/suit the tales seems very modern – the
   idea that a person’s values predict his literary
   tastes
   Chaucer’s long narratives are much more like
   the work of other medievals, and were more
   popular in his lifetime
 Chaucer dies before completing
 Canterbury Tales, his “last work”
Premise behind Canterbury Tales

 A crowd of pilgrims meet at the Tabard Inn
 in London – all are on their way to
 Canterbury (not far) on horseback to see
 tomb of St Thomas à Becket
 To while away the time, they agree to tell
 two tales on the way there and two on the
 way back
 The best tale wins a free dinner
 Chaucer doesn’t even manage a single tale
 for each of the 28 pilgrims
Intellectual Property and 1400

 No concept of intellectual property in
 the 13th Century
   Chaucer adapts stories from many
   sources for his Tales
   He deliberately chooses a series of sub-
   genres known to his audience
     Romances
     Beast fables
     Fairy stories
Wife of Bath
 Bath is a small city on the west coast
 known for its cloth industry – it is a port city
 and close to Wales and the west of
 England (sheep country) so it supports
 people who spin and weave wool into cloth
 and sell it to the continent
 Weaving cloth can be a feminine
 occupation – many more women engaged
 in mercantile activities in 1400 than in later
 centuries
The Wife of Bath: is she like or
unlike a typical medieval woman?
 Medievals did not denounce her as
 “unnatural” or monstrous, but also did not
 idealize her
 She is conventional in that she tries to use
 religious authorities to justify her belief that
 she should have power over her husbands
 and in that she uses her beauty to gain
 power
 She is unconventional in that she has
 married five times and in that she seems
 able to travel on her own
Power in 1400

 Not what you would expect
   Power tends to go along with wealth and
   social standing rather than gender
   Three factors make for “social leveling”
   in 14th century
     Bubonic plague
     Peasant’s revolt (English uprising)
     Wealth derived from mercantile activity
     rather than just form land

								
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