Geoffrey Chaucer and
The Canterbury Tales
Overview of a Life and Work
Chaucer the man
Born 1345-46 ?
Esquire of the royal court
Comptroller of customs,
port of London
Soldier, Hundred Years’ War
Justice of the peace
Member of Parliament...Etc.!
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Among works written:
The House of Fame, late 1370s.
The Parliament of Fowls, 1380.
Boece, Troilus, and Croseyede,
The Legend of Good Women,
The Canterbury Tales.
This was a 13-year project:
bulk written 1392-95
latest tales 1396-1400
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Chaucer’s Life and Family
Chaucer’s father was a vintner.
Chaucer belonged to the upper
He had a wife and children.
Well respected among peers and
held in high esteem by king;
received annual wine supplies,
which later increased in size
Little is known of his life beyond
official duties and achievements.
He died in 1400 (October 25?).
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About The Canterbury Tales
A series of stories told by individuals representing a
cross-section of medieval English society who undergo
a Christian pilgrimage from London to Canterbury.
Told as a game to make the journey less tiresome and
grueling, and to see who tells the best tale.
Many different storytellers—some rough, vain, or
materialistic; others wise, pious, or noble.
Therefore, many different tales...
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The Man of Law
The Wife of Bath
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The Nun’s Priest
The Canon’s Yeoman
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Structure and Themes
A prologue precedes each
The prologue introduces
the character personally
The tale reveals more
through the character’s
chosen subject and
treatment of that subject
Major themes include
morality and genuine vs.
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The Text in Verse: Prologue
“Here bygynneth the Book of the Tales of
Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the
roote,. . .
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne. . .
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of Engelond to Caunterbury they
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Pronouncing Vowels in Middle English
Middle English Sounds like Modern
y,i “myne, sight” “meet”
e, ee “me, meet,
mete” (close e)
e “begge, rede”
a, aa “mate, maat” “father”
u, ou “hus, hous” “boot”
o, oo “bote, boot”
o “lof, ok” (open o) “bought”
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A Geoffrey Chaucer bio on a food-themed site with medieval
About Chaucer and The Canterbury Tales, plus text excerpts:
Audio clip of professor reciting Canterbury prologue:
Learning Middle English – multiple-lesson website:
0.htm#Index found through http://www.edsitement.neh.gov
Aspects of Life in the Middle Ages, including quizzes and
Clip Art: http://classroomclipart.com/cgi-
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ASSIGNMENT: Click on the hyperlink below. Explore
the website. Then, in a paragraph, describe three things
that most interest, puzzle, or enlighten you about the
information you find: Life in the Middle Ages. DUE 10/5.
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