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Geoffrey Chaucer and The Canterbury Tales (ca. 1340/44-1400)

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Presentation on theme: "Geoffrey Chaucer and The Canterbury Tales (ca. 1340/44-1400)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Geoffrey Chaucer and The Canterbury Tales (ca. 1340/ )

2 Chaucer’s Life Born in London about 1340 Son of a well to do wine merchant In his mid teens, he started working for the Countess of Ulster to receive a better education and to be schooled in court and society life. He learned Latin and some Greek as well as perhaps some French and Italian.

3 Chaucer’s Life In, 1359, while serving in English army... He was captured by the French at the seige of Reims during the Hundred Years' War and was ransomed by King Edward III a year later He returned to England and served at Court

4 As a Royal Messenger He was an important diplomat and he worked for the king He had a lot of diplomatic trips to France, to Flanders and to Italy. He travelled a lot but his most important journeys were to Italy. He visited Genoa and Florence where he acquired Dante’s Divina commedia which is quoted in “The Canterbury tales” On his second trip to Italy, he went to Milan, he became acquainted with Petrarch’s and Boccaccio’s works He probably read his works in unsigned manuscripts.

5 He died in 1400 He was the first poet to be buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey

6 The main feature of Chaucer’s works is their great variety. His poems are usually divided into 3 periods: The French period is modeled on French romance styles and subject such as: The Romaunt of the Rose. Introduces the reader to medieval court behaviour and courtly love. elegy The Boke of the Duchesse. A personal elegy where the knight in black tells of his grief for the loss of his wife. This grief becomes the universal grief of all man for the death of all good young wives. 1) FRENCH, 2) ITALIAN and the 3) ENGLISH.

7 The Italian period shows a greater maturity of perception and skill in the manipulation of the metres. To this period belong: - The Parlament of Foules: Introduces the reader to one of the most popular genres of medieval literature, the Bird and Beast Fable. - The House of Fame: A masterpiece of comic fantasy, dealing with the contemplation of the vanity of human wishes. - The Legende of Good Women. It speaks of the unhappy fate of the women who suffered in the cause of love. The poem is the first known attempt to use the couplet in English. - Troylus and Criseyde. It is a long poem adapted from Boccaccio (Il Filostrato) which reveals a subtle psychological insight into the development of the characters.

8 It is marked by greater realism and includes Chaucer’s masterpiece: Canterbury Tales (ca. 1387), which was written in Middle English. Chaucer’s language gradually became standard English, thus becoming the basis of Modern English. The English period

9 Chaucer is often called the father of English poetry. He estabilished the East Midlands and London dialect as the dominant form of literary language that would later develop into Modern Standard English The importance of his Italian experience was that it showed Chaucer that a vernacular language – in his case English – could be used to create literature for the mobility, subtlety and importance equal to that of the classical languages (he decided to write in English. His decision was as revolutionary as Dante’s decision to abandon Latin to write in Italian vernacular, although when he started to write he had not heard of Dante yet). THE CANTERBURY TALES

10 He decided to write a work in English (Middle English) which could be understood by anybody, whether literate or not. Chaucer was also a great metrical innovator: he introduced into English versification the five-stress line, technically known as the iambic pentameter. The conversational rhythm of this meter helps Chaucer to carry through his long narrative without apparent effort: The Canterbury Tales are written in couplets of iambic pentameters. THE CANTERBURY TALES

11 A free-verse poem about the pilgrimage to St. Thomas Becket’s shrine.

12 The Canterbury Tales is a long narrative poem written in verse. The work consists of a General Prologue, where the pilgrims are introduced, and of 24 tales. Chaucer’s original intention was to have each of his 30 pilgrims, including himself, tell two tales on the road from London to the shrine of Thomas Becket in Canterbury and two on the way back, giving a total of 120 tales, plus detailed portraits of the piligrims in the General Prologue.

13 Here begins the Book of the Tales of Canterbury When April with his showers sweet with fruit The drought of March has pierced unto the root And bathed each vein with liquor that has power To generate therein and sire the flower; When Zephyr also has, with his sweet breath, Quickened again, in every holt and heath, The tender shoots and buds, and the young sun Into the Ram one half his course has run, And many little birds make melody That sleep through all the night with open eye (So Nature pricks them on to ramp and rage)- Then do folk long to go on pilgrimage, And palmers to go seeking out strange strands, To distant shrines well known in sundry lands. And specially from every shire's end………. Quando aprile con le sue dolci piogge ha penetrato fino alla radice la siccità di marzo, impregnando ogni vena di quell’umore che ha la virtù di dar vita ai fiori, quando anche zeffiro col suo dolce fiato ha rianimato per ogni bosco e per ogni brughiera i teneri germogli, e il nuovo sole ha percorso metà del suo cammino in ariete, e cantano melodiosi gli uccelletti che dormono tutta la notte ad occhi aperti (tanto li punge in cuore la natura), la gente allora è presa dal desiderio di mettersi in pellegrinaggio e d’andare come palmieri per contrade forestiere alla ricerca di lontani santuari variamente noti, e fin dalle più remote parti d’ogni contea d’Inghilterra molti si recano specialmente a canterbury, a visitare quel santo martire benedetto che li ha soccorsi quand’erano malati. Un giorno, appunto in quella stagione, mentre sostavo alla locanda del tabarro in Southwark, pronto a mettermi devotamente in pellegrinaggio per Canterbury, ecco capitare verso sera la brigata di ben 29 persone, gente d’ogni ceto trovatasi per caso in compagnia e tutti pellegrini che intendevano recarsi a cavallo sino a Canterbury. Camere e stalle erano grandi, e perciò fummo alloggiati nel migliore dei modi. In breve, stava appena per tramontare il sole che già avevo parlato con tutti ed anch’io ero ormai della brigata, e combinammo dunque d’alzarci presto per proseguire il viaggi dove vi ho detto.

14 April Sweet Showers As April comes, in the period of rain and rebirth of nature, while Zephyrus brings nature back to life and birds are making melodies Twenty-nine people make a pilgrimage toward Canterbury, to visit the tomb of Thomas Becket, the most venerated of English Saints. The rebirth of nature, here corresponds with the rebirth of spirit. The pilgrims begin the pilgrimage to Canterbury from the Tabard Inn at Southwark and the narrator describes them in turn, beginning with a Knight.

15 PLOT: The general prolugue starts describing spring, the good season for pilgrimages. The poem introduces a group of pilgrims going on a pilgrimage to Thomas Becket's shrine in Canterbury The host of the Inn offered his services as a guide and suggested that each pilgrim should tell two stories on the way to Canterbury and two on the way back. Chaucer himself was invited to join the company (so he became an even more believable eyewitness).

16 Canterbury is the symbol of celestial city itself, the end of the life, and the journery of the pilgrims becomes the allegory of the course of human life. The pilgrimage is also a key metaphor for life from the religious sphere. We are all pilgrims on the way to the heavenly city, and every journey reflects the basic pattern of existence. THE CANTERBURY TALES

17 CHAUCER’S PLAN Chaucer’s initial idea was to write a collection of tales, as the title suggests. He wanted to give his countrymen a book in which they could really recognize themselves and that would be a true mirror of England portrait of English society

18 The Pilgrims Chaucer intended to give a portrait of society as a whole He chose a feudal society with members of clergy and the middle classes. He didn’t deal with the aristocracy and the peasants (this is because in that period the upper classes did not like to mix with other people and preferred to go on pilgrimages on their own, while poor people did not have the money to afford the journey). In literature were first presented: 1) all male clerical figures, 2) then all male lay figures, in order of rank. 3) All female figures were considered lower in order of rank. Chaucer, instead, placed the knights as the first figure amd mixed female and male characters to underline the new importance women were assuming within the growing middle classes.

19 The new factor in Canterbury Tales is that there is individualisation Group identification is not lost: the character exists in that he has reactions, he is in movement and he has a relationship to the role This is different than the conventional medieval character portrait which is rather static. The Pilgrims

20 Characterization The process by which the writer reveals the personality of a character Directly telling us Describing looks/dress Character’s words and actions Character’s private thoughts others’ reactions to the character

21 THEMES Love which is presented in many forms from courtly love to wild sensuality Money Justice and the use of magic

22 Christianity/criticism: in the General Prologue, various pilgrims are introduced, including a Nun, a Monk, and a Friar, all notable figures in the Church. They represent distinct areas of Christianity, with some holding to strict worship of Christ and others overtly disobeying the laws. This initial introduction of the various religious icons on the pilgrimage foreshadows tales of sin and worship that will be told throughout the journey. Chaucer concludes his grand Canterbury Tales with a retraction stating that any tale which brought offense to anyone is only due to his ignorance. He gives reverence to Christ once again in his retraction, reminding his readers that everything he writes is with the hope that he will be granted mercy and redemption in the afterlife. THEMES

23 Sexuality The Wife of Bath's introduction in the General Prologue is the first mention of any sort of sexual behavior or so called misconduct discussed on the journey. She is ostentatious in her presentation and carries with her an aura of sexuality that is apparent to all. Her initial description alludes to her multiple marriages and use of femininity to get what she desires. THEMES

24 The Knight The Squire The Prioress The Monk

25 The Cook The merchant The Wife of Bath The Miller

26 NARRATIVE FORMS The variety of themes is accompanied by a variety of narrative forms: Farce and comic tales Moral sermons Dialogues All these are combined with humour and irony


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