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Introduction to Chaucer & The Canterbury Tales April Marshall ENG 12.

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1 Introduction to Chaucer & The Canterbury Tales April Marshall ENG 12

2 Geoffrey Chaucer Born between in London, the only son of his family Most of what is known about Chaucer comes to us through public records documenting his professional life, not his personal life Chaucer’s father was a land owning wine merchant, but became very wealthy after the Black Death killed off several family members and he inherited their property Chaucer died sometime around 1400

3 The Black Death The Black Death ravaged England during Chaucer’s childhood and remained widespread for years afterward It wiped out an estimated % of the population Created a lot of job opportunity/mobility The increased wages of the lower classes caused a lot of tension between themselves and the upper classes This tension fed into what we now recognize as estate satire

4 Official Titles Held by Chaucer Esquire of the Royal Court Comptroller of Customs, Port of London Soldier in the 100 Years War Diplomat Poet Justice of the Peace Member of Parliament

5 Work Experience Chaucer’s varied work experience granted him the opportunity to work with every level and class of people This makes him a viable “authority” on Medieval society

6 The Great Chain of Being God –Closely followed by the King who ruled by divine right The Clergy The Nobility Peasants Women

7 The Three Estates of Men The Church –The clergy and those who pray The Nobility –The Knights and those who fought The Peasantry –Everyone else who produced the food for those who prayed and fought **Men are classified based on what they do for a living as well as what social class they were born into. **At the “top” of the classification was God and the King

8 The Classification of Women The Virgin –Never married, chaste The Wife –Loyal to her husband The Widow **Note that all three of these feminine estates are defined in terms of women’s sexual relationship with men they currently, no longer, or never did, sleep with.

9 Satire Satire (n): A literary manner which blends humor with criticism for the purpose of instruction; often serves as an exaggerated reflection of society

10 Ingredients of Satire Humor Criticism: either general criticism of humanity or human nature or specific criticism of an individual or group. Some kind of moral voice: simply mocking or criticism is not “satire.”

11 The Manner of Satire Ironic Good natured criticism or bitterly cynical denunciation More than a little bit prone to references to things society finds taboo or disgusting (bodily functions, sexuality, etc—think Family Guy, South Park, Futurama)

12 Types of Satire Parody –a work of literature that mimics another work of literature. Caricature –An exaggerated portrayal of the weaknesses, frailties, or humorous aspects of an individual or group. Exaggeration –The portrayal of something trivial or unimportant as very important, usually to emphasize its triviality. Diminutization –The portrayal of something generally perceived as very important as trivial or unimportant.

13 Recap – Part 1 Get out a sheet of paper. Answer the following questions. 1. Why is Chaucer considered an “authority” on medieval society? 2. What are the three major divisions of medieval society? 3. What elements are necessary for effective satire? Hold on to this, it is due along with Part 2 before you leave.

14 Chaucer the Writer Around 1378 he began to develop his vision of an English poetry that would be linguistically accessible to all people At the time, the official language of the court was French, and that of the church was Latin

15 Literary Works The House of Fame (late 1370’s) The Parliament of Fowls (1380) Troilus and Creseyde ( ) The Legend of a Good Woman ( ) The Canterbury Tales

16 This was a 13year project –Begun writing somewhere around 1387 –Most of the tales written between –Final tales were written write up to his death, from

17 Context A series of stories told by individuals representing a cross-section of Medieval society The group is pilgrimaging from London to the shrine of a Saint in Canterbury The nature of pilgrimages made it possible for different classes of people to engage socially

18 The Murder of Thomas Beckett Friend of King Henry Named Archbishop as means to control the Church Murdered by King’s men when he defied King’s authority

19 Pilgrimage to Canterbury Beckett was very popular Quickly made a saint Many paid homage at his tomb

20 About The Canterbury Tales … Written as “estate satire” Shows each of the three estates and portrays the ideal members of each, as well as the problems with the social structure –Character archetypes: the original pattern/model of which all other things are copied or based; Publicly exposed corruption Written in Middle English

21 Structure and Theme Over twenty characters traveling together to Canterbury (they meet and leave together from an inn in London) Inn’s Host challenges them to each tell a story on the way to Canterbury The best story wins a free dinner Premise provides a “frame” narrative within which to hear the stories A prologue precedes each pilgrim’s tale The tale reveals the most through the character’s chosen subject and treatment of that subject

22 The Prologue Whan that aprill with his shoures soote The droghte of march hath perced to the roote, 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 holt and heeth Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne, And smale foweles maken melodye, That slepen al the nyght with open ye (so priketh hem nature in hir corages); 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 wende, The hooly blisful martir for to seke, That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke

23 Recap – Part 2 Read about one character from the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales Write down: –Two lines that show character’s Estate –Two lines regarding personality and ethics –Two lines that show what this character looks like Due TODAY.


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