Presentation on theme: " The Canterbury Tales (TCT) is the most famous and critically acclaimed work of Chaucer. For most of his life, Chaucer served in the Hundred Years."— Presentation transcript:
The Canterbury Tales (TCT) is the most famous and critically acclaimed work of Chaucer. For most of his life, Chaucer served in the Hundred Years War between England and France, both as a soldier and a diplomat (he was fluent in French and Italian).
When the last French king in the direct Capetian line died in 1328 AD, 18 year old English king Edward III, who already held a large part of France, claimed the right to rule all of France - to be the king of France as well as the king of England. War broke out in 1338. At first the English won some big battles. But the war went on and on, even after Edward III died in 1377. Partly because of the Black Death, neither side could really end the war. Under their new young king Henry V, the English won a especially big battle at Agincourt in 1415, where Henry used a new weapon, cannons, to help him win the battle.CapetianADEdward IIIBlack Death cannons The English managed to take over almost all of France. But Henry V died young, in Paris, and after he died, the French started to win again under a great military leader, a woman named Joan of Arc, who recaptured the towns of Orléans and Reims, among other places, for her king, Charles VII. Reims
Even though the English eventually captured Joan and burned her alive in Rouen in 1431, the French continued to win the war and in 1453 the English king Henry VI (the son of Henry V) gave up his claim to rule France. Henry VI lost all his land in France except the port at Calais Rouen
Francesco Petrach (Italian poet/scholar) Giovanni Boccacio (Italian author/poet)
Around 1378, Chaucer began to develop his vision of an English poetry that would be linguistically accessible to all: to the court (official language is French) or to the Church (official language is Latin). Instead, Chaucer wrote in the vernacular, the English that was spoken in and around London in his day.
In 1374, the king appointed Chaucer as the Controller of the Customs of Hides, Skins and Wools in the port of London, which meant that he was a government official who worked with cloth importers. Hence his experience overseeing imported cloths might be the reason why he frequently describes in exquisite detail the garments and fabric that attire his characters.
Men mostly wore tunics down to their knees, though old men and monks wore their tunics down to the ground, and so did kings and noblemen for parties and ceremonies. Men sometimes also wore wool pants under their tunics. Wearing pants was originally a Germanic idea, and the Romans disapproved of it. But it gradually caught on anyway, especially among men who rode horses and in colder areas. Other men, especially noblemen, wore tights under their tunics. Knitting had not yet been invented, so they had to wear woven tights which did not fit very tightly. Outside, if it was cold, men wore wool cloaks.monksGermanic horsescold
Women also wore different kinds of clothes depending on who they were. All women wore at least one tunic down to their ankles. Many women, if they could afford it, wore a linen under-tunic and a woolen over-tunic, and often a wool cloak over that if they were going outside. On their legs women sometimes wore woven tights or socks, but women never wore pants. Nuns wore tunics like other women, but generally in black or white rather than colors. Noblewomen often wore fancy tall hats, sometimes with streamers coming off them. They sometimes plucked the hair from their foreheads to give themselves very high foreheads which people thought were beautiful.linenNunspeople
After Chaucer retired in the early1390s, he seems to be working primarily on The Canterbury Tales, which he began around 1387. By the time of his retirement, Chaucer had already written a substantial amount of narrative poetry (the class of poems that tell stories), including the celebrated romance Troilus and Criseyde.
William Caxton, English first printer, published The Canterbury Tales in the 1470s, and it continued to enjoy a rich printing history that never truly faded. Hence, Chaucer’s project to create a literature and poetic language for all class of society succeeded.
A collection of stories (two of them in prose, the rest in verse), written in Middle English. The tales, some of which are originals and others not, are contained inside a frame tale and told by a group of pilgrims on their way from Southwark to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas a Beckets at Canterbury Cathedral.
Ezra Winters, tales mural (1939), Library of Congress John Adams Building,Library of CongressJohn Adams Building
In 14th-century England there is a story telling trend where a group with an appointed leader would judge the songs of the group. The winner received a crown and, as with the winner of the Canterbury Tales, a free dinner. It was common for pilgrims on a pilgrimage to have a chosen "master of ceremonies" to guide them and organize the journey
Chaucer’s original plan for The Canterbury Tales was for each character to tell four tales, two on the way to Canterbury and two on the way back. But, instead of 120 tales, the text ends after 24 tales, and the party is still on its way to Canterbury. Chaucer left it incomplete when he died on October 20, 1400.
The themes of the tale vary, and include topics such as courtly love, treachery and greed. The genres also vary, and include romance, Breton lays (short stories in rhyme like The Franklin’s Tale), sermon and fabliau (a coarsely humorous short story in verse where stock characters in the middle class involve in obscene pranks, like The Miller’s Tale).
The characters, introduced in the General Prologue of the book, tell tales of great cultural relevance. The characters are also of extremely varied stock, including representatives of most of the branches of the middle classes at that time and their personalities are shown through both their choices of tales and the way they tell them.
Some of the tales are serious and others humorous; however, all are very precise in describing the traits and faults of human nature. Most of the tales are interlinked with similar themes running through them and some are told in retaliation for other tales in the form of an argument.
There are many hints at contemporary events, although few are proven, and the theme of marriage common in the tales is presumed to refer to several different marriages, most often of those of John of Gaunt. Aside from Chaucer himself, Harry Bailly of the Tabard Inn was a real person and the Cook has been identified as quite likely to be Roger Knight de Ware, a contemporary London cook.
These online versions are for your own references. You have the choice to keep them as softcopies or to have them printed out. Do remember, additional notes will come from the version that I used in class.