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Geoffrey Chaucer The Father of English Poetry (1342/ )

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Presentation on theme: "Geoffrey Chaucer The Father of English Poetry (1342/ )"— Presentation transcript:

1 Geoffrey Chaucer The Father of English Poetry (1342/43-1400)
Geoffrey Chaucer was born in London. His name was of French origin and meant shoemaker. Chaucer was the son of a prosperous wine merchant and deputy to the king's butler, and his wife Agnes. Little is known of his early education, but his works show that he could read French, Latin, and Italian. There exists no memoirs of Chaucer, but Canterbury Tales perhaps gives a sight of the writer: Chaucer was neither poor nor was he a member of the landed gentry. Chaucer grew up familiar with noble folk though he was not one, and he was well educated in book learning and in aristocratic values and manners. In 1359, he served on the Continent in one of the many campaigns of the Hundred Years War. He was captured and King Edward III, himself, had a hand in ransoming Chaucer. Chaucer seemed to receive special treatment and favors from kings for the rest of his life. He traveled on several diplomatic missions for the crown to France, Spain and Italy. In Italy he was exposed to the great art, literature, and philosophy beginning to explode there. His writing shows a great Italian influence.

2 Chaucer’s Time In the Black Plague killed half the population. Think about what it would be like for half the people you know to die within the next twelve months. The plague was unsettling in many ways: family life was changed for many; good and services were disrupted; religious beliefs were shaken.  In 1381 there was a terrible Peasants Revolt. The poor, starving, desperate peasants staged an uprising in which they tried to murder the members of the upper class. (Think Robin Hood’s time. Remember the poor people living in the forest and remember the evil sheriff. ) 

3 Religious Life The church in its upper ranks was beset by political maneuvering among the bishops. There was a great deal of political maneuvering against Roman control. Among other problems, the Pope, in Rome, was trying to collect heavier and heavier taxes from the faithful in England. As the kings gained in power, they began to resist the power of the church and to try to keep more of the money in their own pot.  In England, the church was full of ignorant priests and corrupt officials. Since most people were unschooled and could not read, they were religiously pretty much at the mercy of their religious leaders. If they could not read the Bible and other religious works, how could they dispute what their leaders told them as truth? 

4 Frame Story The Canterbury Tales is a long poem made up of a general introduction (“The Prologue”) and a series of stories, told in verse by a cross section of English men and women. It uses a frame tale, a story that provides a vehicle, or frame for telling other stories. The frame is about a pilgrimage, a trip made to a holy place for religious reasons or just for fun.

5 Frame story continued In Chaucer’s work, 29 pilgrims tell their stories as they travel in April from an inn in a London suburb (The Tabbard Inn) southeastward for 50 miles to the cathedral city of Canterbury to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas a Becket. Canterbury Cathedral is where Archbishop Thomas a Becket was killed by King Henry II’s knights in 1170, much to the shock of the religious world.

6 Frame story yet continued
When they first meet at the inn, their host suggests they tell two stories on the way to Canterbury and two on the way back to pass the time. Thus, the pilgrims’ stories are framed by the narrative of the journey.

7 Real Characters Chaucer’s pilgrims are well-rounded characters with personalities and pasts. As one critic said, “Not a whisper, not a wart, is omitted.” The pilgrims fall into three dominant groups that make up the medieval society in London.

8 The Feudal Group Knight Squire Yeoman Franklin Plowman Miller Reeve

9 The Church Group Nun Monk Friar Cleric Parson Summoner Pardoner

10 The City Group (Trades or Professions)
Merchant Sergeant at the Law (Judge) Five Tradesmen Cook Skipper Doctor Wife of Bath Manciple Host (Innkeeper)

11 More than just a collection of stories
It is a pageant of 14th Century life Every class is represented except the highest and lowest; no nobility and no serfs make the pilgrimage Pilgrims span the whole range of the unofficial middle class

12 Groups represented UPPER CLASS (Knight, Squire, church people)
LEARNED PROFESSIONS (Physician, Man of Law) LANDED GENTRY (Franklin) MEDIEVAL MANOR PEOPLE (Miller, Reeve) MERCANTILE CLASS (Shipman, Merchant) GUILDSMEN (Haberdasher, Dyer, etc.) LABORER (Plowman)

13 Chaucer’s Attitude toward Pilgrims
Five ideals, Chaucer treats seriously (Knight, Squire, Clerk, Parson, Plowman) Some he pokes fun at (Prioress, Monk, Wife of Bath) Some he is quiet about; short portraits with no personal view coming through (Prioress’s entourage) Some not very good; Chaucer is just a little negative (Shipman, Manciple) Hardened sinners, all of them religious officials (Friar, Pardoner, Summoner

14 Methods of Characterization
Radix (base or root) trait: focus on a central characteristic (the Knight is worthy; the Yeoman is a forester) Touchstone line: a line that pinpoints the essence of the character (the Knight was a “true, a perfect gentle-knight”; the Squire was “as fresh as is the month of May”) Glimpse of the spiritual, interior person through physical description; outward, physical blemishes suggest inner blemishes (the Cook has a running sore; the Wife of Bath has “gap teeth”)

15 More Methods Conscious use of hyperbole, usually used to create bias (Man of Law knew all the cases in the book; the Friar was the best beggar in his order) Disparate details, particularly used on the bad guys (mention of the Cook’s ulcer interrupts discussion of wonderful dishes he can prepare)

16 The Prologue In “The Prologue” the narrator introduces us to the pilgrims who gather at the Tabard Inn at the start of the journey.

17 The Language of Chaucer
He wrote in Middle English, the result of mixing the Old English of the Anglo-Saxons with the Old French of the Normans. Chaucer’s decision to write in English was remarkable since Middle English was the language of the people and considered to be unsuitable for literary purposes. Writers of the time chose to write in Latin (the language of the church) or French.

18 Form and Style The Cantrebury Tales is a narrative poem.
It is written in Iambic Pentameter (five unstressed syllables each followed by a stressed syllable) Chauser uses rhyming pairs of lines called heroic couplets. The hand of man with such a cunning craft Had decked this garden out in pleach and graft

19 Form and Style Chaucer also uses a seven line stanza called Rhyme Royal in the Cleric’s Tale.. Rhyme Royal: AB A BB CC

20 Finish Your KWL What did you learn?

21 Journal Entry If Chaucer were writing his tales today, what kinds of people might some of his pilgrims be? Where might their journey take them?


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