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The Canterbury Tales A Royal Introduction to Medieval Literature.

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Presentation on theme: "The Canterbury Tales A Royal Introduction to Medieval Literature."— Presentation transcript:

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2 The Canterbury Tales A Royal Introduction to Medieval Literature

3 Geoffrey Chaucer (1343? – 1400) Son of a prosperous London wine merchant Son of a prosperous London wine merchant Worked as a page for the King’s son’s wife Worked as a page for the King’s son’s wife Chaucer’s introduction to Aristocracy Chaucer’s introduction to Aristocracy Soldier in the English Army Soldier in the English Army Married the queen’s lady in waiting Married the queen’s lady in waiting Son was also a great success Son was also a great success Buried in Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner Buried in Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner

4 Chaucer’s Work Well known in his time Well known in his time Greatest English poet Greatest English poet Early works include French translations Early works include French translations Culture of the English upper class was predominantly French Culture of the English upper class was predominantly French Another popular work - Troilus and Criseyde Another popular work - Troilus and Criseyde Frequently studied Frequently studied Shakespeare drew on Chaucer’s poem for his play Troilus and Cressida Shakespeare drew on Chaucer’s poem for his play Troilus and Cressida

5 14 th Century England Society – strictly ordered Society – strictly ordered King, nobles – political power King, nobles – political power Catholic Church – spiritual power Catholic Church – spiritual power Expansion of trade and commerce Expansion of trade and commerce Gave rise to the middle class Gave rise to the middle class Population mostly agrarian Population mostly agrarian Looked to the Church for consolation/defense Looked to the Church for consolation/defense Clergy became landowners - abuse and corruption Clergy became landowners - abuse and corruption

6 Problems The Plague The Plague Killed 1/3 of the population of England Killed 1/3 of the population of England Labor shortage Labor shortage The Peasants’ Rebellion – 1381 The Peasants’ Rebellion – 1381 Chaucer – Controller of the Custom Chaucer – Controller of the Custom Witnessed the rebellion literally outside his window Witnessed the rebellion literally outside his window Lived among/dealt with many different classes Lived among/dealt with many different classes

7 Influences People and classes of London People and classes of London Classical writers – Ovid, Virgil Classical writers – Ovid, Virgil Christian apologists – Augustine, Boethius Christian apologists – Augustine, Boethius French poetry French poetry Italian poets – Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio Italian poets – Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio Uses well-known models and sources Uses well-known models and sources

8 Uniqueness Frame story Frame story Many tales united by the journey Many tales united by the journey Written in English Written in English Serious writing was in Latin or French Serious writing was in Latin or French Well-received Well-received Given a second printing in its time Given a second printing in its time Has never been out of print Has never been out of print

9 The Pilgrimage Narrator and 29 travelers happen to meet at the Tabard Inn in Southwark, London. Narrator and 29 travelers happen to meet at the Tabard Inn in Southwark, London. 60-mile, four-day religious journey to the shrine of St. Thomas Becket at the Cathedral in Canterbury 60-mile, four-day religious journey to the shrine of St. Thomas Becket at the Cathedral in Canterbury Blessing and forgiveness to those who made pilgrimage; Blessing and forgiveness to those who made pilgrimage; Relics of the saint were enshrined there, miracles had been reported by those who prayed before the shrine. Relics of the saint were enshrined there, miracles had been reported by those who prayed before the shrine. Chaucer's pilgrims are not all traveling for religious reasons. Many of them simply enjoy social contact or the adventure of travel -- mixed reasons to attend. Chaucer's pilgrims are not all traveling for religious reasons. Many of them simply enjoy social contact or the adventure of travel -- mixed reasons to attend.

10 Maps Maps

11 The Tabard Inn – How it begins Innkeeper Harry Bailey suggests a game Innkeeper Harry Bailey suggests a game A story-telling contest - dinner to the winner A story-telling contest - dinner to the winner Each pilgrim four stories: two on the way to Canterbury, and two on the return trip = 120 stories! Each pilgrim four stories: two on the way to Canterbury, and two on the return trip = 120 stories! Narrator observes characters arriving and getting acquainted Narrator observes characters arriving and getting acquainted Chaucer didn’t finish; very few stories; ends almost as soon as it starts Chaucer didn’t finish; very few stories; ends almost as soon as it starts Travelers a cross-section of fourteenth-century English society Travelers a cross-section of fourteenth-century English society

12 Why is it so good? Completely original in concept and method Completely original in concept and method Range and variety Range and variety Different classes of people Different classes of people Different genres Different genres Romances – tales of chivalry Romances – tales of chivalry Fabliaux – short, bawdy, humorous Fabliaux – short, bawdy, humorous Religious – saints, sermons, allegories Religious – saints, sermons, allegories Pilgrimage serves as dramatic device Pilgrimage serves as dramatic device Tales are set each other off and throw light on the characters Tales are set each other off and throw light on the characters Life in the 14 th century – even life itself Life in the 14 th century – even life itself

13 Social Status Study All levels are represented All levels are represented Nobility Nobility The Knight The Knight The Squire The Squire Clergy Clergy The Prioress The Prioress The Monk The Monk The Friar The Friar The Nun The Nun The Priest The Priest The Cleric The Cleric The Parson The Parson The Canon The Canon The Summoner The Summoner The Pardoner The Pardoner Each Pilgrim tells a tale consistent with their character Each Pilgrim tells a tale consistent with their character The Middle Class The Merchant The Man of Law The Franklin (possibly minor nobility) The Haberdasher The Carpenter The Weaver The Dyer The Tapestry The Shipman The Physician The Wife of Bath The Miller The Manciple The Reeve The Host Peasants The Yeoman The Cook The Plowman The Canon's Yeoman

14 Religion Roman Catholic Roman Catholic Religious – member of a religious order Religious – member of a religious order Nun (prioress), Monk, Friar Nun (prioress), Monk, Friar Secular – clergy that governs the diocese Secular – clergy that governs the diocese Parson, Summoner Parson, Summoner Disputes between religious and secular Disputes between religious and secular MONEY MONEY

15 The Code of Chivalry Prowess: Seek excellence in all endeavors expected of a knight, martial and otherwise, seeking strength to be used in the service of justice, rather than in personal aggrandizement. Prowess: Seek excellence in all endeavors expected of a knight, martial and otherwise, seeking strength to be used in the service of justice, rather than in personal aggrandizement. Justice: Seek always the path of 'right', unencumbered by bias or personal interest. Recognize that the sword of justice can be a terrible thing, so it must be tempered by humanity and mercy. Justice: Seek always the path of 'right', unencumbered by bias or personal interest. Recognize that the sword of justice can be a terrible thing, so it must be tempered by humanity and mercy. Loyalty: Be known for unwavering commitment to the people and ideals you choose to live by. Loyalty: Be known for unwavering commitment to the people and ideals you choose to live by. Defense: Defend your liege lord and those who depend upon him. Seek always to defend your nation, your family, and those to whom you believe worthy of loyalty. Defense: Defend your liege lord and those who depend upon him. Seek always to defend your nation, your family, and those to whom you believe worthy of loyalty. Courage: Choose the more difficult path, the personally expensive one. Be prepared to make personal sacrifices in service of the precepts and people you value. Seek wisdom to see that stupidity and courage are cousins. Take the side of truth in all matters, rather than seek the expedient lie. Seek the truth whenever possible, but remember to temper justice with mercy, or the pure truth can bring grief. Courage: Choose the more difficult path, the personally expensive one. Be prepared to make personal sacrifices in service of the precepts and people you value. Seek wisdom to see that stupidity and courage are cousins. Take the side of truth in all matters, rather than seek the expedient lie. Seek the truth whenever possible, but remember to temper justice with mercy, or the pure truth can bring grief.

16 The Code Continued… Faith: Have faith in your beliefs, for faith roots you and gives hope against the despair that human failings create. Faith: Have faith in your beliefs, for faith roots you and gives hope against the despair that human failings create. Humility: Value first the contributions of others; do not boast of your own accomplishments, let others do this for you. Tell the deeds of others before your own, according them the renown rightfully earned through virtuous deeds. Humility: Value first the contributions of others; do not boast of your own accomplishments, let others do this for you. Tell the deeds of others before your own, according them the renown rightfully earned through virtuous deeds. Largesse: Be generous in so far as your resources allow; largesse used in this way counters gluttony. It also makes the path of mercy easier to discern when a difficult decision of justice is required. Largesse: Be generous in so far as your resources allow; largesse used in this way counters gluttony. It also makes the path of mercy easier to discern when a difficult decision of justice is required. Nobility: Seek great stature of character by holding to the virtues and duties of a knight, realizing that though the ideals cannot be reached, the quality of striving towards them ennobles the spirit, growing the character from dust towards the heavens. Nobility also has the tendency to influence others, offering a compelling example of what can be done in the service of rightness. Nobility: Seek great stature of character by holding to the virtues and duties of a knight, realizing that though the ideals cannot be reached, the quality of striving towards them ennobles the spirit, growing the character from dust towards the heavens. Nobility also has the tendency to influence others, offering a compelling example of what can be done in the service of rightness. Franchise: Seek to emulate everything I have spoken of as sincerely as possible, not for the reason of personal gain but because it is right. Do not restrict your exploration to a small world, but seek to infuse every aspect of your life with these qualities. Should you succeed in even a tiny measure then you will be well remembered for your quality and virtue. Franchise: Seek to emulate everything I have spoken of as sincerely as possible, not for the reason of personal gain but because it is right. Do not restrict your exploration to a small world, but seek to infuse every aspect of your life with these qualities. Should you succeed in even a tiny measure then you will be well remembered for your quality and virtue.

17 The Knight’s Tale Draw straws to see who will tell the first tale. Draw straws to see who will tell the first tale. The Knight draws the shortest straw. The Knight draws the shortest straw. Long romantic epic about two brave young knights who both fall in love with the same woman and who spend years attempting to win her love Long romantic epic about two brave young knights who both fall in love with the same woman and who spend years attempting to win her love A real crowd-pleaser A real crowd-pleaser

18 The Knight’s Tale Romance / Epic Romance Romance / Epic Romance Inspired by Boccaccio’s “Teseida delle nozze di Emilia” Inspired by Boccaccio’s “Teseida delle nozze di Emilia” Features Pagan Gods Features Pagan Gods Planets are gods’ names Planets are gods’ names Determine who you are Determine who you are Palamon prays to Venus Palamon prays to Venus Arcite prays to Mars Arcite prays to Mars Emily prays to Diana Emily prays to Diana Ethical system without being Christian Ethical system without being Christian

19 Boethius and the Knight Boethius – 6 th Century Christian Philosopher Boethius – 6 th Century Christian Philosopher Consolation of Philosophy Consolation of Philosophy Philosophy = unity of self leads to true happiness Philosophy = unity of self leads to true happiness Reflects on how evil can exist in a world governed by God, and how happiness can be attainable amidst fickle fortune, while also considering the nature of happiness and God. Reflects on how evil can exist in a world governed by God, and how happiness can be attainable amidst fickle fortune, while also considering the nature of happiness and God. Boethius writes the book as a conversation between himself and Lady Philosophy Boethius writes the book as a conversation between himself and Lady Philosophy Boethius engages questions such as the nature of predestination and free will, why evil men often prosper and good men fall into ruin, human nature, virtue, and justice. Boethius engages questions such as the nature of predestination and free will, why evil men often prosper and good men fall into ruin, human nature, virtue, and justice.

20 The Miller’s Tale Drunk Drunk Intended to be comic Intended to be comic Tale of a student who lives with a carpenter and his much younger wife Tale of a student who lives with a carpenter and his much younger wife Student and wife have affair Student and wife have affair All are made fools by end of story All are made fools by end of story Offends the Reeve (he, himself, is an aging carpenter), who had a young wife Offends the Reeve (he, himself, is an aging carpenter), who had a young wife He says that he, like all old men, is motivated by boasting, anger, lying, and covetousness. He says that he, like all old men, is motivated by boasting, anger, lying, and covetousness. The Reeve promises to get even with the Miller The Reeve promises to get even with the Miller

21 The Reeve’s Tale Fabliau Fabliau Central character – a Miller Central character – a Miller Looks like the Miller on the pilgrimage – presented in the most unflattering light possible Looks like the Miller on the pilgrimage – presented in the most unflattering light possible Dishonest in his dealings Dishonest in his dealings Has a wife, a beautiful and desirable young daughter of marriageable age, and an infant still in the cradle Has a wife, a beautiful and desirable young daughter of marriageable age, and an infant still in the cradle In the Miller’s Tale, the carpenter is cuckolded In the Miller’s Tale, the carpenter is cuckolded In The Reeve’s Tale, the miller is cuckolded In The Reeve’s Tale, the miller is cuckolded And must suffer the further indignity of having his virgin daughter deflowered And must suffer the further indignity of having his virgin daughter deflowered

22 Wife of Bath Woman of experience Woman of experience Prefaces her tale with a long discourse on marriage Prefaces her tale with a long discourse on marriage Tale about the marriage of a young and virile knight who dishonors a young woman Tale about the marriage of a young and virile knight who dishonors a young woman Punished by marrying an ancient hag Punished by marrying an ancient hag He must answer “What do women want?” He must answer “What do women want?” Answer: Not to be subservient to husbands Answer: Not to be subservient to husbands


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