Who Was Geoffrey Chaucer? Geoffrey Chaucer (1343? – 1400) Born into a middle-class family As a teen, was sent to work in a royal household Served in the English army Married a lady-in-waiting to the queen Had a son who married a wealthy noblewoman, continuing the family’s rise in social class
Chaucer continued... Began writing in his twenties Started out imitating famous poets, but developed own style as he got older Invented his own poetic form, the heroic couplet, and used it for The Canterbury Tales heroic couplet: paired rhyming lines written in iambic pentameter (10 syllables following a light-heavy stress pattern) Known as the father of English poetry
The Canterbury Tales : Chaucer’s Great Unfinished Work Written in Chaucer’s later years Narrative poem about members of medieval society making a pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral (literary epic) Pilgrimage: a long journey to a shrine or holy place In 1170, Thomas à Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered while at his evening prayers. He was made a saint in 1173, and his tomb became a popular place for pilgrims to visit.
The Canterbury Tales continued... Characters (pilgrims) tell each other stories to pass time on the journey (pilgrimage) Reveals details about medieval society Characters come from all classes of society Stories come from all types of literature Chaucer planned to write 120 tales (4 tales for each pilgrim) but only completed 24.
The Prologue The Canterbury Tales StructureFrame StorySocial Context Social Commentary
Structure of The Canterbury Tales The Canterbury Tales consists of A prologue that introduces the characters and explains how they came to travel together 120 tales told by the pilgrims on their way to and from Canterbury Cathedral (only 24 completed)
The Prologue as Frame Story Frame Story: The Prologue acts as the “frame” that surrounds and connects the tales told by each pilgrim. 120 Tales: each pilgrim tells his/her stories on the way to and from Canterbury Cathedral Prologue: acts as the frame that holds the different tales together
The Pilgrims’ Journey Distance: about 56 miles Travel Time: at least 4 days
Medieval Society Aristocracy Status based on birth and tradition (nobles, people with titles) Upper Class Status based on acquired wealth (plenty of money, but no titles) Middle Class Status based on mastery of a trade (craftsmen, shopkeepers, etc.) Virtuous Lower Class Poor but virtuous (doing the right thing) Degraded Lower Class Those of low manners or questionable morals
Social Commentary in The Canterbury Tales The pilgrims in The Canterbury Tales come from different levels of society. The diverse group is brought together by a common goal: the pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral. Chaucer’s characters are very well-defined and well- developed, each with his/her own flaws and virtues. Several of the pilgrims represent different types of people from the Church, an important institution in medieval society. Chaucer’s detailed look at medieval life provides social commentary, or insight into his society, its values, and its customs. Focus Question: What commentary does Chaucer seem to make about the Church as an institution?
Reading the Text The Canterbury Tales CharacterizationVocabularyChunking Questioning the Text
Literary Element: Characterization Chaucer uses characterization to reveal information about the characters (pilgrims). There are 2 main types of characterization: Direct: The author presents direct statements about a character. Indirect: The author uses actions, thoughts, and dialogue to reveal a character’s traits and personality.
Characterization Practice Are the following statements about George examples of direct or indirect characterization? Jenny thought that George was the best brother in the world. Basketball was George’s favorite sport. George spent most of his time on the basketball court. “George!” his mother cried, “are you ever going to clean your room? Something’s growing in there!” indirect (thought) direct indirect (action) indirect (dialogue)
The Canterbury Tales Vocabulary absolution (n) act of freeing someone of a sin or criminal charge commission (n) authorization; act of giving authority to an individual or group garnished (adj) decorated; trimmed
The Canterbury Tales Vocabulary continued... prevarication (n) evasion or avoidance of the truth (not quite lying) sanguine (adj) confident; cheerful solicitous (adj) showing care or concern; wanting to help
Reading Strategy: Chunking As readers, we need to break a long text up into pieces to digest and understand them. Writers break their texts up into digestible pieces by using paragraphs (prose) and stanzas (poetry). Sometimes, however, we may need to break these pieces into even smaller morsels in order to comprehend a passage. This is called chunking and is a useful strategy for longer and/or more complex texts that convey a lot of information to be organized and understood. Look for natural divisions between ideas indicated by end punctuation and conjunctions. Follow your instincts; often you can sense the shift between ideas without quite knowing how.
Chunk #3 Chunk #2 Chunk #1 Reading Strategy: Chunking continued... It happened in that season that one day In Southwark, at The Tabard, as I lay Ready to go on pilgrimage and start For Canterbury, most devout at heart, At night there came into that hostelry Some nine and twenty in a company Of sundry folk happening then to fall In fellowship, and they were pilgrims all That towards Canterbury meant to ride. The rooms and stables of the inn were wide; They made us easy, all was of the best. And shortly, when the sun had gone to rest, By speaking to them all upon the trip I soon was one of them in fellowship And promised to rise early and take the way To Canterbury, as you heard me say.
Reading Strategy: Questioning the Text When you do not understand a long, involved sentence you are reading, repair your comprehension by questioning. To pull the essential information from a chunk of text, ask the good old standby questions: Who? What? When? Where? How? Why? How? Once you have most or all of those answers, go back to the text to fill in the details.
Chunk #3: What? How? Why? Chunk #2: Who? Chunk #1: When? Where? Reading Strategy: Chunking & Questioning It happened in that season that one day In Southwark, at The Tabard, as I lay Ready to go on pilgrimage and start For Canterbury, most devout at heart, At night there came into that hostelry Some nine and twenty in a company Of sundry folk happening then to fall In fellowship, and they were pilgrims all That towards Canterbury meant to ride. The rooms and stables of the inn were wide; They made us easy, all was of the best. And shortly, when the sun had gone to rest, By speaking to them all upon the trip I soon was one of them in fellowship And promised to rise early and take the way To Canterbury, as you heard me say.
EQ1: What Is the Relationship between Literature and Place? Making a nation of an island A diverse group working toward a common goal Review textbook page 8.
Timely EventsSocial Trends Showing, Not Lecturing Rising Middle ClassHuman Stories EQ2: How Does Literature Shape or Reflect Society? (Pg. 10)
EQ3: What Is the Relationship of the Writer to Tradition? (Pg. 12) Chaucer both borrowed from and created new literary traditions. epic frame story wider view of society heroic couplet / iambic pentameter traditional types of stories