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The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
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The Canterbury Tales

by Geoffrey Chaucer

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
13,950117148 (3.73)506
  1. 102
    Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (Othemts)
  2. 60
    The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio (thecoroner)
  3. 60
    Walking to Canterbury : A modern journey through Chaucer's medieval England by Jerry Ellis (amyblue)
  4. 40
    Piers Plowman by William Langland (myshelves)
    myshelves: Some similar themes are covered, especially with regard to religious issues.
  5. 40
    The Mercy Seller by Brenda Rickman Vantrease (myshelves)
    myshelves: The Mercy Seller, a novel about the religious ferment in the early 15th century, features a Pardoner who is not happy about the portrayal of the Pardoner in The Canterbury Tales.
  6. 10
    The Canterbury Tales by Seymour Chwast (kxlly)
  7. 10
    Tales of Count Lucanor by Don Juan Manuel (caflores)
  8. 11
    Life in the Medieval University by Robert Rait (KayCliff)
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Uma coleção de contos do século 14. Um grupo de viajantes vai à Cantuária e delicia-se com histórias para passar o tempo. Algumas são bem-humoradas, outras são banais ou ficam abaixo do esperado, mas o efeito geral é forte, graças à grande vitalidade dos personagens de Chaucer, uma saudável prova de que a Idade Média nada tinha de pesada e solene (sua imagem dominante). Os personagens parecem incrivelmente vivos e, com exceção de alguns temas recorrentes (particularmente virgindade e adultério - é uma coisa boa que os imbecis a favor de censura não lêem versos), são radicalmente diferentes uns dos outros: vão do vulgarmente chocante ao presunçosamente correto ---- e são todos exuberantemente traçados. ( )
  jgcorrea | Apr 24, 2015 |
While The Canterbury Tales is very well-known by its title, it is probably not that widely read. It is a collection of 20 stories written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century. Apart from a few exceptions these tales are written in verse. This review is based on my reading of the Modern English translation by Nevill Coghill.

The Canterbury Tales are a story-telling contest by a group of people on their way from Southwark to Canterbury Cathedral:

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.

(quoted from The Prologue)

This "sundry folk" includes, among others, a knight, a miller, a reeve, a cook, a prioress, a monk, a clerk, a merchant, a physician, a pardoner and a parson. Probably also known to many is The Wife of Bath.

As it is hard to review such a large collection of stories I will concentrate on the one that impressed me most, which was 'The Miller's Tale'. Following a story of courtly love told by the kinght, 'The Miller's Tale' relates a story of a carpenter who is fooled by his clerks who have sex with the carpenter's wife. What I especially liked about this story is the topic, which is talked about very openly for a 14th century work. What is more, the miller does a magnificent job in telling his tale after he had just told the rest of the group of pilgrims that he was drunk and not to be held acoountable for the story. 'The Miller's Tale' is followed by 'The Reeve's Tale' in which great offense is expressed at the miller's story as the reeve had been a carpenter himself once. This can be seen as an example of the structure of The Canterbury Tales: A story insulting a particular group of persons or a particular trade is usually followed by a response from the offended who tell a tale on their own to set matters right or get back at the previous speaker.

While 'The Miller's Tale' is just one of many stories in The Canterbury Tales it is somewhat representative of what I liked about the book. First, there is the structure that greatly contributes to the overall reading pleasure. Second, there are the tales themselves, which are very entertaining, especially keeping in mind the fact that they were written at the end of the 14th century. To my mind, The Canterbury Tales is a classic that is still highly appealing to 21st century readers. On the whole, 4 stars for a great reading experience. ( )
1 vote OscarWilde87 | Apr 12, 2015 |
Always entertaining. I loved reading this the first time and I always enjoy going back over a tale or two for a chuckle. ( )
  swingingnorske | Apr 7, 2015 |
I was interested in a modern, maximally-readable, unabridged translation of the Canterbury Tales. In reviewing various translations, I found that the vast majority were abridged. Even some that claim to be unabridged often omit or summarize at least slightly. (For example, Nevill Coghill's 1951 translation abridges The Parson's Tale.) I examined relatively complete translations by D. Laing Purves (1876), Nevill Coghill (1951), R. M. Lumiansky (1960), David Wright (1985), and Burton Raffel (2008).

The 2008 translation by Raffel was my clear favorite. Raffel goes farther than the other translators in modernizing Chaucer's language, yet the poetry retains beauty, flow, and often rhyme. Also, it is completely unabridged. If you want to read the complete text of the Canterbury Tales with the greatest ease and fluidity, Raffel's translation is the one to pick. The others provide various compromises between reading Chaucer's original (with annotations to help with the difficult words) and Raffel, with Wright being second-closest to modern language, and Coghill my third-favorite.

While Raffel's translation was good, the stories by Chaucer generally were not. Chaucer's strength is language: his plots and characters are generally lacking. His stories often feel into one of several molds:

* Stories about chivalrous knights fighting or pining for women they hardly know, an expression of courtly love. One example is the first tale in the book, The Knight's Tale, which is an anachronistic story that ports elements of Middle Ages culture and practices into the Trojan War period.

* Comedic stories about foolish commoners. These are generally lewd, the humor is immature (for example, emphasizing bodily functions like farting), and often involve people getting hurt in the manner of slapstick cartoon characters or men whose wives cheat on them. Chaucer, who was writing predominantly for the nobility, likely was pandering to their perceptions of commoners as lesser people and buffoons.

* Lengthy, religious diatribes. The Tale of Melibee and The Parson's Tale, both written in prose rather than poetry, are the prime examples. From a plot and character perspective, they are terrible. The Tale of Melibee, for example, begins with Melibee's enemies breaking into his house when he is away. They beat his wife and mortally wound his daughter. When Melibee gets back, he is distraught and vows vengence upon them. Then, over the course of very many pages, his robot-like wife "Prudence" endlessly quotes empty platitudes from religious and secular literature, eventually convincing Melibee to forgive his enemies.

There are a few gems amidst Chaucer's many pages. Chaucer's tale "Sir Thopas" is my favorite- a genuinely funny satire of the Medieval noble knight, written in bouncy prose with a different rhyme structure from the rest of the book. Sadly, and frustratingly, Chaucer cuts off this story very near to the beginning (he has one of the other characters interrupt the tale-teller, the character Chaucer). Perhaps he felt that nobles (his audience) wouldn't be able to accept a story that satirizes the warriors among them.

My other favorite is the Pardon Peddler's Tale (including its prologue), in which the pardon peddler describes in a humorously over-the-top manner how he travels from place to place, preaching against sins such as the love of money, so that people will give him all the more money, with which he can indulge himself. His tale, which follows, is simple and moralistic, but it is well-told and has a solid plot as a short parable.

Sadly, there are also some dreadful stories. For example, the Prioress tells a short, antisemitic story. A seven-year-old boy walks through a Jewish neighborhood on the way to school. The Jews murder him because he was singing about the Virgin Mary while walking. The story ends with a massacre of the Jews (not just the specific murderers), which is presented as a positive thing.

It can be hard to tell for certain how prejudiced Chaucer was against non-Christians. A ruler whom Chaucer (erroneously) identifies as Islamic is praised in The Squire's Tale, not in spite of his faith, but in part because he follows Islam strictly. (Genghis Khan, the most likely candidate for the ruler Chaucer calls "Cambeeyuskan," was actually a tengrist.)

Overall, I did not find the experience of reading the Canterbury Tales to be worthwhile. I am never satisfied by the language or poetry of a novel or epic poem- language must be in service to a story with good plot and characters. I did not like Chaucer's humor or his moralism. While there were a few good moments, they were too rare, and in particular, I cannot forgive Chaucer for intentionally cutting off my favorite story near to its beginning. If you desire a positive experience of the Canterbury Tales, I'd recommend reading just several of his best stories. If you read the work in its entirety, you will likely come away with a more realistic, and considerably more negative, view of Chaucer's work. ( )
  jrissman | Mar 24, 2015 |
'The Canterbury Tales'
Review by Alexander Theroux
L.A. Times
November 16, 2008

Chaucer himself was a translator, people forget, his most important work along those lines being "The Romance of the Rose" and Boethius' "The Consolation of Philosophy." Some of the tales that appear in "The Canterbury Tales" he wrote in his youth, but others were, in fact, translations that he made anew later on. So Burton Raffel, a self-identified poet and professor emeritus of English at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, is therefore in good company. In his surprisingly brief "Translator's Foreword" for this new translation, he cites no more than the eight opening lines of the famous "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

The tendre croppes and the yonge sonne

Hath in the Ram his half cours yronne"

-- to give his reasons for a new version: "There are unfamiliar words, and the metrics . . . are not at all clear." He goes on to say, "Englishmen as late as the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries could not follow Chaucer's metrics. . . . Still, native speakers of English, as recently as the first half of the twentieth century, were not particularly uncomfortable with Chaucer's difficulties. Time has, however, continued to move on. . . . As is always the case, what was is now no more." He alludes to "Chaucer's difficulties." A very real question must be asked: Are the difficulties Chaucer's or Raffel's?

Translating Chaucer's masterpiece is a herculean feat, needless to say. It is a work, 24 tales in all, that constitutes almost all of the literary forms that make up medieval literature: parodies, exempla, pious sermons, literary confessions, stately romances, saints' legends, lubricious anecdotes, you name it. Generally, it is "Estates satire," as well -- types. "The Franklin's Tale" is a Breton lai. "The Miller's Tale," that smutty story, is a fabliau. "The Nun's Priest's Tale" is a beast fable. The Parson offers an austerely orthodox treatise on penance. Two tales are in prose: "The Parson's Tale" and the "Tale of Melibee," which is full of legal jargon. "The Monk's Tale" expresses scorn for disrespectful and unruly commoners. Chaucer runs the gamut. There are many Chaucers: funny, gloomy, pious, political, gross. There is the learned Chaucer, the feminist Chaucer, the social Chaucer, the religious Chaucer, the rhetorical Chaucer, the Chaucer who attempts little more than trying to titillate the groundling mind with nothing but farce, foolishness and fart jokes.

He could do many voices. His own native dialect was that of metropolitan London, where he was born, educated and lived most of his life. (Granted, it was a small city at the time, only about 40,000 people.) Although much of 14th century England was a cultural satellite of France (French had been the official language of the English government since 1066), Chaucer was surely sparked by the vernacular with all of its rich, comic possibilities. Victories over the French at Crécy (1346) and Poitiers (1356) had raised the status of the native tongue. Bilingual from childhood, he picked up Latin training as a courtier and court diplomat and chose to write in English. "And for there is so great diversite / In Englissh and in writing of oure tongue, / So prey I to God that non miswrite thee / Ne the mysmetre for defaute of tongue," he declared in "Troilus and Criseyde." A wide diversity of language could be found then throughout England, where dialects often differed from county to county. A reader of Chaucer will encounter idioms, prayers, jingles, puns, tall tales, harangues, narratives, a few inflectional survivals from Old English, words no longer used, slang. It was for such multifariousness that he became "the firste fyndere of our faire language."

"The Canterbury Tales" is a delightful fiction, of course. (A "Canterbury tale" in Middle English slang is a "lie"!) The frame of the poem is a pilgrimage that consists of 30 pilgrims (29 plus the poet), each of them a recognizable 14th century type, taking the 60-mile trip from London's Tabard Inn to the tomb of St. Thomas à Becket at the Canterbury cathedral with each to tell four tales "to shorten the way." The telling becomes a competition, with one Harry Bailey, the Tabard proprietor, acting as host and guide. Chaucer projected 120 tales; only 24 constitute the entire work, and two of these remain unfinished.

"I have tried to give as much of the effect of Chaucer's poetry as I could," Raffel states, explaining as if confounded that in his translation the sound of the original poetry is unreproducible. We are told we are being given a "translation from" rather an "edition of" the poem, meaning simply that he is using the accepted order of the classic from the standard F.N. Robinson edition of Chaucer's poems. (Chaucer neither prepared a full, consecutive grouping of the full, final poem.) When Raffel confesses that he cannot integrate Chaucer's syntax with his own modern version, it is understandable. Although Chaucer's syntax in the original, untranslated, is very much like our own, for a translator to try to save or salvage parts in an otherwise translated sentence would of course cause problems.

Remarkably, Chaucerian English is quite accessible to the modern reader (often downright simple) and in other places asks merely for determination to read it. The language is realistic and oddly modern. It "demonstrates," as John Gardner noted, rather than "explores," and the openness and freshness of imagery has never failed to appeal to the popular and vulgar audience for whom the tales were composed. Take "The Summoner's Tale." How difficult is it to understand the following passage in the original?

"Now thanne, put in thyn hand doun by my bak,"

Seyde this man, "and grope wel bihynde.

Bynethe my buttok there shaltow fynde

A thing that I have hyd in pryvetee."

"A!" thoghte this frère, "that shal go with me!"

And doun his hand he launcheth to the clifte,

In hope for to fynde there a yifte.

And whan this sike man felte this frère

About his tuwel grope there and here,

Amydde his hand he leet the frère a fart.

Ther nys no capul, drawynge in a cart,

That myghte have lete a fart of swich a soun.

(Look up capul (cart-horse) and tuwel (hole), and it could be a modern schoolboy telling a snappy whopper to his friend!

Raffel's is a reductive translation, if it is an accessible one. When he characterizes his undertaking by stating that "Comprehension by modern readers is the key," we suspect right off that we are being served up a dumbed-down version. He renames many familiar characters. There is no reason a person would any more know what a "Steward" does than a Reeve, although here the former replaces the latter. The occupation of manciple is changed into "Provisioner." Cui bono? Chaucer's Pardoner becomes by transubstantiation the "Pardon-Peddler," but may not one ask if a reader knows what a pardon is, would he not therefore know what a Pardoner does? What is clarified by denominating the Canon a "Cleric" or the Yeoman a "Magician," and what is gained by the leavening alteration? When Raffel arbitrarily leaves the names Squire and Summoner in the text, moreover, should one assume that (a) these particular two are modern professions and that (b) one is familiar with them? Choices, alterations seem subjective. When we are told, as indeed Raffel rather cavalierly tells us, that "virtually no one, today, understands what a 'canon' is, or what he does, or even where he does it, and much the same may be said of a 'yeoman,' " should one therefore conclude that new translations should now be required, say, of Charles Dickens' "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" and Dr. Seuss' fable "The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins" in which, respectively, a canon and a yeomen happen to appear? I must say, I was repeatedly struck by how cheap and vulgarized the paraphrased work of magnificent poetry can be.

Consider several comparisons between the original poem and this translation. The Reeve in his tale, recounting the story of a pompous miller, describes that man in part:

"A joly poppere baar he in his pouche;

Ther was no man, for peril, dorste hym touched.

A Sheffeld thwitel baar he in his hose.

Round was his face, and camus was his nose;

As agile as an ape was his skulle."

Raffel's "Steward" says,

"And in his pouch he carried a fine little dagger.

No one bothered him, for fear of danger.

His long stockings were long, and held a Sheffield knife.

His face was round, his nose was stubby and wide.

His skull was bald, as naked as any ape."

The translation is wordier, flatter, less succinct, dependent on clichés, comparatively imprecise and even redundant. Crispness has been sacrificed for clarity. (It should also be pointed out that Raffel doesn't follow the standard Chaucerian line-numbering, beginning every tale with line 1, making it almost impossible to compare his translation with the original.)

I found the same problem throughout the revised and paraphrased poem, bold poetry giving way to compromised narrative. In "The Wife of Bath's Prologue," the randy narrator confesses:

"Gat-toothed I was, and that bicam me weel;

I hadde the prente of seinte Venus seel.

As help me God! I was a lusty oon

And faire, and riche, and yong, and wel bigon;

And trewely, as myne housbondes tolde me,

I hadde the beste quoniam myghte be.

For certes, I am al Venerien

In feelynge"

This becomes in Raffel's translation:

"My teeth were wide apart, which is a sign

Of Venus, and I bore her birthmark on my body.

So help me God! But surely I was lusty,

Pretty, rich, and very well situated.

And truly, as my new husband often stated

My crotch was just as perfect as that part can be.

I'm truly born of Venus, most certainly,

In all my feelings"

Preference matters, of course. I myself have a hard time imagining any reader who is interested in Chaucer in the first place having trouble reading the original lines. It is personal taste to gauge whether flavor is lost.

Flavor is everything in Chaucer. Words, images, passages. Beyond all else, his flavor must be kept in any translation. The poem, which is found prevailingly in pentameter couplets, needs that continuing bounce or beat for its rude, narrative value. As a college student, but even in high school, I read "The Canterbury Tales" in the original Middle English in Robinson's edition. All sorts of editions (abridged and unabridged) are available. There are prose format translations for easy readings. There are interlinear versions. There are duncical translations that turn the poem into a different entity altogether.

Surely no one can doubt that this splendid work should ideally be read in Chaucer's own words, even if it means occasionally glancing at a marginal gloss or a footnote. "Glosynge is a glorious thing," the Friar tells in "The Summoner's Tale." It is undeniable that such odd Middle English words like "hende" and "joly" refuse translation. Strange words proliferate: gypon, lixt, cloutes, lymytour, artow, mooder, kiken. (I say: look them up!) Chaucerian variants can also confuse. As A.C. Cawley points out in his well-annotated Everyman edition of the tales, one can dredge up something like 10 variants in the work for the word "horse" alone: ambler, hackney, caple, dexter, palfry, rouncy, stot and more. Theological terms can be arcane, as well. There is no end of feudal terms and topical allusions. It is Cawley who also sagaciously observes in turn that "glosses and paraphrases can be just as harmful as a modernized version of the whole, if they are allowed to take precedence over the original." He advises that where footnotes or marginal notes are not needed, they should be ignored. I personally love footnotes simply because I yearn to know. When I was teaching, I tried to assure my students that the day they started reading rather ignoring scholarly paraphernalia was the day they were becoming what a good student should be.

I commend Raffel for his ambition to get folks to read and understand this complex poem. But the problem is that, in so doing, while giving readers access to the mysteries, he ironically robs those mysteries of their beauty. The genius of this magnificent poem is precisely in its original words. The fault is not in the concept of the undertaking but rather in the nature of it. Translating Chaucer is hazardously compromising at best. Technical words become ordinary. Puns can lose their significance. Rhymes are lost. Colors fade. Substitution can seem like a violation. There is a rough equity to a degree, but it is what critic George Steiner refers to as "radical equity."

Chaucer is the crown, the full flower, of English medieval verse. As Ezra Pound declared in "ABC of Reading," "Anyone who is too lazy to master the comparatively small glossary necessary to understand Chaucer deserves to be shut out from the reading of good books forever."

-------------------------------------------------​
The Secret of The Canterbury Tales
By Adam Kirsch
Slate
December 29, 2008

A confirmed sadist could find many things to enjoy in the pages of The Canterbury Tales. As Chaucer's pilgrims take turns telling stories to while away the hours on their long walk to the shrine of St. Thomas a Becket, they shy away from no variety of physical violation or psychological torture. In "The Miller's Tale," a man is rectally impaled with a red-hot poker. In "The Clerk's Tale," a husband tests his wife's obedience by pretending to murder their two children. In "The Reeve's Tale," a pair of students rapes a man's wife and daughter in order to humiliate him.

Why is it, then, that the actual experience of reading The Canterbury Tales is not at all painful? Why has it struck six centuries of readers as, in fact, the humane masterpiece of English literature—the book that seems to embrace more of the world, and affirm more of human nature, than any other? The answer lies in the disjunction between the men and women who populate Chaucer's poem and the stories that they tell. In their tales, the pilgrims reflect the assumptions of a medieval world that manages to appear, at the same time, inhumane in its love of comic brutality and sanctimonious in the way it elevates piety, humility, and (especially female) chastity into the highest virtues. Who would want to live as austerely as Chaucer's Pardoner demands from the pulpit?



O gluttony, the height of wickedness!
O primal cause of mankind's utter fall!
O first and original sin that damned us all
Till Christ redeemed us with his own dear blood! ...
O stomach! O belly! O stinking bag of jelly,
Filled with dung, and reeking with corruption!

Yet by the time the reader reaches these lines from "The Pardoner's Tale"—as rendered, here, by Burton Raffel, in his new translation of Chaucer from Middle to Modern English—she has already learned not to trust a word this character says. For in real life, the Pardoner—or, as Raffel derisively calls him, the "Pardon-Peddler"—is himself a first-class glutton, not to mention a lecher and a con artist. "I want good money, good clothes and cheese and wheat/… I like to water my throat with wine,/ And have a frisky wench in every town," the Pardoner brags in the prologue that precedes his tale. He is so brazen that the reader has to laugh, especially when he reveals the trick that always gets people to pay for the privilege of genuflecting before his faked relics. He announces to the congregation that "Anyone in sitting in church, cozy and warm,/ Guilty of several sins so awful he/ Dares not, for shame, confess and pray for mercy," is strictly forbidden to make an offering. After that, of course, no one wants to be seen holding back.

"In real life," I wrote, the Pardoner is not what he seems in his tale—yet of course there is no "in real life" when it comes to the pilgrims, who are all Chaucer's inventions. Indeed, the pilgrims are far more Chaucer's inventions than the stories they tell, which are usually recycled from other medieval tale collections. Yet it is precisely by building this second level, this metafiction, into his fiction that Chaucer renders it so powerfully realistic. Because we see the pilgrims telling stories, they gain the trust we place in storytellers, who, by definition, are more real than their tales.

And it is in the gap between the tellers and the tales that Chaucer's humanity is able to flourish. The Clerk might offer up Griselda, the wife who is unswervingly loyal despite her husband's cruelty, as a model of Christian patience: "A woman having been incredibly patient/ To a mortal man, how very much more we ought/ To take in good part whatever God has sent us,/ For rightfully he tests what he has wrought. …" Yet at the end of that tale, Chaucer adds a song or "envoy," gleefully acknowledging that "Griselda is dead, and so too is her patience," so that husbands should not try to find her like: "They'd only be wasting their time, and deserve their penance."

More important, Chaucer creates the Wife of Bath, that irresistible emblem of female independence and appetite, to display "in real life" a charisma that the "fictional" Griselda could never match. Griselda is the kind of woman that only exists in stories written by "clerks," that is, clergymen, as the Wife complains:

There is no greater impossibility,
In truth, than clerics praising wives would be,
Unless the woman is a holy saint:
No other women deserve a word of praise.
Pictures of lion-killing show a living
Man. But what if a lion had painted the picture?

The Wife of Bath's fifth husband, she recounts, had a book full of misogynistic stories from sacred and pagan literature; tired of hearing them, she "yanked three pages out of the book/ And threw them onto the floor, and also hit him/ Right on the cheek, hard, with my balled-up fist." The secret of The Canterbury Tales is that it allows its characters to tear out its own pages, so to speak—to mock and complain about the rules they are supposed to live by. Because of this, the book has a holiday air, a tolerance for human appetites and frailties, that few modern works can rival. Our officially secular and hedonistic society seldom allows us to feel as free and happy as Chaucer's pilgrims seem to be.

All the passages I have quoted come from Burton Raffel's new translation, and they show its one big virtue: It is immediately comprehensible, allowing the reader to grasp (most of) Chaucer's meaning without footnotes. For those readers who are absolutely unwilling to puzzle out Middle English spelling, or spend time getting acquainted with Chaucer's versification and syntax, Raffel's edition will be a useful substitute.

But even Raffel, a poet who has translated everyone from Cervantes to Stendhal, seems a little curious why anyone would bother reading The Canterbury Tales in translation. "Native speakers of English, as recently as the first half of the twentieth century, were not particularly uncomfortable with Chaucer's difficulties," he writes in his introduction. Since the English language has not changed much in the last 50 years, he clearly believes that the problem lies with its speakers—that we have gotten lazier and more provincial.

No one who embarks on reading The Canterbury Tales, however, can be all that lazy, and any reader who compares the original with Raffel's version will surely agree that the extra effort is worthwhile. For Raffel's translation loses the original's music without finding a music of its own; he is wordy where the original is pithy and bare where the original is lush. Chaucer is in many ways the progenitor of English fiction—he is closer to Dickens than to Keats—but he is also a great master of English poetry; and since poetry is what is lost in translation, why not take the trouble to read the original and avoid the loss? Besides, as the Pardoner says, "lewed peple loven tales olde;/ Swiche thynges kan they wel reporte and holde."
  meadcl | Dec 17, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Geoffrey Chaucerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Coghill, NevillTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ackroyd, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bantock, NickIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Barisone, ErmannoEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Barnouw, A.J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bennett, J. A. W.Notesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bragg, MelvynForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cawley, A. C.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Caxton, WilliamPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Forster, PeterIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hieatt, A. KentEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hieatt, ConstanceEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hill, Frank ErnestTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kent, RockwellIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Latham, RobertGeneral editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Skeat, Walter W.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stearn, TedCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Untermeyer, LouisIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wain, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
... I have translated some parts of his works, only that I might perpetuate his memory, or at least refresh it, amongst my countrymen. If I have altered him anywhere for the better, I must at the same time acknowledge, that I could have done nothing without him...

JOHN DRYDEN on translating Chaucer
Preface to the Fables
1700

And such as Chaucer is, shall Dryden be.

ALEXANDER POPE
Essay on Criticism
1711
Dedication
First words
When the sweet showers of April have pierced/
The drought of March, and pierced it to the root,/
And every vein is bathed in that moisture/
Whose quickening force will engender the flower;/
And when the west wind too with its sweet breath/
Has given life in every wood and field/
To tender shoots, and when the stripling sun/
Has run his half-course in Aries, the Ram,/
And when small birds are making melodies,/
That sleep all the night long with open eyes,/
(Nature so prompts them, and encourages);/
Then people long to go on pilgrimages,/
And palmers to take ship for foreign shores,/
And distant shrines, famous in different lands;/
And most especially, from all the shires/
Of England, to Canterbury they come,/
The holy blessed martyr there to seek,/
Who gave his help to them when they were sick.
When in April the sweet showers fall
And pierce the drought of March to the root, and all
The veins are bathed in liquor of such power
As brings about the engendering of the flower,
When also Zephyrus with his sweet breath
Exhales an air in every grove and heath
Upon the tender shoots, and the young sun
His half-course in the sign of the Ram has run,
And the small fowl are making melody
That sleep away the night with open eye
(So nature pricks them and their heart engages)
Then people long to go on pilgrimages
And palmers long to seek the stranger strands
Of far-off saints, hallowed in sundry lands,
And specially, from every shire's end
Of England, down to Canterbury they wend
To seek the holy blissful martyr, quick
To give his help to them when they were sick.

(translated by Nevill Coghill, 1951)
Once upon a time, as old stories tell us, there was a duke named Theseus;  Of Athens he was a lord and governor, And in his time such a conqueror, That greater was there none under the sun.
Quotations
Sloth makes men believe that goodness is so painfully hard and so complicated that it requires more daring than they possess, as Saint George says.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This record is for the unabridged Canterbury Tales. Please do not combine selected tales or incomplete portions of multi-volume sets onto this record. Thank you!
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
blurb: The Canterbury Tales stands conspicuous among the great literary achievements of the Middle Ages. Told by a jovial procession of pilgrims - knight, priest, yeoman, miller, or cook - as they ride towards the shrine of Thomas a’ Becket, they present a picture of a nation taking shape. The tone of this never resting comedy is, by turns, learned, fantastic, lewd, pious, and ludicrous. Geoffrey Chaucer began his great task on about 1386. This version in modern English, by Nevill Coghill, preserves the freshness and racy vitality of Chaucer’s narrative.

Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140424385, Paperback)

On a spring day in April--sometime in the waning years of the 14th century--29 travelers set out for Canterbury on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint Thomas Beckett. Among them is a knight, a monk, a prioress, a plowman, a miller, a merchant, a clerk, and an oft-widowed wife from Bath. Travel is arduous and wearing; to maintain their spirits, this band of pilgrims entertains each other with a series of tall tales that span the spectrum of literary genres. Five hundred years later, people are still reading Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. If you haven't yet made the acquaintance of the Franklin, the Pardoner, or the Squire because you never learned Middle English, take heart: this edition of the Tales has been translated into modern idiom.

From the heroic romance of "The Knight's Tale" to the low farce embodied in the stories of the Miller, the Reeve, and the Merchant, Chaucer treated such universal subjects as love, sex, and death in poetry that is simultaneously witty, insightful, and poignant. The Canterbury Tales is a grand tour of 14th-century English mores and morals--one that modern-day readers will enjoy.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:50 -0400)

(see all 10 descriptions)

"With their astonishing diversity of tone and subject matter, The Canterbury Tales have become one of the touchstones of medieval literature. Translated here into modern English, these tales of a motley crowd of pilgrims drawn from all walks of life-from knight to nun, miller to monk-reveal a picture of English life in the fourteenth century that is as robust as it is representative." --Publisher description.… (more)

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2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140424385, 014042234X

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