geoffrey chaucer

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1. Geoffrey Chaucer “A Light & Enlightening Literary Program” By: Professor Elliot Engel

3. Terms to Familiarize Yourself With: Roman Humor is defined as the comedies written in Rome. Medieval means “The Middle Ages.”

4. The Middle Ages 500 A.D. to 1500 A.D. (1,000 years) It is the longest period of any (especially when compared to the Romantic Period which occurred between 1800-1837). The British believe that the fall of Rome is the reason why the Middle Ages existed at the beginning of 500 A.D. It is also believed that King Arthur died in 500 A.D. This is problematic because it has not been proven that King Arthur ever existed.

5. The Roman Age The Roman Age occurred before the Middle Ages in humor. The Roman Age was not only in Rome. Romans took over England in 55 B.C. and remained there until 476 A.D. (500 years).

6. The Roman Age The following questions remain: “Why aren’t the Romans spoken of?” “Were they a less sophisticated group of people?” and “Were they barbaric?” Winston Churchill says “No!” Churchill is credited for writing the history of the English speaking peoples. He pointed out that most men and women that were not a part of the peasant class during the Roman time in England, had baths in their homes and running water in their baths. When Rome fell in 476 and they left England, the next time the English had hot baths in their home was in 1885. Indeed, the Romans were a sophisticated group of people that influenced the humor in the Middle Ages.

7. Famous Roman Comedians Plautus Terence

8. Fun Facts: Plautus Chronologically, he preceded Terrance. He was a poor farmer with a really good sense of humor. He was jovial. Had a demarche attitude. Wrote for escape purposes Fantasy and imagination were common characteristics in his plots.

9. Fun Facts: Plautus He stated everything that was going to happen in the prologue. “Cheap Humor” was commonly used in Plautus’ plays. This is when the audience knows what’s going to happen and the actors don’t. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is a play that was written by Plautus that captures the spirit of his writing. His influence on British humor and humor in general was minimal.

10. Fun Facts: Terence Influenced the rest of British humor and humor in general. He was an African slave and brought up in a Roman house. He was extremely talented. His talents allowed his master to free him and educate him. He died at the age of 25.

11. Fun Facts: Terence He didn’t write for the general public. He wrote for a small group of sophisticated male friends that gathered under the banner “Never Be Vulgar.” “Never Be Vulgar” meant that they were a group of individuals that came from little and wanted to be thought of as sophisticated. His plays were about young men “on the town.”

12. Fun Facts: Terence Characteristics of his plays: Great surprises No “knee-slapping” (provoking loud laughter from a funny joke) Clever humor Strings characters along one episode after another, the characters develop, and there is no specific reason given why the characters are on an adventure

13. Fun Facts: Terence He develops what is later referred to as a picaresque novel. His plays always end on a happy note and everyone is happy. Reasons why his plays lived on: Development of the picaresque novel Sophisticated, never vulgar writing style Plays had morals attached to them. Monks were able to translate his plays and claim that he was a pre-Christian.

14. Part 2: Christian Influence

15. Christianity Christianity evolved during a time of low Roman values. It was formed in response to a lax era. The church took over in 500 A.D. and became puritanical. The church loathed actors and closed theaters as early as 500 A.D. As a result, actors made a meager living as wandering minstrels. They didn’t enjoy it because they were playing hypocritical roles. For example, “they had to sing the praises of tribal chiefdoms with a harp at feast times in great halls.” In other words, they were revering those in power that they did not like. This was referred to as the “left hand appendage of great nobles.” Anglo-Saxons looked down upon secular amusements, even those that were considered harmless.

16. Traveling Minstrels Traveling minstrels struck back by using satire. They criticized the clergy behind their backs in order to show their hypocrisy. Trouvéres are educated minstrels that went around the country talking about chivalrous deeds. They developed chivalrous manners and poked fun at it in their performances.

17. Part 3:Chaucer

18. The Chaucers Geoffrey Chaucer is the author of The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer is the archaic name for shoes. His father was an aristocrat named John Chaucer. John Chaucer was a deputy to the king’s butler. This was a high position.

19. Geoffrey Chaucer We don’t know when he was born. However, we believe it was around 1343. He became a Paige of the Countess of Alster who was the wife of Lionel. Lionel was the son of King Edward III. King Edward III. ruled between 1312-1377. Chaucer was able to become a Paige because of his father’s wealth.

20. Geoffrey Chaucer The first recorded writing of Chaucer was in the year 1357. He was 14. A Paige for a noble family was one of the most coveted positions in the 14th century. The responsibilities of a Paige were similar to that of a maid. They did the following: Made the bed Carried the candles Ran the errands

21. Geoffrey Chaucer The advantages of becoming a Paige were numerous. It gave children the opportunity to continue their education with the noble children, learn how polite society behaved, and become known to people who could further their education and advancement later on in life.

22. Geoffrey Chaucer He went to the army when he was 20 years old and was taken prisoner in France during the Hundred Years’ War. The king paid part of his ransom so that Chaucer could return to England. Chaucer married a woman named Philippa. They were both taken in by John of Gaunt who was the son of King Edward III. and the uncle of Richard II. Richard II. would be the next king in 1377 to 1399.

23. Geoffrey Chaucer Once Richard II. comes to power, Chaucer is viewed as a diplomat. Because of his education and cleverness, he was sent to foreign countries such as France and Italy to gather information on diplomacy. Chaucer went to Italy during the Italian Renaissance. At this time, writers Petrarch and Boccaccio were living and writing. Dante was no longer living, but his work was well-known.

24. Geoffrey Chaucer In Italy, he “soaks up” the marvelous stories that will be told by the pilgrims in The Canterbury Tales. In 1386, John of Gaunt falls out of power. Chaucer wasn’t able to do anything. As a result, he sat in his room and created The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer began writing The Canterbury Tales in 1386. He wrote up until his death in 1400. When John of Gaunt came back into power, he appointed Chaucer as Chair of the Repairers of Walls and Ditches in Greenwich and Woolidge. He simply “called the shots” which gave him the opportunity to continue writing.

25. Geoffrey Chaucer The king rewarded Chaucer for his writing by giving him the following: Scarlet robe trimmed with fur Annual gift of a tun of wine (equivalent to 252 gallons)

26. Geoffrey Chaucer In 1399, Richard II. was killed. Chaucer takes a house of his own in the garden of Westminster Abbey during the last 8 months of his life. Chaucer dies on October 25, 1400. He was 53 years old. He was buried in a corner in the garden of Westminster Abbey. This is how Poets’ Corner was derived (where famous authors are buried). Chaucer was the first poet to be buried there because he was appointed Clerk of Works to the palace of Westminster (not because he wrote The Canterbury Tales).

27. Poets’ Corner Names of Famous Poets Buried There Include: John Dryden, Tennyson, Robert Browning and John Masefield. Names of Famous Writers Buried There Include: William Camden, Dr. Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Rudyard Kipling and Thomas Hardy.

28. Geoffrey Chaucer Chaucer is the only author that lived in a pre-printing press era. It is the only work of literature that we have that was not written to be read except by the author, because there were no books or manuscripts. He read it as amusement to the court out loud. The audience was scholarly. Therefore, any allusions or humor in The Canterbury Tales was easily understood by the audience.

30. Tone Tone is defined as the author’s relationship to the material in his writing and the audience that is listening. Examples of tone include: satirical, light, and serious. Chaucer did not relate the tone in the actual writing of The Canterbury Tales because it was read aloud. Therefore, one word can have several meanings.

31. Setting/Chaucer’s Intentions Ironically, the setting isn’t Canterbury because the pilgrims don’t get there. What we get in the story is not what Chaucer intended to write. Each pilgrim was supposed to tell two stories on their way to Canterbury and two stories on their way back. There were 30 pilgrims. Mathematically, there should have been 120 different tales because:30 (# of pilgrims) x 4 (total # of stories told)= 120 different tales Chaucer barely finished 30 of the tales.

32. Pilgrimage The pilgrimage is considered to be the setting of the story. It was the only time one could have people from all walks of life brought together. Any other setting would have been looked upon as fantastical and the audience would not have bought into the story. Realistically, members of the highest class (royalty) and lowest class (absolute peasants) would not have been on a pilgrimage together. Therefore, these classes were not represented in the story. Also, royalty and peasants only comprised a small percentage of the people in society.

33. Pilgrimage The pilgrims could socialize freely. They all had the same destination and God did not view one person highly than another. The practicality of the mode of transportation used (walking on a road) and telling a story at the same time comes into question. It would seem more practical to be looking out for highway robbers. However, robbers knew that if they robbed or killed someone on a pilgrimage, it was thought that their soul would go straight to hell.

34. Pilgrimage Most pilgrims wore a cape with a cap. This prevented robbers from grabbing and taking their money. The cape flowed so well that a pilgrim could get out of it and run away.

35. Pilgrimage The derivation of the word escape is: ex=out of copus= cape These terms together mean “out of your cape” The three classes that were represented in the story were the following: Men of Prayer (Church) Men of War (Military) Men of Labor (Work)

36. Pilgrimage Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales was not based on an actual pilgrimage. The following opening lines of The Canterbury Tales are considered to be the most famous lines in the entire story: When April with his showers sweet with fruit The drought of March has pierced unto the root And bathed each vein with liquor that has power To generate therein and sire the flower (Taken from the Modern English version by J.U. Nicolson)

37. Pilgrimage The pilgrims go down to Canterbury because they feel that they need to be renewed (spiritual rebirth). It was a time of thanksgiving for making it through a rough winter in England. There was no central heating at this time. 1/3 or 33% of the population died from something that they contracted in the winter. On the surface, the opening lines compare the spiritual rebirth to the physical rebirth in nature.

38. Pilgrimage However, the opening lines are sexually explicit: When April with his showers sweet with fruit The drought of March has pierced unto the root And bathed each vein with liquor that has power To generate therein and sire the flower April is the most masculine month of the year. It is the sign of Aries (The Ram). It is regarded symbolically as a man. March is the most feminine sign of the zodiac. It is the sign of Pisces (The Fish). It is regarded symbolically as a woman. Now, re-read the first four lines of the prologue.

39. Pilgrimage The General Prologue of The Canterbury Tales is regarded as unique with regards to all work of literature. Critics have described it as “concise portraits of an entire nation.” It also shows perennial progeny of men and women (depicting how real, relatable, and universal the characters are).

40. Questions, Comments, Concerns?

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