The Canterbury Tales (1387-1400) by Geoffrey Chaucer
Introduction of Geoffrey Chaucer • Introduction of the Canterbury Tales • Analysis of this work • Contribution by the author
Geoffrey Chaucer (1340?-1400) • An English author, poet, philosopher, bureaucrat, courtier and diploma • One of the greatest narrative poet of English • Father of the English poetry, who made a crucial contribution to English literature in using English at a time when much court poetry was still written in Anglo-Norman or Latin.
Course of Chaucer’s Life • In 1357, he served as a page to Elizabeth, Countess of Ulster, from which he learned the ways of court and the use of arms. • In 1359–1360 he was with the army of Edward III in France, where he was captured by the French but ransomed. • In 1373 Chaucer traveled to Picardy as part of a military expedition, and visited Genoa and Florence.
In 1378, Richard II sent Chaucer as an envoy dispatch to the Visconti and to Sir John Hawkwood, English condottiere in Milan. • From 1374 on he held a number of official positions, among them comptroller of customs on furs, skins, and hides for the port of London (1374–1386) and clerk of the king's works (1389–1391). • Chaucer dead on Oct. 25, 1400. He was buried in Westminster Abbey (an honor for a commoner), in what has since become the Poets' Corner.
The first period includes his early work (to 1370), which is based largely on French models. • The second period (up to c.1387) is called his Italian period. • The final period, in which he achieved his fullest artistic power, belongs his masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales (written mostly after 1387).
His Works The Canterbury Tales Book of the Duchess The House of Fame The Parliament of Fowles The Legend of Good Women Troilus and Criseyde
The Canterbury Tales-----one of the most famous works in all literature----
General Prologue(总序)Ⅰ ----outline of the story • on a spring evening, the poet drops in the Tabard Inn（, where he meets 29 other pilgrimsall ready for a journey of 60 miles to Canterbury. • Because of the long and tediousjourney, the host of the Inn suggests that they should color the journey by telling stories. And the best story-teller should be treated with a fine meal at the cost of all the rest. • The pilgrims are 30 in all including the poet. Therefore according to the plan, there should have been 120 stories altogether. But only 24 tales were written due to the author’s death in 1400.
General Prologue(总序)Ⅱ However, incomplete as these stories are, they cover practically the whole major literary genresin medieval Europe,such as: chivalric, folk tales, legends, legendary epic sagas, beast fables, mythology, moral allegories, etc.
Function of General Prologue 1. Present a vivid collection of character sketches. 2. Reveal the author’ s intention in bringing together a great variety of people and narrative material together. 3. Set the tone for the story-telling: • grateful acceptance of life; • make clear the plan for the tales; • motivate the telling of several tales ; • introduce the pilgrims , the time and occasion of the pilgrimage（朝圣）.
Features of “The Canterbury Tales” It covers a wide range of characters from top to bottom in the England of that time. For example: • The gentle class: • knight • squire • monk • prioress（女修道院院长） • franklins（地主、乡绅） • The burgherclass: • merchant • haberdasher • carpenter • weaver（纺织工） • tapestry-maker（花毯纺织工） • .
Analysis of This Work • Sources • Genre and structure • Style Historical context and themes Religion Social class and convention • Stage and film adaptations • Influence
Sources No other work prior to Chaucer's is known to have set a collection of tales within the framework of pilgrims on a pilgrimage.However,Chaucer borrowed portions of his stories from earlier stories and that his work was influenced by the general state of the literary world in which he lived. Storytelling was the main entertainment in England at the time, and storytelling contests had been around for hundreds of years. The winner received a crown and, as with the winner of the Canterbury Tales, a free dinner.
Genre and Structure • Canterbury Tales falls into the same category or genre as many other works of its day as a collection of stories organized into a frame narrative or frame tale. Chaucer's Tales differed from other stories in this genre chiefly in its intense variation. Most story collections focused on a theme, usually a religious one. Even in the Decameron, storytellers are encouraged to stick to the theme decided on for the day. The idea of a pilgrimage appears to have been a useful device to get such a diverse collection of people together for literary purposes, and was also unprecedented.
Style: Historical context and themes • The time of the writing of The Canterbury Tales was a turbulent time in English history. The Catholic Church was in the midst of the Great Schism and, though it was still the only Christian authority in Europe, was the subject of heavy controversy. Anearly English religious movement led by John, is mentioned in the Tales, as is a specific incident involving pardoners (who gathered money in exchange for absolution from sin) who claimed to be collecting for hospital in England. The Canterbury Tales is among the first English literary works to mention paper, a relatively new invention which allowed dissemination of the written word never before seen in England.
Style: Religion • The Tales reflect all kinds of religious world of Chaucer's time. After the Black Death, many Europeans had begun to question the authority of the Catholic Church in various ways. Some chose less extreme paths, starting new monastic orders or smaller movements exposing church corruption in the behavior of the clergy, false church relics or sale of indulgences (payment for forgiveness of sins).Several characters in the Tales are religious figures, and the very nature of the pilgrimage to Canterbury is deeply religious, making this a outstanding theme of the work.
Style: Social class and convention • The Tales constantly reflect the conflict between classes. Most of the tales are interlinked by common themes, and some "quit" (reply to or retaliate against) other tales. Convention is followed when the Knight begins the game with a tale, as he represents the highest social class in the group. But when he is followed by the Miller, who represents a lower class, it sets the stage for the Tales to reflect both a respect for and a disregard for upper class rules.
Stage and film adaptations • A Canterbury Tale, a 1944 film jointly written and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, is loosely based on the narrative frame of Chaucer's tales. The movie opens with a group of medieval pilgrims journeying through the Kentish countryside as a narrator speaks the opening lines of the General Prologue.
The social significance • Chaucer gives us a true-to-life picture of the society of his time. He affirms man and opposes the dogma of asceticismpreachedby the church. • As a forerunner of humanism, he praises man’s energy, intellect, wit and love of life. His tales expose and satirize the evils of his time.
Contribution by the author Chaucer’s poetry is plainly narrative . Everything is based on reality .Chaucer’s language ,now called Middle English ,is vivid and exact . He is a master of word –pictures. His verse is among the smoothest in English . Hardly a single word will offer difficulties to a man of sufficient reading in modern English . Repetition with variation is redundant .
Chaucer’s contribution to English poetry lies chiefly to the fact that he introduced from France the rhymedstanzasof various types, especially the rhymed coupletof iambic pentameter(to be called later the “heroic couplet”) to English poetry , instead of the old Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse. • .
He is the first great poet who wrote in current English language . Chaucer did much in making the dialect of London the foundation for modern English speech. His various writing style reflected the life of different social classes . He create the realism tradition of English literature ,which influenced Shakespeare and Dickens a lot.