The Canterbury Tales Key Concepts
Author Info • Author: Geoffrey Chaucer • Born sometime between 1340-1343 • His family was well off, though not nobility • One of the first to write in English (French was the spoken language of the time) • Considered to be the greatest English writer before Shakespeare. • Most famous book: The Canterbury Tales
The time period • At least once in their lifetime, people made a pilgrimage (religious journey) to the shrine of St. Thomas á Becket in the city of Canterbury • Becket had been the archbishop of Canterbury • He was murdered in his own cathedral • Chaucer uses this idea of a pilgrimage to help form his frame story.
The Canterbury Tales • Chaucer’s most famous book • He himself is a character in the book as a short, plump, slightly foolish pilgrim who commands no great respect • This book was still unfinished when he died • Type: Fiction • Format: Collection of stories within a frame story
The Frame Story • Group of travelers • Gather at Tabard Inn (outside of London, approx. 70 miles from Canterbury) • Harry Bailey, the innkeeper/host suggests a storytelling competition (to pass the time while traveling) • Each person will tell 2 stories each way ¼ completed before Chaucer died 30 people x 4 stories per person 120 stories
Characterization • Involves all the methods a writer uses to reveal the values and personalities of his or her characters. • A writer may make explicit statements about a character or may reveal a character indirectly through well-chosen words, thoughts, and actions.
Paraphrase • Paraphrasing involves putting a text you have read into your own words to check your understanding of its content. • A paraphrase differs from a summary in that a summary is always shorter than the original, while a paraphrase may be approximately the same length as the original.
The Pardoner’s Tale • In the Middle Ages, pardoners were licensed by the pope to grant indulgences, gifts of divine mercy to repentant sinners. • By Chaucer’s time, corrupt pardoners were selling indulgences for personal gain rather than granting them to penitents in return for voluntary donations to the church. • Exemplum – A brief story used to teach a lesson.
The Pardoner’s Tale • Irony – Contrast or discrepancy between expectation and reality. • Situational Irony– Exists when an occurrence is the opposite of a character’s expectations. • Dramatic Irony– Occurs when readers or audiences have information unknown to the characters. • Verbal Irony– Occurs when a character says one thing while meaning another. • Tone – How an author expresses his or her attitude toward a subject.
The Wife of Bath’s Tale • The Wife’s tale is set in the shadowy margin between the pagan and Christian worlds.
The Wife of Bath’s Tale • The quality of literary work that makes characters and their situations seem funny or amusing is called humor. • Types of humor range widely, from puns and word play to broad satire, sarcasm, parody, and subtle wit.
The Wife of Bath’s Tale • “The Wife of Bath’s Tale,” like many other tales from Chaucer’s era, is told in the form of a narrative poem. • Narrative poetry is verse that is specifically meant to tell a story. • To analyze a work of narrative poetry, you can look at the ways in which an author combines structure, word choice, and literary elements (such as character, narrator, and conflict) to express a theme or idea.
The Wife of Bath’s Tale Analyzing Structure • “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” consists of the Wife’s introduction, followed by a tale in which events are told in chronological order.