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Literature in the Middle Ages. Canterbury Tales and Romance. Chaucer and the Canterbury Tales. Geoffrey Chaucer. Born 1345 ( ish ) - 1400 Family was upper middle class Had a wife and children Well respected among peers and held in high esteem by the king

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Literature in the Middle Ages

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literature in the middle ages

Literature in the Middle Ages

Canterbury Tales and Romance

geoffrey chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Born 1345 (ish) - 1400
  • Family was upper middle class
  • Had a wife and children
  • Well respected among peers and held in high esteem by the king
  • Little is known of his life beyond official duties and achievements
positions held
Positions held
  • Esquire of the royal court
  • Comptroller of customs at the port of London
  • Soldier in the Hundred Years’ War
  • Diplomat
  • Poet
  • Justice of the peace
  • Member of Parliament
the canterbury tales
The Canterbury Tales
  • Collection of narrative poems
  • Historical and social significance - provides a snap shot of

Medieval England.

the pilgrimage
The pilgrimage
  • Was like a vacation
  • A place where people could be healed
  • Salvation
  • Significance of Canterbury
the importance of the canterbury tales
The importance of the Canterbury Tales
  • Made English language acceptable as a language of literature.
  • England was a nation of 3 languages:
the characters
The Characters
  • Characters are all types, named by profession
  • They are not so much individuals, but representatives of their social class or degree and profession.
  • Fall into three main degrees –
    • Those who worked
    • Those who prayed
    • Those who fought
the use of characterization
The use of characterization
  • Perfected the art of characterization
  • Two basic methods: direct and indirect
  • Direct characterization: the writer makes explicit statements about a character
  • Indirect characterization: the writer reveals a character through his or her words, thoughts, and actions and through what other characters think and say about that character
  • For example, the description of the Knight, who was a “true and perfect knight”
    • Chaucer tells us exactly what he wants us to know
methods of indirect characterization
Methods of indirect characterization
  • Describing how character looks and his attire
  • Presenting character’s words and actions
  • Revealing character’s private thoughts
  • Showing how other characters respond to the character
indirect characterization in the canterbury tales
Indirect characterization in the Canterbury Tales
  • Relies on physiognomy (fiz-ee-og-nuh-mee)
  • Belief that a person’s physical characteristics reveal his / her personality
    • Example: “A fine young squire…with locks as curly as if they had been pressed…He was embroidered like a meadow bright”

Gap-toothed Wife of Bath—the medieval audience knew this meant she was “well traveled.”

The high forehead of the Prioress was a hint to the Medieval audience that she was very concerned with her social rank.

medieval literary genres
Medieval Literary Genres
  • Courtly Romance = stories of chivalry
  • Saints’ Legend = story told to educate listeners in the Catholic faith
  • Exemplum = story told to illustrate the main ideas of a sermon
  • Fabliau = story told by a common man involved in gross or indecent events
  • Fable = story told by animals who represent common human failings and ends with a moral
drama of middle ages
Drama of Middle Ages
  • Began in the church
  • Miracle plays = based on saints’ legend
  • Mystery plays = based on Biblical history
  • Morality plays = allegories where people represent individual vices and virtues
  • Taken over by guilds
  • Very popular and moved outside of church