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The Canterbury Tales

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  1. The Canterbury Tales

  2. The Medieval Period 1066-1485 The Norman Conquest – The End of the Anglo-Saxons William “the Conqueror” the Duke of Normandy defeated the king of England and conquered the entire nation, bringing the Anglo-Saxon and Normans together. Gradually William fused the two into a national English character, a subtle blend. Many found they could raise their station through the Church. A prominent example is Thomas a Becket who went from Lord Chancellor to Archbishop of Canterbury. He defended the claims of the Church against the interested of the King for which he was murdered. Thereafter he became a saint.

  3. The Medieval Period 1066-1485 Land and the Feudal System William had a great deal of land at his disposal after wiping out the Anglo Saxon landowners, so he retained much of it and granted the rest to those who fought faithfully for him. 1066 brought the largest change in land ownership in the history of England. William felt that the land of England was his by right and that he was free to deed the land to his vassals, or subordinates, by royal charter and expected obedience and service in return. This practice became the feudal system.

  4. The Medieval Period 1066-1485 Feudalism • A complicated system of landholding • No one owned land independently, only as a vassal of an overlord • Overlord in turn owed allegiance either to some great noble or to the king. • Elaborate chain of loyalties with rent paid principally in military service to the overlord • To avoid disputes, William had a complete inventory of all property drawn up in Domesday Book, sometimes called Doomsday, the book of judgment.

  5. The Medieval Period 1066-1485 • The Crusades • Several military expeditions made by European Christians in the 11th to 13th centuries; religiously motivated wars. • Started in 1095, and continued in 1191, 1202, 1217 and 1270 • Each began in high hope with a genuine desire to rescue, but most ended in raiding, looting, and a tangle of power politics. • Encouraged the ideal of true knightly behavior known as chivalry: • The stuff of King Arthur: Knightly warrior as devout and tenderhearted off the battle field, bold and fearless on the battlefield • A code of conduct. A knight must be: Brave, honorable, protective of the weak, respectful of women, generous, fair to enemies, loyal to his lord, gentlemanly in his behavior • Joined to the companion idea of romance in literature

  6. The Medieval Period 1066-1485 The Medieval Church • From the 11th to the 15th century, the people belonged to one homogeneous society with a common culture and a common set of beliefs: the Medieval Church • Latin, the language of the Church, became the language of all educated persons. • Despite fierce national loyalty, every person was also responsible to the Church; all were sons and daughters of the Church • Abbeys and monasteries were the main centers of learning and the arts • The Church was the dominant force in preserving and transmitting culture – in teaching, writing, and translating, and in copying, collecting, and distributing manuscripts

  7. The Medieval Period 1066-1485 Medieval Literature • Romance: tales of chivalry relating to the quests knights undertook for their ladies to which were added a love interest and all sorts of wonders and marvels – fairy enchantments, giants, dragons, wizards, and sorceresses • Although there is almost no historical basis, one principal source of such romantic tales were from the stories of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table as told by Sir Thomas Mallory in his Morted’Arthur • Illustrate the chivalric ideals of honor, courage, courtesy and service to women • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one of the finest examples of verse romance in English, about one of the knights in the court of King Arthur • Folk poetry, a collection of recited songs called ballads, was collected and published and later influenced the English Romantic poets • Origins of drama occurred during this time, although its rise in popularity reached a tremendous height in the Elizabethan Age. • Miracle plays: rough dramatizations of Biblical stories. Evil characters (the Devil) were portrayed comically as a rule • Morality plays: elaborate and sophisticated dramatic allegories in which characters representing various virtues and vices confronted one another.

  8. Rise of the Middle Class Medieval society was broken up into a distinct estate, or class, system consisting of the Church, the Court (or nobility [less than 1% of population), and the Commoners. However, in the summer of 1348, the Black Death, or plague, devastated England killing mainly rural peasants. As a result, peasants became much more expensive and choosy about where they worked, and how they related to lords. In a sense, the Black Death gave way to a new middle class of tradesmen, craftsmen, and merchants—a class of people who challenged and questioned authority.

  9. The Canterbury Tales • Is included in a genre known as estates satire, which sets out to expose typical examples of corruption at all levels of society. • Group of stories told during a springtime pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral to the shrine of St. Thomas à Becket who had been murdered there two centuries before • It was customary for members of all classes to travel to religious shrines to seek miraculous cures, to gain remission of their sins, or to simply satisfy their wanderlust. • Provides a cross-section of medieval society – feudal, ecclesiastical (of the church), and urban • Each pilgrim in the poem was to tell two tales on the way there and two on the way back, however, Chaucer died before he could finished, so instead of 124 stories he wrote only 24. • Each member of the pilgrimage is meant to be typical of his (or her) station in society: • Ex: The chivalrous Knight; his fashionably dressed son, the Squire, a typical lover; the lusty and domineering Wife of Bath; the Pardoner, peddling his phony relics, etc. • Pay attention to the pilgrims facial features, the clothes they wear, the foods the like to eat, the things they say, the work they do are all clues not only to their social rank but to their moral and spiritual condition.

  10. The Canterbury Tales – General PrologueOriginally written in Middle English And specially from every shires ende Of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende, The hoolyblisfulmartir for to seke, That hem hath holpenwhan that they were seeke. Bifil that in that seson on a day, In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage To Caunterbury with ful devout corage, At nyght was come into that hostelrye Welnyne and twenty in a compaignye Of sondry folk, by aventureyfalle In felaweshipe, and pilgrimes were they alle, That toward Caunterburywoldenryde. The chambres and the stables werenwyde, And wel we werenesedattebeste. Whan that Aprill with his shouressoote The droghte of March hath perced to the roote, And bathed every veyne in swichlicour Of which vertuengendred is the flour; WhanZephirus eek with his sweetebreeth Inspired hath in every holt and heeth The tendrecroppes, and the yongesonne Hath in the Ram his half coursyronne, And smalefowelesmakenmelodye, That slepen al the nyght with open ye (So priketh hem Nature in hircorages), Thannelongen folk to goon on pilgrimages, And palmeres for to sekenstraungestrondes, To fernehalwes, kowthe in sondrylondes; And shortly, whan the sonne was to reste, So hadde I spoken with hem everichon That I was of hirfelaweshipe anon, And made forward erly for to ryse, To take oureweyther as I yow devyse.

  11. The General Prologue • Read the description of your assigned character in the Prologue. • Determine whether your character is a member of the Church, the Court, or the Commoners. • Make bullet notes on the type of clothes that he/she wears and the physical description of the character. • Summarize that character’s personality traits. Some characters are directly characterized; some are indirectly characterized. Be prepared to defend your characterization. • On a piece of computer paper, create a “Facebook page” that includes: • A picture (drawn) • Looks • Station in life/Employment • Interests/Hobbies • Morals/Beliefs • A creative way to weave the the poet’s opinion of him/her

  12. Medieval Genre: Fabliau and Romance • Cuckoldings, beatings, and elaborate practical jokes that are the main concern of the fabliaux • Heroes and heroines, invariably witty and usually young, are those whom society ordinarily scorns—dispossessed intellectuals (lecherous priests, wayward monks, penniless students), clever peasants, and enthusiastically unchaste wives. • Their victims are usually those whom society respects—prosperous merchants, hard-working tradesmen, women foolish enough to try to remain chaste Arthurian Romance Fabliau A brief comic tale in verse, usually scurrilous or obscene. Style is simple and straightforward; the time is the present. Settings real, familiar places The characters are ordinary sorts—tradesmen, peasants, priests, students, restless wives. The plots are realistically motivated tricks and ruses Thus present a lively image of everyday life among the middle and lower classes • Narrative fictions representing the adventures and values of the aristocracy • Characters typically are: knights, ladies, kings, queens, and other assorted nobles • The supernatural, routinely occur in romance plots • Courtly love is a prominent theme: • Attraction to the lady, usually via eyes/glance • Worship of the lady from afar • Declaration of passionate devotion • Virtuous rejection by the lady • Renewed wooing with oaths of virtue and eternal fealty • Moans of approaching death from unsatisfied desire (and other physical manifestations of lovesickness) • Heroic deeds of valor which win the lady's heart

  13. A Summary of the Knight’s Tale • In order to fully appreciate the bawdy nature of the Miller’s Tale, you should know a bit about the tale that precedes it • The Knight’s Tale, a romance of 2,350, is the story of Palamon and Arcite knight’s who are taken prisoner after the siege of Thebes by Theseus, the ruler of Athens. • Gazing out of their cell in a tower (typical), they fall in love at first sight with Theseus’ sister-in-law, Emily, who is taking a morning walk through the garden. • After a bitter rivalry, they are reconciled through a tournament in which Emily is the prize. Arcite wins; however, he is thrown from his horse, and as he lies dying, he makes a noble speech encouraging Palamon to marry Emily. • The tale is a combination of classical setting and mythology, romance plot, and themes of fortune, destiny, and courtly love. • Courtly love, a common and popular theme in Medieval England (esp. Arthurian legend).

  14. The Miller’s Tale Recall: How was the Miller described in the General Prologue? (pages 18-19) Consider why Chaucer would have Robin the Miller tell a fabliau after the Knight’s aristocratic tale of romance.

  15. The Reeve’s Tale Recall: How was the Reeve described in the General Prologue? Who was the subject of the deception in the Miller’s Tale? How might the Reeve react?

  16. The Pardoner’s Tale In 1215, confession became mandatory. One would give money to the church and then become absolved of sin. The medieval pardoner’s job was to collect money for charitable enterprises, such as hospitals. In return for donations he was licensed by the pope to award remission of sins that the donor should have repented and confession (thus, pardoning their sins). Like the Wife of Bath’s Tale, the Pardoner’s Tale develops in a profound and surprising way the portrait the Host sketched in the General Prologue. Start on pg. 240, when the Host exclaims, “By corpus bones!”

  17. The Wife of Bath’s Tale • In creating the Wife, Chaucer drew upon a centuries-old tradition of antifeminist writings that was accepted by the medieval church. In their conviction, the higher side of human nature rested in men, whereas the irrational, material, and “lower side” resided in women. • The church exalted celibacy and virginity above marriage. • As we read consider whether the Wife of Bath acts as a stereotype of the common held beliefs about women or as a medieval feminist. • The Wife’s Prologue should be considered three parts: • Part 1- lines 1-162: A discussion of scripture • Part 2 - lines 163-452: First 3 husbands • Part 3 - lines 452-end: 4th and 5th husbands