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Beyond its importance as a literary work of unvarnished genius, Geoffrey Chaucer's unfinished epic poem is also one of the most beloved works in the English language-and for good reason: It is lively, absorbing, perceptive, and outrageously funny. But despite the brilliance of Chaucer's work, the continual evolution of our language has rendered his words unfamiliar to many of us. Esteemed poet, translator, and scholar Burton Raffel's magnificent new unabridged translation brings Chaucer's poetry back to life, ensuring that none of the original's wit, wisdom, or humanity is lost to the modern reader. This Modern Library edition also features an Introduction that discusses Chaucer's work as well as his life and times. An illustrated retelling of Geoffrey Chaucer's famous work in which a group of pilgrims in fourteenth-century England tell each other stories as they travel on a pilgrimage to the cathedral at Canterbury. Â
About The Author Geoffrey Chaucer, considered by many to be both the father of modern English poetry and the father of the modern English novel (for Troilus and Criseyde), also distinguished himself in his lifetime as a civil servant and diplomat under three kings of England. When he was taken prisoner by the French, the King himself contributed to his ransom. When, in later years, the King wished to reward Chaucer for his services to the crown, he was granted - among other
favors - the right to demand a daily jug of wine from the pantry of the royal butler. Toward the end of his career, he became a knight of the shire for Kent. But it is for The Canterbury Tales that he is best remembered. This masterpiece of English literature moved Aldous Huxley to say, "If I dared to wish for genius, I would ask for the grace to write The Canterbury Tales."
Reviews From Barnes & Noble
Over the years, octogenarian translator Burton Raffel has tackled and conquered many of the most forbidding challenges in world literature: Beowulf, Gargantua and Pantagruel, Don Quixote, the Nibelungenleid. This book finds him grappling quite gracefully with another behemoth, Geoffrey Chaucer's 14th-century classic The Canterbury Tales. For modern readers, the robustness and subtlety of this collection is often diluted by the vagaries of language evolution. With a respectful poetic hand, Raffel retouches Chaucer's minutely realized word portraits, recovering their sheen. A Modern Library translation destined to be both popular and critical acclaimed. Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Like Charles Lamb's edition of Shakespeare, Hastings's loose prose translation of seven of Chaucer's tales is more faithful to the work's plot than to the poet's language. This is not a prudish retelling even the bawdy Miller's tale is included here but the vigor of Chaucer's text is considerably tamed. In the original, the pilgrims possess unique voices, but here the tone is uniformly bookish. The colloquial speech of the storyteller is replaced by formal prose; for example, while Cohen see review above directly translates Chaucer's ``domb as a stoon'' as ``silent as stones,'' Hastings writes ``in solemn silence.'' Cartwright's startling paintings skillfully suggest the stylized flatness of a medieval canvas, but often without the accompanying richness of detail. Like Punch and Judy puppets, the faces and voices of these pilgrims are generally representative but lack the life and charm of the original text. Ages 10-up. Oct. Library Journal
The old standby here gets its first facelift in more than 50 years. Librarian/author Ecker and scholar Crook translated Chaucer's Middle English into a more modern, more accesssible form. Large English literature collections should consider. School Library Journal
Gr 5-9 These 13 rollicking interpretations take their inspiration from Chaucer but are freely adapted for young readers. Students will have to get the feel of original text elsewhere: the excellent A Taste of Chaucer HBJ, 1964; o.p. by Malcolmson, Farjeon's Tales from Chaucer Branford, 1948; o.p. and even the Hieatts' adapted selections from Canterbury Tales Golden, 1961; o.p., are long out of print. The emphasis here is on the pilgrims and their stories, and these, despite some shifts to avoid bawdiness, come off as rousingly good. In colorful style and language, McCaughrean creatively reconstructs and adds conversation, event and detail, in keeping with the medieval times, to stitch the tales together. ``Death's Murderers,'' McCaughrean's version of ``How the Three Found Death,'' is exceptionally stark and good. The collection is rounded off by having the pilgrims reach Canterbury, with a look to the return trip. A brief historical note is given on the endpapers. Ambrus' handsome portrait of Chaucer gives a nod to that of the Ellesmere manuscript, but his colorful paintings showing the other pilgrims and their tales are his exuberant own. This attractive volume is a good introduction to medieval stories for reluctant but able junior high readers. Ruth M. McConnell, San Antonio Pub . Lib . Kirkus Reviews
Burton Raffel has made two key decisions in his rendition of Chaucer's greatest work. While most editions stick to the half-dozen or so best-known stories-the raunchy "Miller's Tale" and the proto-feminist "Wife of Bath's Tale"
being the most popular with contemporary readers-Raffel offers modern English versions of even such unfinished fragments as "The Squire's Tale" and such often-skipped sections as "The Parson's Tale." Few today will be burning to hear from the longwinded parson, but in general this unabridged edition is a delight. It lets you appreciate the masterful way Chaucer unifies his stylistically and topically diverse stories with a few overarching themes: the proper relationship between man and woman (the answer's not what you'd expect from a 14th-century civil servant), the role of the clergy (they're only human in his realistic portraits), the all-powerful impact of chance on our destinies. Having the full text also enables readers to enjoy the sly way Chaucer toys with them, allowing his raconteurs to interrupt their narratives with such tantalizing phrases as, "but nothing like that can be included here." The unabridged edition provides more opportunities to savor the counterpoint of Chaucer's earthy humor against passages of piercingly beautiful lyric poetry. That glorious language-there's the rub in Raffel's second decision. Most modern editions of Chaucer include his Middle English text on the facing page; it's the simplest way to make sure readers know what's going on but still hear Chaucer's distinctive voice. Raffel's modern English captures to a large extent the polyphonic vigor of Chaucer's verse and prose. But he cannot capture Chaucer's voice. "When Aprilarrives, and with his sweetened showers / Drenches dried-up roots, gives them power / To stir dead plants and sprout the living flowers / That spring has always spread across these fields," is lovely. Can it equal, "Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote / The droghte of March hath perced to the roote, / And bathed every veyne in swich licour / Of which vertu engendred is the flour"? Of course not, and it would be unfair to expect it. But it would be nice to look across the page from Raffel's lucid, lyrical rendition and be able to see the gnarled yet delicate taproot from which grew Shakespeare, John Donne and the King James Bible. You can't blame Raffel or Modern Library. An unabridged dual-language version would run more than 1,000 pages, making it prohibitively expensive and inaccessible to non-students who might want to use it somewhere other than at their desks. Keeping the oldest portions of our literary heritage alive for contemporary readers always involves compromise. If we lose some of the deepest levels of Chaucer's poetry here, we are partly compensated with the full sweep of his zestful, unsentimental understanding of human nature and his abiding love for all kinds of good stories. Library Journal
A delicious cover: the Wife of Bath on a motorcycle, in semimodern garb and wearing a self-satisfied grin. The same clever decanting of old wine into new bottles carries us through all 20-plus Chaucer tales, if compressed a bit. Chwast used the same approach for Dante's Divine Comedy (2010), which was well received. But the missing ingredient in both works, for this reviewer, is color: the freewheeling, stylish hue characteristic of Chwast's halfcentury-old Push Pin Studio. Whereas the cover sports striking orange, green, and black, the interior pulls back into black and white. Perhaps Chwast was trying to evoke William Caxton's medieval woodcuts for the Chaucer stories. Indeed, Caxton's illustrations feature elaborate design explicitly tailored to a colorless medium, but Chwast's portfolio has centered on color to complement his clear-line penwork, which here looks rather unfinished. VERDICT Chwast's entertaining adaptation suffices as casual reading and can serve as a pathway to the original for students with Chaucer as class assignments. Just keep in mind that the award-winning artist was drawing with one hand behind his back. Includes cartoony nudity and bawdry.-M.C.
I really don't recommend the Canterbury Tales at all. Of all eight tales, only four were "appropriate" and of those four, I liked two, The Knight's Tale and The Pardoner. These stories were bizarre and bad. I read a couple of pages into a tale, didn't like where it was going at all, and then skipped to the next one, not because I don't like reading or I'm lazy, but it just started going in a bad direction. I didn't read to see how those tales ended because I didn't want to know. Even if they were "clean," some were just too creepy. Another thing I didn't like was one of the because towards the end was just too long. This may sound stupid but, it just dragged it out. I don't if you ever read a book like that, but it's almost painful. I could kind of compare this tale to an Aesop's Fable, because it had a moral and the main characters were mostly animals, but the story just felt kind of dragged out by the end. I just kept thinking, "When is this going to end?" Usually I don't mind descriptiveness, but in The Nun's Priest's Tale, it was just a little too much. Also there was references to the Bible, then to Roman Gods, and then to Troy, which if I remember right, involved Greek Gods, which was altogether confusing. It was like there were several religions mixed in here, in a way where it seemed that everyone was of the same religion that involved many religions. There was some positive things though. As I mentioned above, Chaucer was very descriptive, which wasn't always a bad thing. In The Knight's Tale, it was very easy to envision in my mind. The begging was very slow, but it got better as I got in. I actually really did enjoy this story, even though it made me a little sad, and if it weren't for a couple other tales included in this book, it would probably have a lot higher ratings, at least from me.
But sadly, there are other tales then The Knight's Tale, so I really wouldn't recommend this book. If you do read it, just read the beginning and the end tales. It's in the format of short stories, so all you would need to read is the prologue, which is fine. He goes into great detail here about what the characters are wearing, but it's just to give you a good idea of what they look like and what their character is like. Here though, I thought that he made the characters almost to what they weren't. They seemed a little too perfect and their tales didn't really match up to how he described and praised them. In conclusion, I wouldn't recommend this book, sadly, and if you do, be careful, because like I said before, I didn't like where some of those tales were going. Sadly I did not like The Canterbury Tales.
I love having the original Middle English on one side with a Modern English Translation on the facing page. I decided to try reading the Middle English. It's easy to look over to the translation whenever I get stuck. However, even without being able to completely understand the Middle English, I can tell the translation isn't that great. Also, the text is only footnoted on the Modern English side, which (if you're trying to follow the Middle English text) makes it easy to miss. Still, it's a lot more fun to read this on your own when you don't have a high school English teacher forcing you to do it.
The Barnes & Noble Classics Series edition of The Canterbury Tales has Chaucer's original text on one page and a modern translation on the facing page. This works wonderfully well in print books for obvious reasons. This does *not* work for ebooks. Reading this book on the nook you will read through a page or two of the original text, then on the next page turn you'll have the modernized translation, then back to the original again. It is not simply a matter of Chaucer's version being in one chapter, followed by a chapter in translation; in fact, Chaucer's version and the translation are interspersed together so that there is NO WAY of choosing to read one or the other without having to manually click forward watching to see when the language changes to Chaucer's language. Because of this, the book is simply unreadable. Go find a public domain version of Chaucer's text and take the effort to get a feel for his language.
Read An Excerpt The Knight's Tale 1 Introduction 1 The Knight's Tale, which mostly takes place in ancient Athens, is the conflicted love story of two royal Theban cousins who love the same woman. Because "The Knight's Tale" is by far the longest and most complex of the Canterbury Tales presented in this volume, a quick summary of the action of the four parts of the tale may help readers encountering it for the first time: Part I. On his way back to Athens with his bride, Hypolita, and his sister-in-law, Emily, Duke Theseus responds to the pleas of some grieving widows by defeating Creon, the tyrant of Thebes. Among the bodies of the defeated army, he
finds near death the royal cousins Palamon and Arcite. Rather than kill them, Theseus takes them back to Athens and places them in prison. From their barred prison window, the two young men see the lovely Emily and both fall in love with her. Arcite after a time is released but banished from Athens on pain of death, while Palamon remains in prison. The two are envious of each other's condition. Part II. Arcite disguises himself as a common laborer and comes back to Athens, where he gets a job working in Emily's household. Meanwhile, Palamon escapes from prison, and the rival cousins chance to meet in a grove near Athens. While Palamon and Arcite are fighting a bloody duel, Theseus, Hypolita, and Emily, out hunting, by chance come upon them in a grove. At first angry, Theseus soon relents, sets both of his enemies free, and invites them to return in a year, each with a hundred knights, to take part in a glorious tournament, with Emily's hand going to the winner. Part III. Theseus builds a splendid amphitheater in preparation for the tournament and places on its west, east, and north borders elaborately decorated temples to Mars, Venus, and Diana. When the two troops of warriors come back for the tournament, the three principals each pray to one of the planetary deities. Palamon prays to Venus, not for victory but for the hand of Emily. Emily prays to Diana to be spared marriage to either Palamon or Arcite, praying instead to remain a maiden always. Arcite prays to Mars for victory in the tournament. Part IV. Just before the tournament begins Theseus declares that he wants no lives to be lost and restricts the kinds of weapons that may be used. He sets out the rules of the game, the primary one being that the winning side will be the one that takes the loser to a stake at the end of the field. After vigorous fighting, Arcite's men drag the wounded Palamon to the stake. No sooner is Arcite declared the winner than Saturn commands Pluto, god of the underworld, to send a diabolical fury to frighten Arcite's horse. Arcite is thrown and crushed by his own saddle bow. After an elaborate funeral and the passage of some years, Theseus tells Palamon and Emily to marry, and they happily do so. Arching over the story of the warriors and lovers down on the earth below is a heavenly conflict among the gods or, more precisely, among the planetary or astrological influences that were thought to control the affairs of men. Indeed, a key feature of "The Knight's Tale" is the prayers of the three principal characters to these influences. Closely tied up with the question of whether Palamon or Arcite will get the young woman they both love is the question of how the powerful Saturn will settle the conflicting demands on him of Mars, Venus, and Diana. Chaucer's main source for "The Knight's Tale" is Giovanni Boccaccio's several-hundred-page-long Teseida. Readers who are upset at having to read Chaucer's long and leisurely story of Palamon, Arcite, and Emily should thank Chaucer for streamlining a story that is less than a quarter the length of Boccaccio's Italian story of Palemone, Arcita, and Emilia. Chaucer reduced the story in lots of ways, particularly by staying focused on the love story. He cut out, for example, Boccaccio's long opening description of Theseus's journey to the land of the Amazons, his defeat of them, and his acquiring as his bride the Amazonian queen Hypolita. But Chaucer did more than reduce the Teseida, which focuses on Arcite as the main character, who in Boccaccio is almost a tragic figure who makes the mistake of praying to the wrong deity. For Chaucer, Palamon is raised to equal importance, if not more importance, than his rival. And Chaucer transforms the vain and coquettish Emilia of his source into a more innocent object of the love of rival cousins. One of Chaucer's most important changes was to give the story a philosophical overlay by introducing into it the ideas of the ancient philosopher Boethius. One of Boethius's key ideas was that there is a great God who designs a far better plan for human beings than they could possibly design for themselves. That design sometimes involves what looks like adversity, but the adversity is always (for Boethius) part of a design that leads to happiness. We should then, according to Boethius, not resist or fight against the troubles that come our way, but cheerfully accept them, trusting that in the end things will work out for the best. The ending of "The Knight's Tale," then, reflects this reassuring philosophy by showing that although the three principal characters all seem at first not to get what they want most, in the end all of them do get what they want, or perhaps something even better. For this and the other tales in this volume, readers should reread the portrait of the teller given by Chaucer in the General Prologue. The portrait of the Knight (lines 43-78) shows him to be the idealized Christian soldier who fought with valor and honor at most of the important late-fourteenth-century battles against heathens. We know less of his
marital than of his martial life, but he does have a son who is with him on this pilgrimage. The Knight seems, all in all, an ideal teller for the long tale of war, romance, honor, and philosophy that Chaucer assigns to him. Notes Part I Femenye (line 8). A race of warlike women, led by Hypolita, who decided that they could live and protect themselves without the help of men. They are sometimes called Amazons, their land Scithia. Saturne, Juno (470-71). Two forces that Palamon blames for the setbacks that Thebes has suffered. Saturn is the powerful planet. Juno is the jealous wife of Jupiter, who had made love to two Theban women. Part II Hereos (516). Eros, a sickness associated with the intense emotion of falling in love. manye (516). A kind of melancholy madness or mania brought on by the frustration of his love for an inaccessible woman. Argus (532). In classical mythology, the jealous Juno had set the hundred-eyed Argus as guard to Io, who was a lover of her husband, Jupiter. Argus was killed by Mercury (see line 527), who first sang all of Argus's hundred eyes to sleep. Cadme and Amphioun (688). Cadmus and Amphion are the legendary founders of the city of Thebes, home to Palamon and Arcite. regne of Trace (780). The reference in this and the next lines is to the Thracian kingdom in which a hunter prepares himself at a mountain pass to meet a charging lion or bear. Part III Citheroun (1078). Venus's supposed mountainous island of Cytherea, though Chaucer may have confused the name with the name of a different location. Ydelnesse, Salamon, Hercules, Medea, Circes, Turnus, Cresus (1082-88). Various literary, historical, and classical allusions, most of them demonstrating the follies and miseries associated with the snares of love. qualm (1156). Probably a reference to the "pestilence" or bubonic plague that killed millions in Europe during Chaucer's lifetime. See also line 1611 below, where Saturn claims to have the power to send the plague. The reference to the bubonic plague here is anachronistic, since "The Knight's Tale" is set in the classical pre-Christian era. Julius, Nero, Antonius (1173-74). Three famous rulers slaughtered in time of war-exemplary of the mayhem and death caused by mighty Mars. The last is Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Caracalla, a Roman emperor murdered in AD 217. Puella, Rubeus (1187). Two astrological references to Mars as cast by a complicated process called geomancy, a pseudoscience involving dots and lines. Calistopee, Dane, Attheon, Atthalante, Meleagre (1198- 1213). Various classical and legendary allusions to hunters or the hunted whose unfortunate tales are depicted on the walls of the temple of Diana, goddess of the hunt. griffon (1275). A griffin was in Greek mythology a fearsome beast with the head and wings of an eagle on the body of a lion. in hir houre (1359). Palamon picks his hour of prayer carefully. The various planets were supposed to have special powers on certain hours of the day, hours in which it was particularly propitious to make prayers for their astrological
influence. Venus would have had special strength on the twenty-third hour of Sunday night (see line 1351), when it was not yet two hours before dawn on Monday morning (line 1352). the thridde houre inequal (1413). The medieval astrological day was divided into twenty-four "inequal" or planetary hours. In this system the time between dawn and dusk was divided equally into twelve hours, the time between dusk and the following dawn into twelve more. Except at the two equinoxes, when the daylight hours would have been exactly equal in length to the nighttime hours (that is, sixty minutes), the daylight hours would have been longer or shorter than the hours of darkness, depending on the time of the year-thus the inequality. Emily prays to Diana on the third inequal hour after Palamon prayed to Venus. That would have been the first hour of Monday ("moon day"), or the dawn hour, the hour at which Diana's power would have been the greatest. Like Palamon, Emily picks her prayer time very carefully. Stace of Thebes (1436). The Thebaid of Statius, though Chaucer's more direct source was actually Boccaccio's Teseida, which he does not mention by name here or elsewhere. Chaucer was often eager to claim an ancient source, not a contemporary one. Attheon (1445). While hunting, Acteon accidentally saw Diana while she was bathing. In her anger she changed him into a stag, which Acteon's hunting dogs then killed, not realizing that they were killing their master. See lines 1207-10 above, where Acteon's unhappy story is artistically summarized on the walls of Diana's temple. thre formes (1455). As suggested in lines 1439-42 above, the goddess was imagined to have appeared in various forms. The three referred to here are probably Luna, the moon (in the heavens), the chaste Diana, the huntress (on earth), and Proserpina, the reluctant wife of Pluto (in the underworld). the nexte houre of Mars (1509). Mars's next hour, the hour that Arcite would have selected for his prayer to Mars, would have been the fourth hour of that Monday. Part IV al that Monday (1628). Monday is given over to partying and celebrations so that the tournament itself takes place the next day, on a Tuesday, or Mars's day ("Mardi" in French). Since Tuesday is the day when the influence of Mars is strongest, it would not have surprised a medieval audience that Arcite, who had prayed to Mars, wins the tournament. Galgopheye (1768). Probably a valley in another part of Greece, perhaps Gargaphia. Belmarye (1772). Probably Benmarin in Morocco but, like the previous name, perhaps just meant to be an exotic place where wild animals were rampant and dangerous. furie infernal (1826). A fury was an avenging spirit usually confined to the underworld but released from time to time to influence the affairs of men, sometimes to see that justice was done. vertu expulsif (1891). This "virtue" involved the ability to expel certain harmful poisons from the body. This complex account of the mechanics of Arcite's dying, the technical details of which are not important here, shows Chaucer's awareness of the medical terminology of his day. Firste Moevere (2129). This First Mover who creates the links in the great "chain of love," though later in the passage identified as Jupiter, may perhaps be read as an anachronistic stand-in for the Judeo-Christian godhead, the all- loving deity who stands above and beyond the planetary gods and goddesses that seem to control the fates of men. This prime mover determines the number of years indi- vidual men and women get to live on earth and arranges things better for them than they could arrange them for themselves.
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