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The Canterbury Tales: Fifteen Tales and the General Prologue (Norton Critical Editions) Paperback – May 17, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0393925876 ISBN-10: 0393925870 Edition: 2nd
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

V. A. Kolve is UCLA Foundation Professor of English, Emeritus. A Rhodes Scholar, he is the author of Chaucer and the Imagery of Narrative, winner of the James Russell Lowell Award and British Council Prize, The Play Called Corpus Christi, and the forthcoming Christ as Gardener and Pilgrim: A Study in Medieval Iconography.

Glending Olson is Professor Emeritus of English, Cleveland State University. He is the author of Literature as Recreation in the Later Middle Ages.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 2nd edition (May 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393925870
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393925876
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,376 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 68 people found the following review helpful By dottikins on June 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
Why the Norton edition -- which preserves these tales in their original Middle English dialect -- over the modernised versions of Chaucer's classic stories? Because it's only in their original form that they retain the poetry and power of Chaucer's intent. I read these stories with a professor who could passably read Middle English and it was a revelation. Before, with translated versions, I had never quite understood why Chaucer was considered so great, so necessary to the canon. Hearing them in the original form, I suddenly understood. The tales are funny, dirty, odd stories (like an English version of "The Decameron") told in striking, blood-stirring rhyme and rhythm. Hearing them read aloud was like music to the ear. Which makes the smoothed-over versions feel flat and dead to the ear.

Buy this edition. Try to learn enough Middle English to get along. Discover for yourself the power of Chaucer's poetry.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Chris VINE VOICE on December 17, 2008
Format: Paperback
Writing a "review" of The Canterbury Tales is difficult, not because the book/collection isn't worthy of a review, but because it is so widely variant and has so many nuances to be discussed.

For those who don't know, The Canterbury Tales is a book containing a bunch of stories told by individuals traveling together on a pilgrimage to Canterbury. The book is written in the late 1300s with the pilgrimage set in the same basic time. It begins with a "General Prologue" providing a description of each of the characters in the group as well as the "game" they'll be playing (that of telling stories on the way to Canterbury). Each pilgrim tells a different tale (well, not "all" of them...the work is "unfinished" in the sense that we're missing tales from some pilgrims). Some tales are set in their contemporary England while others are set in exotic lands, romantic settings, or ancient cultures.

So what do you say in a brief review of The Canterbury Tales?

To start with, I would suggest you try reading it in the original Middle English. The language/spelling/pronunciation can be a problem, so be sure you get an edition that's glossed (unless you're proficient in Middle English). During the semester, I found a "children's" edition of the tales at my local library. It included Modern English "translations" of a couple of the tales along with some illustrations. It was kind of fun to read, but it lost some of the rhythm and drive of the tales by having them in a modern format.

Secondly, there are some bits that can be skipped, but it's difficult to identify which ones. For example, some might suggest that the entire Pardoner's Prologue (and much of his tale) can be ignored altogether and that you should just focus on the actual "tale" part of his tale.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By D. Osborne on July 23, 2014
Format: Paperback
Table of Contents
General Prologue 1

The Knight's Tale 26

The Miller's Prologue 85

The Miller's Tale 88

The Steward's Prologue [The Reeve's Prologue] 105

The Steward's Tale [The Reeve's Tale] 107

The Cook's Prologue 118

The Cook's Tale 120

Introductory Words to the Man of Law's Tale 122

Prologue to the Man of Law's Tale 125

The Man of Law's Tale 127

Epilogue to the Man of Law's Tale [of disputed authenticity] 158

The Wife of Bath's Prologue 159

The Wife of Bath's Tale 182

The Friar's Prologue 193

The Friar's Tale 195

The Summoner's Prologue 205

The Summoner's Tale 207

The Cleric's Prologue 223

The Cleric's Tale 225

Chaucer's Happy Song 258

The Merchant's Prologue 260

The Merchant's Tale 262

Epilogue to the Merchant's Tale 292

Introduction to the Squire's Tale 293

The Squire's Tale [unfinished] 294

The Landowner's Prologue [The Frat/Hitts Prologue] 313

The Landowner's Tale [The Franklin's Tale] 314

The Physician's Tale 337

Introduction to the Pardon Peddler's Tale [Introduction to the Pardoner's Tale] 345

The Pardon Peddler's Prologue [The Pardoner's Prologue] 347

The Pardon Peddler's Tale [The Pardoner's Tale] 351

The Shipman's Tale 365

The Host's Merry Words to the Shipman and the Prioress 377

Prologue to the Prioress's Tale 378

The Prioress's Tale 380

Prologue to Sir Thopas 387

Sir Thopas 388

The Host Stops Chaucer's Narration 395

The Tale of Melibee 397

The
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Paul Bulger on April 14, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not going to waste time reviewing the content of the original Canterbury stories, I mean it's friggin' Chaucer, there is more than 600 years worth of reviews and criticism far more incisive and informative than anything I could ever write. I'm just going to briefly talk about this edition.

Norton has always done an excellent job with their collections and anthologies, especially their critical editions, several of which I personally own, like their critical editions for Heart of Darkness and The Turn of the Screw. Their critical edition for The Canterbury Tales is no exception. It has very helpful footnotes and side notes to help you get acquainted with Chaucer's original language for those who want to take on the challenge of reading Old English over an abridged edition, and it has tons of essays, contexts, and backgrounds in case you feel like digging deeper into Geoffrey Chaucer's most renown master work. If you're just getting started with Chaucer, this is an excellent place to start.

I only have a few complaints: First, the paper is thin and a little cheap, so if you're like me and you like to highlight things or write notes in your books, please use a pencil to underline and write, don't use a highlighter or a pen, it will bleed through. Second, they've only included 15 of the 24 stories written for the Canterbury tales, I'm not exactly sure why. Still, for what there is, it's excellent, and there's tons of value for the price.
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The Canterbury Tales: Fifteen Tales and the General Prologue (Norton Critical Editions)
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