- Paperback: 528 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Classics (January 31, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140440224
- ISBN-13: 978-0140440225
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 7.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 690 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #176,019 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Canterbury Tales: In Modern English (Penguin Classics)
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About the Author
From 1374 Chaucer worked as controller of customs on wool in the port of London, but between 1366 and 1378 he made a number of trips abroad on official business, including two trips to Italy in 1372-3 and 1378. The influence of Chaucer's encounter with Italian literature is felt in the poems he wrote in the late 1370's and early 1380s – The House of Fame, The Parliament of Fowls and a version of The Knight's Tale – and finds its fullest expression in Troilus and Criseyde.
In 1386 Chaucer was member of parliament for Kent, but in the same year he resigned his customs post, although in 1389 he was appointed Clerk of the King's Works (resigning in 1391). After finishing Troilus and his translation into English prose of Boethius' De consolatione philosophiae, Chaucer started his Legend of Good Women. In the 1390s he worked on his most ambitious project, The Canterbury Tales, which remained unfinished at his death. In 1399 Chaucer leased a house in the precincts of Westminster Abbey but died in 1400 and was buried in the Abbey.
Nevill Coghill (1899–1980) held many appointments at Oxford University. His translation of Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde is also published by Penguin Classics.
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FYI: An excellent Modern English version will be found in the Kindle Store for $.99 by A. S. Kline.
NOTE: The first line normally reads: "Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote...." The words "shoures" and "soote" are each two syllables in Middle English pronunciation; thus the entire line rightly has the number of accented syllables Chaucer intended. If "his" (a one-syllable word) were improperly changed to "hise" (turning it into a two-syllable word, pronounced his-uh) -- as is done here -- that adds an unintended and, therefore, unacceptable extra syllable. I have to assume this is merely a typo; but how many other such errors are contained herein?
At the Tabard Inn, a tavern in Southwark, near London, the narrator joins a company of twenty-nine pilgrims. The pilgrims, like the narrator, are traveling to the shrine of the martyr Saint Thomas Becket in Canterbury. The narrator gives a descriptive account of twenty-seven of these pilgrims, including a Knight, Squire, Yeoman, Prioress, Monk, Friar, Merchant, Clerk, Man of Law, Franklin, Haberdasher, Carpenter, Weaver, Dyer, Tapestry-Weaver, Cook, Shipman, Physician, Wife, Parson, Plowman, Miller, Manciple, Reeve, Summoner, Pardoner, and Host. (He does not describe the Second Nun or the Nun’s Priest, although both characters appear later in the book.) The Host, whose name, we find out in the Prologue to the Cook’s Tale, is Harry Bailey, suggests that the group ride together and entertain one another with stories. He decides that each pilgrim will tell two stories on the way to Canterbury and two on the way back. Whomever he judges to be the best storyteller will receive a meal at Bailey’s tavern, courtesy of the other pilgrims.
I won't go into detail about all the tales that are told except to say that I found them witty, entertaining, and thoughtful.