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Geoffrey Chaucer


Middle class London family. Was a page to an eminent family (trained in good manners- how to conduct himself ... 2. YELLOW BILE ('choleric; violent) 3. PHLEGM ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Geoffrey Chaucer

Geoffrey Chaucer
  • And The Canterbury Tales

Chaucer 1341-1400
  • The Father of English Poetry
  • Before Chaucer it was not fashionable for serious
    poets to write in English
  • Chaucer composed in the vernacular (the everyday
    language of London)
  • Lent respectibility to the language, because of
    his social stature (he was a govt. official)

Chaucers life
  • Middle class London family
  • Was a page to an eminent family (trained in good
    manners- how to conduct himself with the
  • Captured in France while serving as a soldier in
    the Hundred years War
  • King contributed to his ransom (so he mustve
    been important!)

More of Chaucers life…
  • Became a justice of peace
  • A member of Parliament
  • Traveled to Italy 1372-1378, where he was most
    likely influenced by the writing of Dante,
    Petrarch and Boccaccio

Giovanni Boccaccios Decameron
  • Uses a framing device a tale within a tale
  • a group of people fled the plague-ridden city
    of Florence and tell stories to wile away their
    time in the country
  • Chaucer uses the same technique for The
    Canterbury Tales (group of pilgrims tell four
    stories each on the way to a from a religious

The Greatness of The Canterbury Tales
  • Language (vernacular)
  • His tough of irony
  • His personality emerges from the tales
  • no poet has ever written better on the baffling
    complexity of things
  • the dominant meter is iambic pentameter

  • In Chaucers day almost everyone from every class
    did it
  • Many probably went on more than one
  • In 1 year alone, more than 100,000 persons are
    said to have made the Canterbury pilgrimage

More on the Author
  • Died on October 25, 1400
  • First of the many famous English writers gathered
    in memorium at the Poets Corner in Westminster
  • (though hes buried in his family vault)

The Route to Canterbury
  • From London to Canterbury, probably followed an
    originally Roman road
  • One can still travel this road
  • The pilgrims called the road a slough or a
    place with deep mud
  • In April, time of this pilgrimage, it was very

Map of the route
The Prologue to The Canterbury Tales
  • Establish Spring time as the setting
  • 55 mile journey by horseback
  • Uses the poet-pilgrim narrator (Chaucer
  • Starts out at the Tabard Inn in Southwark, a
    borough in the south of London
  • Meets up with 29 other pilgrims bound for
  • The host of the inn suggests the lets tell
    tales premise to set up Chaucers frame story

Those stories provide a survey of medieval genres
  • Courtly romance
  • Fabliau (bawdy humorous tales)
  • Pious legend
  • Allegory
  • Beast fable
  • Sermon
  • Explore human frailty and nobility
  • Humor and tragedy
  • Earthly pursuits and spiritual aspiration (it all
    adds up to the richness and complexity of the
    human condition)

Add it up…
  • If each pilgrims tells two tales on the way to
    Canterbury and two on the way back 120 tales!
  • If Chaucer wrote one a month, it would have taken
    10 years to complete!
  • He wrote only 24 of the tales in five years

Introducing the pilgrims
  • Each pilgrim is sketched by the narrator
  • Introduces us to Chaucers brilliant picture of
    life in late medieval England
  • It is the concise portrait of an entire nation,
    high and low, old and young, male and female, lay
    and clerical, learned and ignorant, ….the most
    noticeable thing about them is their normality.

  • The process by which the writer reveals the
    personality of a character
  • Directly telling us
  • Describing looks/dress
  • Characters words and actions
  • Characters private thoughts
  • others reactions to the character

The Four Humours Theory
  • 1. BLOOD (red amorous, happy)
  • 2. YELLOW BILE (choleric violent)
  • 3. PHLEGM (colorlesspale, cowardly)
  • 4. BLACK BILE (gluttonous, lazy, sentimentality)
  • closely allied with the 4 elements of air, fire,
    water and earth)

  • The pilgrimage is in a sense a quest it begins
    in the spring, a time for renewal…the stories
    move from images of penance to death and to
    eternal life by the end of the work.
  • The pilgrims represent everyman…all of us on
    our universal pilgrimage through life

Connect it to today, to your life…
  • If you went on a tour today, what types of people
    would you expect to meet
  • How would you assess them? Can their physical
    appearances provide information about their
    personalities and values?
  • What could you learn from people by the way they
    speak? By watching how other people respond to

  • Powerpoint created by Mrs. Lori A. Rogalski
    October 10, 2007
  • Based upon text information in Elements of
    Literature, 6th Course, Literature of Britain
    wit World Classics. Holt, Rinehart and Winston.