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Introduction to The Canterbury Tales


The Canterbury Tales ... Pioneered by Chaucer Poems constructed from a sequence of rhyming pairs of iambic pentameter lines The General Prologue Middle English ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Introduction to The Canterbury Tales

Introduction to The Canterbury Tales
  • Accelerated/Honors 12

Medieval Period
  • 1066-1485
  • The Norman Conquest of England
  • Stand-still in English literature

Medieval Hierarchy
  • Feudal system
  • Nobility barons, knights
  • Freemen emerging middle class (merchants,
  • Peasants or serfs

Medieval Hierarchy (cont)
  • Clergy
  • The Roman Catholic Church
  • (people shared a common faith)
  • Pope, archbishops, bishops,
  • priests, nuns, and monks.

(No Transcript)
Saint Thomas à Becket
  • Archbishop of Canterbury
  • Feud with Henry II
  • Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?
  • Miracles that led to a great pilgrimage to

Geoffrey Chaucer
  • C. 1343-1400
  • Known as the father of English literature
  • Middle class
  • Vassal to the king
  • Started a re-birth of English literature

Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Born in the reign of Edward III
  • his work has a quality of universality that is
    only matched and exceeded by Shakespeare
  • Chose to write in the Mercian dialect (not French
    of the court or Latin of the university
    church). This dialect became the English dialect
    spoken today.
  • Father was a successful wine merchant (the middle
    class was new)

Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Born a commoner, but through his intellect and
    astute judgments of human character, he moved
    freely among the aristocracy, so he knew the
    world from many aspects.
  • He became a court page at 12 and read romances to
    the ladies at court married a lady-in-waiting to
    the queen
  • Took part in at least two military campaigns
  • Court poet of the later Middle Ages in Western

Geoffrey Chaucer
  • He traveled widely, was a substantial citizen,
    well-educated, widely read.
  • He was a diplomat in Italy. Met or read
    forerunners of the Italian Renaissance (Dante,
    Petrach, Boccaccio) and spoke French, Italian,
    Latin fluently.
  • He held many public offices throughout his
    public life he came into contact with most of the
    important men of London as well as with many of
    the great men of the continent

Geoffrey Chaucer
  • His work did not reach people through printed
    books but was recited and circulated in
    manuscript copies
  • He was the first poet buried in Westminster Abbey
    One of the best known parts of Westminster
    Abbey, Poets' Corner can be found in the South
    Transept. It was not originally designated as the
    burial place of writers, playwrights and poets
    the first poet to be buried here, Geoffrey
    Chaucer, was laid to rest in Westminster Abbey
    because he had been Clerk of Works to the palace
    of Westminster, not because he had written the
    Canterbury Tales (

Literary Devices
  • Frame tale
  • Narrative technique whereby a main story is
    composed, at least in part, for the purpose of
    organizing a set of shorter stories, each of
    which is a story within a story.

  • Stories of adventure about knights and chivalry
  • Courtly love
  • Celebrates the love of a knight, usually for a
    married woman. Thus, it is often adulterous and
  • Knights are so madly in love with these women
    that it consumes their thoughts.
  • Knights try to do many great deeds in hopes of
    winning their love.

  • Audience middle class men
  • Risqué tales that usually satirize women and
  • Lots of obscenity people act like animals as
    opposed to chivalric romance
  • jealous husband who loses sexual possession of
    his wife
  • wife who outsmarts her husband
  • corrupt members of the church

Heroic Couplet
  • Pioneered by Chaucer
  • Poems constructed from a sequence of rhyming
    pairs of iambic pentameter lines

The General Prologue
  • Middle English
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