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Canterbury Tales
by Barbara Cohen
Publisher: HarperCollins
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Reading Level: Ages 9-12
Edition: Hardcover
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Editorial Reviews:
On a spring day in April--sometime in the waning years of the 14th century--29 travelers set out for Canterbury on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint Thomas Beckett. Among them is a knight, a monk, a prioress, a plowman, a miller, a merchant, a clerk, and an oft-widowed wife from Bath. Travel is arduous and wearing; to maintain their spirits, this band of pilgrims entertains each other with a series of tall tales that span the spectrum of literary genres. Five hundred years later, people are still reading Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. If you haven't yet made the acquaintance of the Franklin, the Pardoner, or the Squire because you never learned Middle English, take heart: this edition of the Tales has been translated into modern idiom.

From the heroic romance of "The Knight's Tale" to the low farce embodied in the stories of the Miller, the Reeve, and the Merchant, Chaucer treated such universal subjects as love, sex, and death in poetry that is simultaneously witty, insightful, and poignant. The Canterbury Tales is a grand tour of 14th-century English mores and morals--one that modern-day readers will enjoy.

Book Description

A vigorous treatment of The Nun's Priest's Tale, The Pardoner's Tale, The Wife of Bath's Tale, and The Franklin's Tale. "This carefully researched and lively richly and beautifully produced....One could not ask for a more enticing introduction to Chaucer's world." -- Publishers Weekly.

Product Details
  • Hardcover: 104 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; edition (Aug 15, 2023)
  • ISBN: 0688062016
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 Based on 69 reviews.
  • Sales Rank: 123811

Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:

5Travelling mercies..., Aug 2, 2023
In Chaucer's work, 'The Canterbury Tales', perhaps the greatest of English literary works from the period of the language known as Middle English, there is one particular piece that have always stood out for me.

'A Clerk ther was of Oxenford also,'

This is perhaps my favourite character, as when I first read it, it seemed to epitomise what I hoped for in my own life.

'That unto logik hadde longe y-go.
For him was lever have at his beddes heed
Twenty bokes, clad in blak or reed,

Of Aristotle and his philosophye,
Than robes riche, of fithele, or gay sautrye,
But al be that he was a philosophre,
Yet hadde he but litel gold in cofre,
But al that he mighte of his freendes hente,
On bokes and on lerninge he it spente,
and bisily gan for the soules preye
Of hem that yaf him wherwith to scoleye.
...gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche.'

Every now and then I cannot help but re-read this part of the Prologue, for a reminder of what I'm aiming for in my own life.

Chaucer was son of a wine merchant, something near and dear to my heart. Chaucer was well-read, well-phrased, well-mannered, industrious in literary and legal/administrative pursuits, as I trust I will become, if not already so qualified.

As one can see from the above examples, English has changed much over the past 600 years, but not so much as to make these passages unrecognisable. Compare for yourself with a modern translation, and see how much you can decipher.

Chaucer is one of the first great English authors of name; most (but not all) literary output in English prior to this time was anonymous. Living in the 1300s, he held administrative posts of importance under Kings from the time of Edward III to Henry IV. Never one to shrink from spending too much money (he had to reapply for pensions and ask for advances several times in his life) or shying away from controversy (he fell out of and came back into favour several times). When he died, he was laid to rest in Westminster Abbey, in a section on the south side that has since become Poet's Corner, largely due to Chaucer, the first great English poet, having been buried there.

In addition to his magnus opus, 'The Canterbury Tales', a collection of stories with prologue told by pilgrims on their journey to Canterbury (car radios and in-flight movies were rare in those days), Chaucer wrote minor poems to suit various occasions (his first record as poet comes from having written a poem as elegy on the death of John of Gaunt's first wife, Blanche, in 1369), and the major work for which he was noted for 'Troilus and Criseyde', which showed his sense of humour, power of observation and attention to detail, and keen dramatic skills in language. This work is often compared to Dante and Boccaccio, perhaps the most famous poets of the day. 'The Canterbury Tales' is actually intended to be much longer - 120 tales told by 30 pilgrims (two each on the way to Canterbury, and two each returning). As it is, there are only 24 tales plus a prologue - had it been completed, it would be by far the longest poem in the English language.

There is a strong, practical side to Chaucer's writing, sophisticated yet not aloof and removed from the affairs of the world, cultured yet in tune with the better (and more interesting) aspects of the common people, too.

This edition by A. Kent Hieatt and Constance Hieatt is designed for those who want the major portions of the Canterbury Tales. Be advised, this is not a complete or annotated set, and the translations from Middle English to modern idiom, while good, do not come with notes to explain possible choices and phrases. This is a book to give the flavour of the major stories, and is designed for readers who want the story rather than the details. As a Bantam book, it is designed for the undergraduate or general reader, and serves this audience well.

For those who want the Canterbury Tales in basic form, this might well be the volume to get.

0 of 7 people found the following review helpful:

3Average. Boring later half of book, Jul 19, 2023
average, boring later half of book. Interesting thoughts though.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:

5The best of English Literature, Jun 24, 2023
If I could have only one book to take with me on a desert island, it would be Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. His story-telling ability is without parallel, and his poetry is magnificent, even better than Shakespeare; which, of course, is not a completely fair comparison, since middle english is more melodious than modern english. Compare, for example, the sound of Italian to the sound of English, and you'll know what I'm talking about. The Everyman's library edition is NOT a translation, and includes ALL the tales. It's worthwhile reading Chaucer in the original middle english, despite the difficulty for a modern reader, because of the beauty of the poetry, which can't be translated. This particular edition is the easiest to use, as the footnotes are complete and easily accessible on the same page with the text, not in back as with other editions.

0 of 0 people found the following review helpful:

5Excellent, Jun 1, 2023
The first story "The Knight's Tale" is on par with "Aucassin and Nicolette" (Andrew Lang), and The Friendship of "Amis and Amile" (Old French Romances, William Morris, which can usually be bought through Alibris as a used book put out by (...)) In my own opinion "The Knight's Tale" is the only reason to purchase or read The Canterbury Tales. It is unmatched if heard on audio book,
Blackstone Audiobook, unabridged, read by Fred Williams, ISBN: 0-7861-2239-0.
(I purchased mine at audio books on cassette.)

0 of 0 people found the following review helpful:

5Memorable..., May 28, 2023
I got this version of "The Canterbury Tales" over my spring break (Partialy because that is the time of year the story takes place.) and a instant obsession was sparked between me and the fine black ink printed on the paper. I remember getting up before the sun rised just so I could sit in the quiet and take in every word the book had to offer.
It is so poetic its like a smooth flowing song, often you forget you are reading and drift off. Dozens of memorable lines fill the book, especially the first couple paragraphs in the General Prologe. Characters like the Knight and The Wife of Bath really become memorable, and almost 700 years later you can almost still relate to the stories they tell. I cannot stop praising this book. I highly recomend it.


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