Historians on Chaucer: The General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales

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The Miller focuses on physical pleasure and natural instinct in MilT; his disregard for rules of social hierarchy…. Modern Philology : Placement of a semicolon at the end of GP 1. The meaning is that both "folk" and "palmeres" wish to go "to ferne halwes.

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New Chaucer Society Newsletter Notes that Liddell's and Pollard's editions of GP end line 13 with a full stop. This "aligns with the conclusions of Bernhard ten Brink and Otto Jespersen and solves a difficulty with the syntax that Julius Zupitza noted after 'serve' was…. Analyzes the rhetorical structure, themes, and wordplay of the first thirty-four lines of GP, arguing that in CT Chaucer maintains "his commitment to the coherence of creation within the narrative framework of Christianity.

Argues that CT provides an aesthetic of irony and parody, where part of the pleasure of the experience entails ironic interpretation on the reader's part, thereby both entertaining and instructing. In the course of examining relational aspects of author and audience, discusses humor in CT, particularly in MilT. The Parson Lepine, David. Stephen H. Rigby, ed. Provides historical background about the English Church in the late fourteenth century, and on several religious controversies, including the "culture of anticlerical complaint and the challenge of Wyclif and the Lollards," that contributed to….

The Manciple Ramsey, Nigel. Reviews the history of medieval manciples, lawyers, and stewards. Reads Chaucer's Manciple as "ironic and allusive" and an "indispensable middleman" in ManT.


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The Nun's Priest Oliva, Marilyn. Presents case studies and historical background of the nuns' priests in medieval society, and interprets literary tradition of Chaucer's Nun's Priest. Includes an appendix on the Diocese of Norwich Nuns' Priests.

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The Monk Heale, Martin. Explores how recent scholarship of late medieval monastic practices informs a deeper understanding of the characterization of Chaucer's Monk. Contends that the Monk can be viewed as a "target of Chaucer's satire. Places the Prioress and the Second Nun in the context of late medieval female monasticism, contrasting the roles of female agency and the "representations of female holiness" of the Prioress and the Second Nun.

The Shipman Childs, Wendy R. Discusses the ambiguity of Chaucer's Shipman, connecting ShT to estates satire and contending that Chaucer combined an "ideal craftsman and the flawed individual" in the character of the Shipman. The Pardoner Horrox, Rosemary.

Historians on Chaucer The 'General Prologue' to the Canterbury Tales

Surveys current and past scholarship on Chaucer's Pardoner. Provides historical background on the office and practices of pardoners in the late medieval Church and reviews debate over Pardoner's "sexual ambiguity. The Doctor of Physic Rawcliffe, Carole. Analyzes the historical background of late fourteenth-century medical practice in order to understand better Chaucer's portrait of the Physician in GP.

Chaucer held the position at the customhouse for twelve years, after which he left London for Kent, the county in which Canterbury is located. He served as a justice of the peace for Kent, living in debt, and was then appointed Clerk of the Works at various holdings of the king, including Westminster and the Tower of London. After he retired in the early s, he seems to have been working primarily on The Canterbury Tales, which he began around By the time of his retirement, Chaucer had already written a substantial amount of narrative poetry, including the celebrated romance Troilus and Criseyde.

Historians On Chaucer The General Prologue To The Canterbury Tales

They had at least two sons together. Philippa was the sister to the mistress of John of Gaunt, the duke of Lancaster. Whether or not Chaucer had an extramarital affair is a matter of some contention among historians. In a legal document that dates from , a woman named Cecily Chaumpaigne released Chaucer from the accusation of seizing her raptus , though whether the expression denotes that he raped her, committed adultery with her, or abducted her son is unclear.

Chaucer lived through a time of incredible tension in the English social sphere.

Historians on Chaucer

Consequently, the labor force gained increased leverage and was able to bargain for better wages, which led to resentment from the nobles and propertied classes. These classes received another blow in , when the peasantry, helped by the artisan class, revolted against them. The merchants were also wielding increasing power over the legal establishment, as the Hundred Years War created profit for England and, consequently, appetite for luxury was growing. The merchants capitalized on the demand for luxury goods, and when Chaucer was growing up, London was pretty much run by a merchant oligarchy, which attempted to control both the aristocracy and the lesser artisan classes.

But, instead of tales, the text ends after twenty-four tales, and the party is still on its way to Canterbury. Chaucer either planned to revise the structure to cap the work at twenty-four tales, or else left it incomplete when he died on October 25, Other writers and printers soon recognized The Canterbury Tales as a masterful and highly original work.


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By the English Renaissance, poetry critic George Puttenham had identified Chaucer as the father of the English literary canon. The Canterbury Tales is written in Middle English, which bears a close visual resemblance to the English written and spoken today. In contrast, Old English the language of Beowulf, for example can be read only in modern translation or by students of Old English. The best way for a beginner to approach Middle English is to read it out loud. When the words are pronounced, it is often much easier to recognize what they mean in modern English.

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Most Middle English editions of the poem include a short pronunciation guide, which can help the reader to understand the language better. For particularly difficult words or phrases, most editions also include notes in the margin giving the modern versions of the words, along with a full glossary in the back.

Several online Chaucer glossaries exist, as well as a number of printed lexicons of Middle English. The line numbering in The Riverside Chaucer does not run continuously throughout the entire Canterbury Tales, but it does not restart at the beginning of each tale, either.