Geoffrey Chaucer

Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is one of the most famous pieces of writing in the English language. It is an unfinished novel in verse—Chaucer got down about 17,000 lines before his death in or around 1400, but he only completed a small portion of what he originally intended to write. Canterbury Tales opens with the story of a group of pilgrims journeying from London to Canterbury. Each of the pilgrims tells a tale to pass the time, ranging from morality tales to eyebrow-raising sex comedies.

Reading at least a few of the Tales is definitely a part of the Wordcandy Cultural Literacy Test (the Dover Thrift Selected Canterbury Tales edition is a good choice), but be sure to get a copy that features modernized language. Chaucer’s Middle English is seriously tough going.

Note: Some scholars have speculated that Chaucer was murdered because of his connection with the Reformist movement.

Note #2: HAH! Check it out: Chaucer has a blog.

We mean it about the Middle English. Check out the first paragraph of the prologue:

“Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open eye-
(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seeke.”

See? That’s just not user-friendly.

Everywhere, including free versions online.

Other Recommendations:
The Decameron, by Giovanni Boccaccio
Posted by: Julia


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