an introduction to the canterbury tales and geoffrey chaucer
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An Introduction to The Canterbury Tales and Geoffrey Chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer1340? - 1400Father: wealthy wine merchant (makes C. associated with rising middle class)C. worked for royal household almost all of lifePage to Elizabeth, wife of princeEnvoy to king -- went to France (influ. by Fr. lit)Also to Italy (influ. by Dante and Petrarch)
Chaucer, cont.1374- returns to London, becomes customs officialLives above city gate - watches colorful crowd pass through1386 - left job and goes home. 1387 - Begins CT1389 - returns to London to serve king1400 - dies; is buried in Poets Corner, Westminster Abbey
Chaucers Tomb in Westminster Abbey
The Canterbury TalesChaucer used life experiences to write CTPrologue is source book of information on 14th century EnglandTales show Cs wide knowledge of literature from classics, medieval European lit., and Asian lit.
Purpose for PilgrimageKing Henry I was in a power struggle with the churchThomas a Becket, priest, was originally friend of King Henry I, so Henry named him Archbishop of Canterbury -- most powerful prelate in England. He expected Becket to do whatever he wanted.
Purpose, cont.Becket refused; Henry, irate, yells, Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest!!Four of Henrys knights ride to Canterbury and murder Becket at prayers in the church.A contrite Henry makes a pilgrimage to Canterbury and thus starts the tradition of the annual pilgrimage.
Shrine at the site of Becketts murder
Structure of Canterbury TalesHarry Bailey, host of the Tabard Inn, challenged each pilgrim to entertain the group by telling a tale on the way to Canterbury and a tale on the way back to London.[Chaucer originally planned 120 tales, but he only completed 1/5 of them before he died.]At the end of the trip, the group would vote on the best story, and then would buy dinner for the winner.
Chaucers attitudes, opinions, and legacyUses pilgrims to comment on social problems of timeSees life unusually clearly and whollyUses wisdom of his years to write CTNative tolerance and sense of humor helped him understand man and the forces that motivate himRealizes that disorders and confusions of age marked decline of the Age of Chivalry
Attitudes, opinions, legacy, cont.Saw beginnings of new age in which:The lot of the common man improvingMerchant class prosperingParliament functioningSaw new order as goodCs optimism colors mood of the pilgrims as they set forth on their journey
Chaucers Place in HistoryIs considered one of English literatures three greats, along with Shakespeare and Milton.Canterbury Tales is regarded as an accurate and fascinating look at the life of the later middle ages.