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Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales PowerPoint Presentation
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Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

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Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

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  1. Geoffrey Chaucer’sCanterbury Tales The Wife of Bath’s Tale

  2. Geoffrey Chaucer’s Life • “emerging middle class” – born into mercantile family; educated; served Court as Squire – traveled as diplomat • Born in London ~ 1340; died 1400 • Work as a poet more of a sideline / hobby for him • Patronized by royalty

  3. Literary Scene in Europe ~ 1350 • Dante has introduced the idea of “poetry in the vernacular” for serious epics • Divine Comedy • Latin still preferred for serious work – Virgil’s Aeneid considered best epic – Latin for religious and diplomatic and scientific writing

  4. Italy = cultural center of Europe • In addition of Dante’s Divine Comedy • Petrarch’s lyric sonnet sequence and letters in Italian • First writer to make himself & his feelings the centerpiece of his writing • Boccacio’s Decameron • Collection of 100 popular tales told over ten days by ten people trying to while away time in quarantine against the plague

  5. Literature in verncaulars • Long tradition of “romances” – poetry written in vernaculars about knights and their adventures • Arthurian adventures • “Celtic tradition” – focus on Gawain; Quenevere fairly unsympathetic • French tradition – focus on Launcelot and the love triangle • England has both traditions

  6. Popular literature • Literature in vernacular because consumed by ordinary folks • Ballads and songs • Religious dramas • Lyric poems celebrating seasons, religious figures, natural world • Robin Hood tales • Riddles, animal fables

  7. Chaucer’s innovation • Attempts serious works in English in a culture which – • Still sees French as the language of the aristocracy • Has no tradition of “high” culture in the English language (after the Norman Conquest) • C tries to do in London’s English what had been done in Florentine Italian

  8. Power in 1400 • Not what you would expect • Power tends to go along with wealth and social standing rather than gender • Three factors make for “social leveling” in 14th century • Bubonic plague • Peasant’s revolt (English uprising) • Wealth derived from mercantile activity rather than just form land

  9. Women’s Power in 1400 • The Renaissance took away women’s power based on birth or ability and gave it to men • Medieval women gained status from birth rank and from “femme sole” status – the ability to incorporate as separate financial persons from their husbands • The labor shortages of the late Middle Ages opened up economic opportunity to women, especially women left as the only adults in their families.

  10. Canterbury Tales & all else • Today, Canterbury Tales is the masterpiece of Chaucer’s work • His creation of tales and tellers that seem to match/suit the tales seems very modern – the idea that a person’s values predict his literary tastes • Chaucer’s long narratives are much more like the work of other medievals, and were more popular in his lifetime • Chaucer dies before completing Canterbury Tales, his “last work”

  11. Premise behind Canterbury Tales • A crowd of pilgrims meet at the Tabard Inn in London – all are on their way to Canterbury (not far) on horseback to see tomb of St Thomas à Becket • To while away the time, they agree to tell two tales on the way there and two on the way back • The best tale wins a free dinner • Chaucer doesn’t even manage a single tale for each of the 28 pilgrims

  12. Intellectual Property and 1400 • No concept of intellectual property in the 13th Century • Chaucer adapts stories from many sources for his Tales • He deliberately chooses a series of sub-genres known to his audience • Romances • Beast fables • Fairy stories

  13. Wife of Bath • Bath is a small city on the west coast known for its cloth industry – it is a port city and close to Wales and the west of England (sheep country) so it supports people who spin and weave wool into cloth and sell it to the continent • Weaving cloth can be a feminine occupation – many more women engaged in mercantile activities in 1400 than in later centuries

  14. The Wife of Bath: is she like or unlike a typical medieval woman? • Medievals did not denounce her as “unnatural” or monstrous, but also did not idealize her • She is conventional in that she tries to use religious authorities to justify her belief that she should have power over her husbands and in that she uses her beauty to gain power • She is unconventional in that she has married five times and in that she seems able to travel on her own