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Canterbury Tales

Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century AD (two of them in prose, the rest in verse). The tales, some of which are originals and others not, are contained inside a frame tale and told by a group of pilgrims on their way from Southwark to Canterbury, England (where a tourist attraction entitled The Canterbury Tales may nowadays be viewed) to visit Saint Thomas à Becket's shrine at the cathedral there (later destroyed by Henry VIII ).

Canterbury Tales Woodcut 1484
The themes of the tales vary, and include topics such as courtly love, treachery and avarice. The characters are a cross section of Medieval society and include a miller, monk, pardoner, plowman, knight, priest, scholar and prioress, the most memorable being the much-married "Wife of Bath". Some of the tales are serious and others are humorous; however, all are very precise in describing the traits and faults of human nature. Religious malpractice is a major theme. The work is incomplete, as it was originally intended that each character would tell two tales, one on the way to Canterbury and one on the return journey.

Perhaps the greatest contribution that this work has made to English literature is in its use of vulgar (i.e. 'of the people') English, instead of the more 'proper' Germanic English[?] of the time. The structure of Canterbury Tales is also easy to find in other contemporary works, such as Boccaccio's Decameron, which may have been one of Chaucer's main sources of inspiration.

The title of the work has become an everyday phrase in the language and has been variously adapted and adopted, eg. in the title of the British film, A Canterbury Tale. Recently an animated version of some of the tales has been produced for British television. As well as a version with Modern English dialogue, there were versions in Middle English and Welsh.

External Link Project Gutenberg archive of the text (ftp://ftp.ibiblio.org/pub/docs/books/gutenberg/etext00/cbtls12.txt)



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