The Canterbury Tales svetlana osikina 303 The Canterbury Tales (Middle English: Tales of Caunterbury) is a collection of 24 stories that runs to over 17,000 lines written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer who began working on the text during 1386 - 1389. The tales (mostly written in verse, although some are in prose) are presented as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together on a journey from London to Canterbury in order to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. The prize for this contest is a free meal at the Tabard Inn at Southwark on their return. Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400) Language Chaucer wrote in late Middle English, which has clear differences from Modern English. From philological research, we know certain facts about the pronunciation of English during the time of Chaucer. Chaucer pronounced -e at the end of words, so that care was [ˈkaːrə], not /ˈkɛər/ as in Modern English. Other silent letters were also pronounced, so that the word knight was [kniçt], with both the k and the gh pronounced, not /ˈnaɪt/. In some cases, vowel letters in Middle English were pronounced very differently from Modern English, because the Great Vowel Shift had not yet happened. Language Below is an IPA transcription of the opening lines of The Merchant's Prologue: 'Wepyng and waylyng, care and oother sorwe I knowe ynogh, on even and a-morwe,' Quod the Marchant, 'and so doon oother mo That wedded been.' ˈweːpɪŋɡ and ˈwailɪŋɡ ‖ ˈkaːr‿and ˈoːðər ˈsɔrwə ‖ iː ˈknɔu əˈnoːx ‖ ɔn ˈɛːvən and aˈmɔrwə ‖ ˈkwɔd ðə ˈmartʃant ‖ and ˈsɔː ˈdoːn ˈoːðər ˈmɔː ‖ ðat ˈwɛddəd ˈbeːn ‖ Style The variety of Chaucer's tales shows the breadth of his skill and his familiarity with many literary forms, linguistic styles, and rhetorical devices. Medieval schools of rhetoric at the time encouraged such diversity, dividing literature into high, middle, and low styles as measured by the density of rhetorical forms and vocabulary. Vocabulary also plays an important part, as those of the higher classes refer to a woman as a "lady", while the lower classes use the word "wenche", with no exceptions. At times the same word will mean entirely different things between classes. The Miller Style Chaucer uses the same meter throughout almost all of his tales, with the exception of Sir Thopas and his prose tales. It is a decasyllable line, probably borrowed from French and Italian forms, with riding rhyme and, occasionally, a caesura in the middle of a line. His meter would later develop into the heroic meter of the 15th and 16th centuries and is an ancestor of iambic pentameter. Title page of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in the hand of his personal scribe Adam Pinkhurst Historical context and themes Religion. The pilgrimage in the work ties all of the stories together and may be considered a representation of Christians' striving for heaven, despite weaknesses, disagreement, and diversity of opinion. Social class and convention. The Tales constantly reflect the conflict between classes. For example, the division of the three estates: the characters are all divided into three distinct classes, the classes being "those who pray" (the clergy), "those who fight" (the nobility), and "those who work" (the commoners and peasantry). The Monk The Knight Historical context and themes Relativism versus realism. Chaucer's characters each express different— sometimes vastly different—views of reality, creating an atmosphere of testing, empathy, and relativism. Liminality. The notion of a pilgrimage is itself a liminal experience, because it centers on travel between destinations and because pilgrims undertake it hoping to become more holy in the process. Thank you!