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Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales [Hardcover]

Winthrop Wetherbee
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nov. 24 1989 0521323312 978-0521323314
This textbook series is ambitious in scope. It provides concise and lucid introductions to major works of world literature from classical antiquity to the twentieth century. It is not confined to any single literary tradition or genre, and will cumulatively form a substantial library of textbooks on some of the most important and widely read literary masterpieces. Each book is devoted to a single work and provides a close reading of that text, as well as a full account of its historical, cultural, and intellectual background, a discussion of its influence, and a guide to further reading. The contributors to the series give full consideration to the linguistic issues raised by each text, and, within the overall framework of the series, are given complete freedom in the choice of their critical method. Where the text is written in a language other than English, full account is taken of readers studying the text in English translation. While critical jargon is avoided, important technical terminology is fully explained and thus this series will be genuinely accessible to students at all levels and to general readers.

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From Amazon

On a spring day in April--sometime in the waning years of the 14th century--29 travelers set out for Canterbury on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint Thomas Beckett. Among them is a knight, a monk, a prioress, a plowman, a miller, a merchant, a clerk, and an oft-widowed wife from Bath. Travel is arduous and wearing; to maintain their spirits, this band of pilgrims entertains each other with a series of tall tales that span the spectrum of literary genres. Five hundred years later, people are still reading Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. If you haven't yet made the acquaintance of the Franklin, the Pardoner, or the Squire because you never learned Middle English, take heart: this edition of the Tales has been translated into modern idiom.

From the heroic romance of "The Knight's Tale" to the low farce embodied in the stories of the Miller, the Reeve, and the Merchant, Chaucer treated such universal subjects as love, sex, and death in poetry that is simultaneously witty, insightful, and poignant. The Canterbury Tales is a grand tour of 14th-century English mores and morals--one that modern-day readers will enjoy. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Like Charles Lamb's edition of Shakespeare, Hastings's loose prose translation of seven of Chaucer's tales is more faithful to the work's plot than to the poet's language. This is not a prudish retelling (even the bawdy Miller's tale is included here) but the vigor of Chaucer's text is considerably tamed. In the original, the pilgrims possess unique voices, but here the tone is uniformly bookish. The colloquial speech of the storyteller is replaced by formal prose; for example, while Cohen (see review above) directly translates Chaucer's "domb as a stoon" as "silent as stones," Hastings writes "in solemn silence." Cartwright's startling paintings skillfully suggest the stylized flatness of a medieval canvas, but often without the accompanying richness of detail. Like Punch and Judy puppets, the faces and voices of these pilgrims are generally representative but lack the life and charm of the original text. Ages 10-up.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Passable Version, but... June 13 2004
Format:Paperback
While this is one of the better translations of The Tales I've seen, it's still unfortunately a translation. Even with a perfect translation, much of the rhyming and character of the original is lost. On the other hand, you can also lose much of the essence of the story by reading the Middle English text simply because the vocabulary can be so different (even though most of the time you can guess the meaning). Your best bet is to buy a copy of The Tales that keeps the original text but adds a line-by-line translation. The book may be twice as thick, but this way you can both read it the way Chaucer intended it to be, and read the translation right under the original words in case you're completely baffled by the vocabulary. I recently found a copy like that at a garage sale for 50 cents. It was the best 50 cents I've spent in a long time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Good Translation but still disappointed Dec 10 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This version of the Canterbury Tales in modern English is brilliant. Nonetheless I was deeply disappointed in finding that the Parson's Tale was omitted completely, the reason being that "it does not interest the general public". I disagree with such a sweeping statement.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It's *Chaucer*, For God's Sake! Oct. 2 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Over the years, this book has been banned upways, sideways, and down. Thanks to the Comstock Law (1873), Geoffrey Chaucer's 'The Canterbury Tales' was prohibited for sale in the United States due to sexual situations and swearing. (In other words, the fun parts.) It continues to be abridged for content and language across the United States.
I read Canterbury Tales a while ago. It was an abridged edition. Severely abridged. Entire sections and tales were cut out, for PC and conservative reasons both. I reread it in an unabridged edition, and while even a truncated Chaucer is beautiful, I see how much I missed.
Yes, the Tales may be anti-semitic and sexist and Chaucer probably killed puppies just to see their expressions. It's still a beautiful example of writing. Rather than limit himself to portraying the upper classes and more refined manners, Chaucer elected to portray "low" manners and tastes as well, giving a more complete picture of life as he saw it. The completeness of the Tales for that time period blows me away.
It's long, but it's worth it. If you can, find an edition that keeps as much of the original language and slang as possible. It's slower reading, but his skill shines through.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Still enjoyable, beautiful, and raunchy May 26 2003
By BATW
Format:Audio CD
By happenstance, I started listening to The Canterbury Tales on Palm Sunday, the same day that the narration begins. As I pulled out of my driveway on an April morning, I had Chaucer's famous description of spring in my ears as a Christian procession marched by, led by a bag-pipe player. I was on a trek to Niagara Falls, but I was hearing the account of a different sort of pilgrimage, written 600 years ago, but still sounding beautiful to the ear. In fact, I much preferred listening to these tales rather than reading them silently myself from the page. This is poetry, and the scansion and lyricism can easily get lost as the modern reader struggles with the early spellings and olden vocabulary. Be advised that the first tale, that of the knight, is extraordinarily long, formalistic, predictable, and maybe even just kind of boring. It must be a purposeful tip of Chaucer's funny-looking hat to the epic poetry of Homer. But don't give up early! Chaucer rewards the patient with the following tale from the miller which is the exact opposite--short, mean, and bawdy! You'll be shocked at just how old some of the English language's four-letter words are. This pattern continues as Chaucer has each of his pilgrims take turns telling stories in their own voice, and the diversity and contrast is enjoyable. BEWARE: Although this is advertised as an unabridged reading, I was dubious when I saw its rather short length. After listening to the entire program, I looked at my very thick printed version and found several tales there that were not included in the audio reading. Nonetheless, such editing may be for the best--except for purists and academics--as this version certainly offers the lay reader/listener a representative sample of what Chaucer could do with an earlier version of our language.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Read Sept. 22 2002
Format:Paperback
In addition to its literary importance, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales are an enchanting reading experience. The Bantam Classic edition presents the tales in Modern English translation alongside the Middle English so that one can fully appreciate the tales as Chaucer composed them, or if you're just in the mood for a fun romp you can speedily read the translation. The tales themselves move at a quick pace, so beginners will probably enjoy the modern version much more.
The Canterbury Tales revolve around a group of 29 on a pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral to pay homage to the martyred St. Thomas a'Becket. The members of the pilgrimage come from all walks of life, including a Knight, Prioress, Merchant, Miller, the ever-entertaining Wife of Bath, and many others. The Canterbury Tales are the pilgrims' stories and each one reflects the individual character's personality beautifully. One can't help but feel a part of this lively group.
Whether you like a bawdy, raucous tale or a morally sound fable you will definitely find something entertaining in this book. I laughed out loud several times and found Chaucer's use of symbolism, wit, wisdom, and the glimpse into 14th Century life absolutely fascinating.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Travelling mercies
In Chaucer's work, 'The Canterbury Tales', perhaps the greatest of English literary works from the period of the language known as Middle English, there is one particular piece... Read more
Published on Feb. 23 2006 by FrKurt Messick
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable translation
I enjoy the translation. I think it's ideal for the classroom. I can appreciate the tales that are streamlined for ease. It's very easy to follow.
Published on June 20 2004 by Bethanie Frank
5.0 out of 5 stars Chaucer is simply sumblime !
There have been few writers and poets with the same vigor, fortiude and knowledge like that of Geoffrey Chaucer. Read more
Published on April 26 2004 by B. Viberg
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this, not the Cliff Notes...
The Canterbury Tales were almost ruined for me by my freshman English Lit class. They insisted on making us read it from The Norton Anthology of Literature, which of course is... Read more
Published on April 7 2004 by JR Pinto
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetry for the ages.
If you haven't read the Canterbury Tales in their native language than you are missing out. It isn't very hard, once you get in the flow of things it becomes just like reading... Read more
Published on March 6 2004 by Matt Fellows
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer inform us of what is was like to live in the Middle Ages and experience a real pilgrimage. Read more
Published on Dec 26 2003 by Katie Westfall
3.0 out of 5 stars Stories are good, but syntax is lacking
While the 'Tales' in this volume are no less amusing and relevant, I would have preferred for it to have been read in Middle English, maintaining the original flow and meter (which... Read more
Published on Sept. 6 2003 by Stardust
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Chaucer!!
When everyone says that Chaucer's Canterbury Tales are among the best of his time, I must agree. Chaucer was set with the task of creating tales told by "nine and twenty" people,... Read more
Published on July 19 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic!
This is a wonderful, hilarious book! Granted, it is not an easy read, but if you are a good reader or don't mind working through the old language, you will find this to be a very... Read more
Published on June 10 2003 by Megan E. Mueller
3.0 out of 5 stars Very Approachable!
Having tried to wade through a "non-modern english" version of The Canterbury Tales, I appreciate this book. Read more
Published on June 2 2003 by PurpleKat
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