The version of this classic I read was a translation into modern English by Nevill Coghill. As you can see above, I awarded Chaucer (and the translation) five stars; but I do have a criticism. This translation (and many other publications of Chaucer) do not contain the two prose tales ("The Tale of Melibee" and "The Parson's Tale"). These are rarely read and I understand the publisher's and the translator's desire to keep the book to a managable size. Still, that should be the readers decision and no one else's. I had to go to the University library and get a complete copy in order to read those sections. As I mentioned, this copy is a translation into modern English. However, I do recommend that readers take a look at the Middle English version, at least of the Prologue. Many years ago, when I was in high school, my teacher had the entire class memorize the first part of the Prologue in the original Middle English. Almost forty years later, I still know it. I am always stunned at how beautiful, fluid, and melodic the poetry is, even if you don't understand the words. Twenty-nine pilgrims meet in the Tabard Inn in Southwark on their way to Canterbury. The host suggests that the pilgrims tell four stories each in order to shorten the trip (the work is incomplete in that only twenty-four stories are told). The tales are linked by narrative exchanges and each tale is presented in the manner and style of the character providing the story. This book was a major influence on literature. In fact, the development of the "short story" format owes much to these tales. All of the elements needed in a successful short story are present: flow of diction and freedom from artifice, faultless technical details and lightness of touch, and a graphic style which propels the story. In poetry, Chaucer introduced into English what will become known as rime royal (seven-line stanza riming ababbcc), the eight-line stanza (riming ababbcbc), and the heroic couplet. His poetry is noted for being melodious and fluid and has influenced a great many later poets. He has a remarkable talent for imagery and description. With respect to humor, which often receives the most negative responses from a certain group of readers (as witnessed by some of the comments below), there are at least three types: good humor which produces a laugh and is unexpected and unpredictable (for example, the description of the Prioress in the Prologue), satire (for example, the Wife of Bath's confession in the Prologue to her tale), and course humor, which is always meant to keep with the salty character of the teller of the tale or with the gross character of the tale itself. I am really stunned at the comments of the reviewer from London (of June 21, 1999). He/she clearly has no idea of the influence of the work nor on the reasons why Chaucer chose to present the humor the way he has. T. Keene of May 17 gave the work only three stars, presumably because it was once banned in Lake City, Florida. (Does that mean it would get fewer stars if it hadn't been banned?) Perhaps our London reviewer will be more comfortable moving to Lake City! Another reviewer suggested that "The Canterbury Tales" was only a classic because it had been around a long time. No! Chaucer's own contemporaries (for example, Gower, Lydgate, and Hoccleve) acknowledged his genius. My goodness, even science fiction books acknowledge the Tales (for example, Dan Simmons' "Hyperion," which won the 1990 Hugo Award for best science fiction novel of the year, is based on the Tales). These brief entries are too short to review all of the tales. Let me just descibe the first two. Other readers might consider reviewing the other tales in later responses. In "The Knight's Tale," the Theban cousins Palamon and Arcite, while prisoners of the King of Athens (Theseus), fall in love with Emelyn, sister of Hippolyta and sister-in-law to Theseus. Their rivalry for Emelyn destroys their friendship. They compete for her in a tournament with different Greek gods supporting the two combatants. Arcite, supported by Mars, wins but soon dies from a fall from his horse (due to the intervention of Venus and Saturn). Both Palamon and Emelyn mourn Arcite, after which they are united. It is the basis of "The Two Noble Kinsmen" by Fletcher and Shakespeare. "The Miller's Tale" is a ribald tale about a husband, the carpenter John, who is deceived by the scholar Nicholas and the carpenter's wife Alison that a second flood is due. In this tale, a prospective lover is deceived into kissing a lady in an unusual location. And, recalling the response from our reviewer from London, apparently this Tale should not be read by people from London (or Lake City)!