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The Canterbury Tales: Fifteen Tales and the General Prologue Paperback – Aug 1 2005

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: W W Norton & Co Inc (Np); 2nd Revised edition edition (Aug. 1 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393925870
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393925876
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 2 x 23.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 558 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #24,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

About the Author

V. A. Kolve is UCLA Foundation Professor of English, Emeritus. A Rhodes Scholar, he is the author of Chaucer and the Imagery of Narrative, winner of the James Russell Lowell Award and British Council Prize, The Play Called Corpus Christi, and the forthcoming Christ as Gardener and Pilgrim: A Study in Medieval Iconography. Glending Olson is Professor Emeritus of English, Cleveland State University. He is the author of Literature as Recreation in the Later Middle Ages.

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Here's the index:


Chaucer's Language

Selections from The Canterbury Tales

The General Prologue
The Knight's Tale
The Miller's Prologue and Tale
The Reeve's Prologue and Tale
The Cook's Prologue and Tale
The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale
The Friar's Prologue and Tale
The Summoner's Prologue and Tale
The Clerk's Prologue and Tale
The Merchant's Prologue and Tale
The Franklin's Prologue and Tale
The Pardoner's Prologue and Tale
The Prioress's Prologue and Tale
The Prologue and Tale of Sir Thopas
From The Prologue and Tale of Melibee
The Nun's Priest's Prologue and Tale
The Manciple's Prologue and Tale
From The Parson's Prologue and Tale
Chaucer's Retraction--elevated from "Sources and Backgrounds"

Sources and Backgrounds

Giovanni Boccaccio, From the Decameron, First Day, Introduction
Giovanni Boccaccio, From the Decameron, Tenth Day, Conclusion
St. Augustine, [Human Life as a Pilgrimage]
Sir William Thorpe, [On Pilgrimage]
Thomas Wimbledon, [On the Estates]
William Langland, [On Monks]
John Gower, [On Monks]
Wycliffite Estates Criticism

The Three Guests of Heile of Bersele

The Miller and the Two Clerics

Jean de Meun, From The Romance of the Rose
Theophrastus, From The Golden Book on Marriage
St. Jerome, From Against Jovinian
Walter Map, From The Letter of Valerius to Ruffinus, against Marriage
From the Gospel According to St. John
From St. Paul to the Corinthians 1
From St.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa8fec18c) out of 5 stars 18 reviews
69 of 73 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa9ee8050) out of 5 stars Music to the ear June 12 2008
By dottikins - Published on
Format: Paperback
Why the Norton edition -- which preserves these tales in their original Middle English dialect -- over the modernised versions of Chaucer's classic stories? Because it's only in their original form that they retain the poetry and power of Chaucer's intent. I read these stories with a professor who could passably read Middle English and it was a revelation. Before, with translated versions, I had never quite understood why Chaucer was considered so great, so necessary to the canon. Hearing them in the original form, I suddenly understood. The tales are funny, dirty, odd stories (like an English version of "The Decameron") told in striking, blood-stirring rhyme and rhythm. Hearing them read aloud was like music to the ear. Which makes the smoothed-over versions feel flat and dead to the ear.

Buy this edition. Try to learn enough Middle English to get along. Discover for yourself the power of Chaucer's poetry.
32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa810daf8) out of 5 stars A wonderful pilgrimage Dec 17 2008
By Chris - Published on
Format: Paperback
Writing a "review" of The Canterbury Tales is difficult, not because the book/collection isn't worthy of a review, but because it is so widely variant and has so many nuances to be discussed.

For those who don't know, The Canterbury Tales is a book containing a bunch of stories told by individuals traveling together on a pilgrimage to Canterbury. The book is written in the late 1300s with the pilgrimage set in the same basic time. It begins with a "General Prologue" providing a description of each of the characters in the group as well as the "game" they'll be playing (that of telling stories on the way to Canterbury). Each pilgrim tells a different tale (well, not "all" of them...the work is "unfinished" in the sense that we're missing tales from some pilgrims). Some tales are set in their contemporary England while others are set in exotic lands, romantic settings, or ancient cultures.

So what do you say in a brief review of The Canterbury Tales?

To start with, I would suggest you try reading it in the original Middle English. The language/spelling/pronunciation can be a problem, so be sure you get an edition that's glossed (unless you're proficient in Middle English). During the semester, I found a "children's" edition of the tales at my local library. It included Modern English "translations" of a couple of the tales along with some illustrations. It was kind of fun to read, but it lost some of the rhythm and drive of the tales by having them in a modern format.

Secondly, there are some bits that can be skipped, but it's difficult to identify which ones. For example, some might suggest that the entire Pardoner's Prologue (and much of his tale) can be ignored altogether and that you should just focus on the actual "tale" part of his tale. While his tale is entertaining and the reading would be much shorter if that's all you read, you would miss a TON of social and religious commentary which is very interesting. Similarly, the Wife of Bath has lengthy rambling passages in her Prologue and the Merchant includes numerous lengthy lists that have little bearing on the plot. It's difficult to create a good synopsis of what can safely be skipped, because it depends in a large extent on what you want to get out of it. Worse still, if you're reading in the unfamiliar Middle English, it's harder to quickly scan the text and get a feel for when the narrative has gotten back to the 'heart of the matter.'

The writing is fun and clever (once you get through the 'translation' issues with the Middle English). For a common reference, it's like reading Shakespeare, only more archaic by a couple hundred years. The language of the narrative varies depending on the narrator of the particular prologue/tale, but with Chaucer at the helm behind the scenes, the writing is generally very good, descriptive, layered, humorous, inspiring, etc. (except for when he's trying to illustrate 'bad writing', and then it's good in that it's so bad).

The messages presented are widely varied as well. The Knight's Tale was an intriguing tale of romance and chivalry with lots of courtly intrigue...but at times it felt a little dry. The Miller and the Reeve were hilarious tales and introduced me to a new (to me) genre in the fabliau. The Wife of Bath had an interesting prologue and a fun tale, again with a semi-romantic style and an interesting moral. The Nun's Priest gave us a fun little animal fable. The Prioress presented a strange little tale about miracles or anti-semitism or devout love or something else?

Overall, I would definitely recommend having a copy of The Canterbury Tales on your shelf. Some tales are easier to read than others. Some tales are more fun while others are more thought provoking (as stated in one of the prologues, a tale has one of two purposes, to educate or to entertain...and there are examples of each). Once you get your teeth into the language (probably the biggest hurdle) I suspect you'll enjoy these.

5 stars
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa81b86fc) out of 5 stars Norton is Always Great, but why is it Incomplete? April 14 2015
By Paul Bulger - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not going to waste time reviewing the content of the original Canterbury stories, I mean it's friggin' Chaucer, there is more than 600 years worth of reviews and criticism far more incisive and informative than anything I could ever write. I'm just going to briefly talk about this edition.

Norton has always done an excellent job with their collections and anthologies, especially their critical editions, several of which I personally own, like their critical editions for Heart of Darkness and The Turn of the Screw. Their critical edition for The Canterbury Tales is no exception. It has very helpful footnotes and side notes to help you get acquainted with Chaucer's original language for those who want to take on the challenge of reading Old English over an abridged edition, and it has tons of essays, contexts, and backgrounds in case you feel like digging deeper into Geoffrey Chaucer's most renown master work. If you're just getting started with Chaucer, this is an excellent place to start.

I only have a few complaints: First, the paper is thin and a little cheap, so if you're like me and you like to highlight things or write notes in your books, please use a pencil to underline and write, don't use a highlighter or a pen, it will bleed through. Second, they've only included 15 of the 24 stories written for the Canterbury tales, I'm not exactly sure why. Still, for what there is, it's excellent, and there's tons of value for the price.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa8fb92ac) out of 5 stars Finally, one that has all the tales my class calls for! July 23 2014
By D. Osborne - Published on
Format: Paperback
Table of Contents
General Prologue 1

The Knight's Tale 26

The Miller's Prologue 85

The Miller's Tale 88

The Steward's Prologue [The Reeve's Prologue] 105

The Steward's Tale [The Reeve's Tale] 107

The Cook's Prologue 118

The Cook's Tale 120

Introductory Words to the Man of Law's Tale 122

Prologue to the Man of Law's Tale 125

The Man of Law's Tale 127

Epilogue to the Man of Law's Tale [of disputed authenticity] 158

The Wife of Bath's Prologue 159

The Wife of Bath's Tale 182

The Friar's Prologue 193

The Friar's Tale 195

The Summoner's Prologue 205

The Summoner's Tale 207

The Cleric's Prologue 223

The Cleric's Tale 225

Chaucer's Happy Song 258

The Merchant's Prologue 260

The Merchant's Tale 262

Epilogue to the Merchant's Tale 292

Introduction to the Squire's Tale 293

The Squire's Tale [unfinished] 294

The Landowner's Prologue [The Frat/Hitts Prologue] 313

The Landowner's Tale [The Franklin's Tale] 314

The Physician's Tale 337

Introduction to the Pardon Peddler's Tale [Introduction to the Pardoner's Tale] 345

The Pardon Peddler's Prologue [The Pardoner's Prologue] 347

The Pardon Peddler's Tale [The Pardoner's Tale] 351

The Shipman's Tale 365

The Host's Merry Words to the Shipman and the Prioress 377

Prologue to the Prioress's Tale 378

The Prioress's Tale 380

Prologue to Sir Thopas 387

Sir Thopas 388

The Host Stops Chaucer's Narration 395

The Tale of Melibee 397

The Prologue of the Monk's Tale 431

The Monk's Tale: De Castbus Virorum lllustrium [The Fall or Illustrious Men] 434

The Prologue of the Nun's Priest's Tale 457

The Nun's Priest's Tale of Cock and Hen

Chauntecleer and Pertelote 459

Epilogue to the Nun's Priest'sTale 475

The Second Nun's Prologue 476

Prayer to the Virgin Mary 478

The Second Nun's Tale 481

Prologue of the Cleric-Magician's Servant [The Canon's Yeoman's Prologue] 495

Tale of the Cleric-Magician's Servant [The Canon's Yeoman's Tale] 500

The Provisioner's Prologue [The Manciple's Prologue] 520

The Provisioner's Tale [The Manciple's Tale] 523

The Parson's Prologue 530

The Parson's Tale 533

Here the Maker of This Book Takes His Leave 597

Notes 599
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By kmccarty - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great for students, though I was looking for something a little less text book. But I probably didn't research it enough!