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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 & Company; 2 edition (Aug. 1 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393925870
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393925876
  • Product Dimensions: 23.3 x 14.7 x 2.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 454 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #70,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Aaron on July 21 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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) 11 reviews
56 of 60 people found the following review helpful
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.
29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
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
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
He wrote the book! Jan. 30 2014
By Alynn J. Mahle - Published on
Format: Paperback
Glending Olsen, the author, was an amazing professor at Cleveland State University while I was a grad student. I took his Chaucer class, and we used this text. He had a real knack for the OE language and an understanding for Chaucer's world and life. It was a genuine pleasure to be in the class. He signed my book; it is something I will always treasure.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The Canterbury Tales Nov. 20 2012
By Joanne Swartzberg - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an excellent version of this classic. The footnotes, introductions and end notes are all very useful. I really enjoyed reading it.
Interesting April 7 2014
By Zack C. Hornbuckle - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Chaucer is a language unto himself it would seem. However he was a great author and well worth the time to read. This was a well made book, it hasn't fallen apart yet anyway, and is worth sharing with others

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