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The Canterbury Tales: New Edition [Paperback]

Geoffrey Chaucer
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 28 2011 0199599025 978-0199599028 New
Whoever best acquits himself, and tells The most amusing and instructive tale, Shall have a dinner, paid for by us all…

In Chaucer's most ambitious poem, The Canterbury Tales (c. 1387), a group of pilgrims assembles in an inn just outside London and agree to entertain each other on the way to Canterbury by telling stories. The pilgrims come from all ranks of society, from the crusading Knight and burly Miller to the worldly Monk and lusty Wife of Bath. Their tales are as variousas the tellers, including romance, bawdy comedy, beast fable, learned debate, parable, and Eastern adventure. The resulting collection gives us a set of characters so vivid that they have often been taken as portraits from real life, and a series of stories as hilarious in their comedy as they are affecting in their tragedy. Even after 600 years, their account of the human condition seems both fresh and true.

This new edition of David Wright's acclaimed translation includes a new critical introduction and invaluable notes by a leading Chaucer scholar.

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"David Wright is a fine poet, and he has translated the Tales with crisp brilliance and fidelity into classic verse...On every page he offers at least a few lines that make one smile with pleasure. This version ought to be on every school syllabus. The translation is certainly the best we have ever had." --Peter Levi, Sunday Telegraph

"David Wright's new verse translation of The Canterbury Tales is done with great skill, literary tact, and is caring and resourceful. It both stands up well in its own right, and is likely to send the reader back to Chaucer." --British Book News

About the Author

David Wright (1920-94) was a poet, author, and translator. Born in South Africa, he was deafened by scarlet fever at the age of 7 and emigrated to England when he was 14. He co-founded the literary review X which he co-edited from 1959-62, and published several books of verse, a translation of Beowulf, and edited anthologies of verse for Penguin and Faber. Christopher Cannon has taught at UCLA, Oxford, and Cambridge. His publications include The Making of Chaucer's English: A Study of Words (2001;2005). The Grounds of English Literature (2004; 2007), and Middle English Literature: A Cultural History (2008). He has written the Foreword to the Riverside Chaucer.

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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
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Good Translation but still disappointed Dec 10 1999
By A Customer
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable translation June 20 2004
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It's *Chaucer*, For God's Sake! Oct. 2 2003
By A Customer
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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3.0 out of 5 stars Stories are good, but syntax is lacking Sept. 6 2003
Format:Audio Cassette
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 is not that hard to understand after hearing it for a while).
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5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Chaucer!! July 19 2003
By A Customer
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, and although these tales were never completed, the edition we do have is quite enjoyable. These twenty-nine characters, from the knight to the pardoner, describe everyday occupations during the medieval period. Chaucer uses sharp wit and occasional dirty humor to emphasize the moral lessons each tale teaches. Not only do the tales themselves teach us, but the characters that tell them. Chaucer has been brilliant to create the exalted knight, gentle prioress, rowdy miller, lively squire, and more! If you want to experience such an absorbing classic you must read it yourself!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic! June 10 2003
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 funny book. It also takes some understanding of the period it was written in. Without that understanding and the aforementioned traits, you may find this book to be "a waste of time". Rent the movie A Knight's Tale to see appearances by Chaucer, the Summoner, and the Prior. This movie, despite being somewhat fluffy and anachronistic, does have some elements of The Canterbury Tales which, after reading the book, you may notice.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Very Approachable! June 2 2003
Having tried to wade through a "non-modern english" version of The Canterbury Tales, I appreciate this book. It brings out Chaucer's playful language in a way that's more entertaining, because it's easier to understand. Re-reading some of the stories in this book, I was surprised by beautiful statements, amusing turns of phrase, and the sheer bawdiness of his writing.
However, I gave this book three stars first becuase I don't put Chaucer on a level with Spenser or Malory, and second because this is a standard Penguin book, which means it's more stripped down than I like. I prefer footnotes to explain references that I might not be able to take in context. In something as heavily alligorical as Chaucer's work, I believe this is very important.
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