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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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Review

"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 polish....it 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
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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