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The Canterbury Tales
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About the Author

Geoffrey Chaucer was born in London, the son of a wine-merchant, in about 1342, and as he spent his life in royal government service his career happens to be unusually well documented. By 1357 Chaucer was a page to the wife of Prince Lionel, second son of Edward III, and it was while in the prince's service that Chaucer was ransomed when captured during the English campaign in France in 1359-60. Chaucer's wife Philippa, whom he married c. 1365, was the sister of Katherine Swynford, the mistress (c. 1370) and third wife (1396) of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, whose first wife Blanche (d. 1368) is commemorated in Chaucer's earliest major poem, The Book of the Duchess. From 1374 Chaucer worked as controller of customs on wool in the port of London, but between 1366 and 1378 he made a number of trips abroad on official business, including two trips to Italy in 1372-3 and 1378. The influence of Chaucer's encounter with Italian literature is felt in the poems he wrote in the late 1370's and early 1380s - The House of Fame, The Parliament of Fowls and a version of The Knight's Tale - and finds its fullest expression in Troilus and Criseyde. In 1386 Chaucer was member of parliament for Kent, but in the same year he resigned his customs post, although in 1389 he was appointed Clerk of the King's Works (resigning in 1391). After finishing Troilus and his tra

Reviews

Gr 9 Up-The first version put into modern English by John Tatlock and Percy Mackaye. Narrated by Flo Gibson.

Like Charles Lamb's edition of Shakespeare, Hastings's loose prose translation of seven of Chaucer's tales is more faithful to the work's plot than to the poet's language. This is not a prudish retelling (even the bawdy Miller's tale is included here) but the vigor of Chaucer's text is considerably tamed. In the original, the pilgrims possess unique voices, but here the tone is uniformly bookish. The colloquial speech of the storyteller is replaced by formal prose; for example, while Cohen (see review above) directly translates Chaucer's ``domb as a stoon'' as ``silent as stones,'' Hastings writes ``in solemn silence.'' Cartwright's startling paintings skillfully suggest the stylized flatness of a medieval canvas, but often without the accompanying richness of detail. Like Punch and Judy puppets, the faces and voices of these pilgrims are generally representative but lack the life and charm of the original text. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)

This unabridged edition features some of the BBC's best narrators giving voice to the outrageous personalities of Chaucer's motley crew of medieval pilgrims. Essential. (Audio Oldies but Goodies, ow.ly/6s5xH) (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

"A delight . . . [Raffel's translation] provides more opportunities to savor the counterpoint of Chaucer's earthy humor against passages of piercingly beautiful lyric poetry."-Kirkus Reviews

"Masterly . . . This new translation beckons us to make our own pilgrimage back to the very wellsprings of literature in our language." -Billy Collins

"The Canterbury Tales has remained popular for seven centuries. It is the most approachable masterpiece of the medieval world, and Mr. Raffel's translation makes the stories even more inviting."-Wall Street Journal

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