Canterbury Tales notes

Canterbury Tales notes - The General Prologue [In April...

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The General Prologue [In April Geoffrey Chaucer at the Tabard Inn in Southwerk, across the ThamesfromLondon, joins a group of pilgrims on their way to the Shrine of Thomas à Becket in Canterbury. He describes almost all of the nine and twenty pilgrims in this company, eachof whom practices a different trade (often dishonestly). The Host of the Tabard, HarryBailey, proposes that he join them as a guide and that each of the pilgrims should tell tales (two on the outward journey, two on the way back); whoever tells the best talewill win a supper, at the other pilgrims' cost when they return. The pilgrims agree, and Chaucer warns his readers that he must repeat each tale exactly as he heard it, even though it might contain frank language. The next morning the company sets out, pausing at the Watering of St. Thomas, where all draw straws, and the Knight is thus selected to tell the first tale.] (Students reading this text for the first time may find an interlinear translation helpful. Until Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales he was known primarily as a maker of poems of love -- dream visions of the sort exemplified in The Parliament of Fowls and The Book of the Duchess, narratives of doomed passion, such as Troilus and Criseyde, and stories of women wronged by their lovers that he tells in The Legend of Good Women. The General Prologue begins with the description of Spring characteristic of dream visions of secular love. Chaucer set the style for such works (for some imitations click here ) . His first audience, hearing the opening lines of the General Prologue, may well have thought they were about to hear another elegant poem on aristocratic love. Indeed, the opening lines seem to echo the most famous dream vision of the time, Le Roman de la rose, which Chaucer translated into English as The Romaunt of the Rose, one of his first surviving works: The General prologue begins with the same tone, even some of the same details, but where the audience expects to hear that it is the time for gay and amorous thoughts, they hear instead: Then longen folk to gon on pilgrimages.The focus changes from secular love to religion, to a pilgrimage, and the texture shifts from the elegant abstractions and allegorical personages to a very real London in the fourteenth century, populated by apparently real people, some of whom -- Harry Bailly, the host, and Chaucer himself -- were well known to Chaucer's audience. These characters, we learn, are going to tell one another stories to pass the time on their way along the Road to Canterbury and to the shrine of Thomas á Becket in Canterbury cathedral. (For an excellent photographic tour of the cathedral, see Jane Zatta's web page -- many graphics so it may be slow to load but it is worth the wait.) This initiates the "framing narrative,", consisting of the "connecting links" which hold the groups of tales together, as the pilgrims amuse themselves by telling stories "to shorten with our way" (GP I.791). The idea of writing a collection of stories for a specific
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This note was uploaded on 05/04/2008 for the course BUAD 305 taught by Professor Davila during the Spring '07 term at USC.

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Canterbury Tales notes - The General Prologue [In April...

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