Title: The Canterbury Tales
Author: Geoffrey Chaucer
Genre: Classic Narrative Poetry
Pages: 492 (not counting Modern English translation)
Rating: 4 of 5
I had a hard time deciding how I felt about this book (and what to rate it). I mean, it’s one of the classic English texts composed with obvious skill and having huge historical interest…but having 80-90% of the stories center around adultery and (frequently disavowed) misogyny got pretty old (though it did allow Chaucer to show how different kinds of people dealt with the same subject matter).
I decided to read this in the original Middle English since the Barnes & Noble edition I read has facing pages with the original text and a Modern non-rhyming translation. I had to look over at the Modern English translation about 1-5 times per page, but it was worth the effort to experience the original rhyme scheme and turn of phrase. In spite of the (to me) unfunny obsession with adultery & misogyny, Chaucer is witty and adept at painting memorable characters. Human nature doesn’t change, and many of Chaucer’s characters are recognizable and believable in spite of the passage of 600+ years (and most of the cultural differences were nicely explained in footnotes). Overall, I’m glad to have read this for a look into late 14th century culture and the experience of reading some of the earliest English literature.
Also, this is my entry for the Classic Travel or Journey category over at the Back to the Classics Challenge.