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.

6 thoughts on “Bawdy Tales from the 14th Century

    1. Thanks! Lewis & Tolkien were the first two authors I remember obsessing over (starting in 2nd grade) so my blogger handle had to come from one of them… and Tolkien has probably done more than any author outside the Bible to shape my understanding of true heroes/heroism.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes! I mean, you have your classic heroes like Aragorn, but then the REAL hero of the story is Sam, who has no idea what he’s doing, is terrified most of the time, and who is really just doing the best he can to help the person he loves. I really look up to all the different kinds of heroes in LOTR.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I have a modernized retelling of these by Peter Ackroyd that has been sitting on my shelves forever. I just might have to give it a read this year.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Definitely worth reading in the original middle English- glad you liked this 😀 Honestly I tend to overlook old fashioned views in books- but in Chaucer’s case, he’s kind of simultaneously sending up a lot of the tropes at the same time as invoking them, so he’s off the hook in my mind 😉


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