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  • Published: 20 October 2008
  • ISBN: 9780140424454
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 640
  • RRP: $45.00

The Canterbury Tales




A selection of the most popular, and most studied, of The Canterbury Tales, translated by Colin Wilcockson, and with facing-page original Middle-English text

This selection of the best-loved and most frequently studied of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales provides a fascinating introduction to one of the great cornerstones of English literature. The General Prologue gives vivid character sketches of the colourful band of pilgrims who gather at a London inn on their way to Canterbury, while the nine tales chosen range from the noble Knight's story of rivalry in love to the boastful Pardoner's moral treatise, from the exuberant Wife of Bath's Arthurian legend to the Miller's worldly, ribald farce. Incorporating every style of Medieval narrative - bawdy anecdote, allegorical fable and courtly romance - the tales brought together here encompass the blend of universal human themes and individual personal detail that have fascinated readers for over 600 years.

For this selection the original fourteenth-century Middle English is presented with a facing-page modern prose translation. This volume also contains a chronology, further reading and an introduction examining Chaucer's life and work and the literary influences on the Tales.

Translated and edited with an introduction by Colin Wilcockson

  • Published: 20 October 2008
  • ISBN: 9780140424454
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 640
  • RRP: $45.00

About the author

Geoffrey Chaucer

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 translation into English prose of Boethius' De consolatione philosophiae, Chaucer started his Legend of Good Women. In the 1390s he worked on his most ambitious project, The Canterbury Tales, which remained unfinished at his death. In 1399 Chaucer leased a house in the precincts of Westminster Abbey but died in 1400 and was buried in the Abbey.

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