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Canterbury Tales Webquest

Today you are going to research background information about Geoffrey Chaucer and The Canterbury Tales. Anything not completed in class should be finished for HW.

- Use the links to answer the questions listed below.

- Please PARAPHRASE your answers rather than copying and pasting information.

You may type your answers directly into the document and print when finished.

1. Geoffrey Chaucer

1. What kind of writer was he? He is a realistic writer.

2. What were the years of his birth and death? Born 1340/44, died 1400.

3. Where was he from? London, England

4. What was his “masterpiece”? The Canterbury Tales

2. What is a pilgrimage? (You should already know this from our vocab. quiz.) A pilgrimage is a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith, although sometimes it can be a metaphorical journey in to someone's own beliefs.

3. Define prologue. The preface or introduction to a literary work. (or other dictionary site)

4. Where is Canterbury? Canterbury is located in Kent county, south-east of London. It is home to the Caterbury cathedral, the burial site of King Henry IV.

What famous event happened there? Thomas Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170.

What are the goals of the many people who travel there on pilgrimages? The idea behind a pilgrimage was to exert considerable effort in a journey to a place that was known to be more conducive to effective praying. Most of these sites were notable because they contained the tombs of Saints. It was around these tombs that many great churches and cathedrals were born. Often, it was not even the tomb of a Saint that lent sanctity to a place, but merely a fragment of a saint's remains or some other holy relic. There were also items of more questionable provenance, such as the cloth the Christ's body was wrapped in --the "Shroud of Turin "-- or pieces of the cross he was crucified on. No matter, it wasn't called the Age of Faith for nothing. If a place, and its Holy Relics got a reputation for getting prayers answered, it became more popular as a pilgrimage destination.,-England

5. When were The Canterbury Tales written? In what language were they written? Between 1387 and 1400. Written in the vernacular (language of the people) Middle English.

• What are they about? It is both one long narrative (of the pilgrims and their pilgrimage) and an encyclopedia of shorter narratives; it is both one large drama, and a compilation of most literary forms known to medieval literature: romance, fabliau, Breton lay, moral fable, verse romance, beast fable, prayer to the Virgin… and so the list goes on. No single literary genre dominates the Tales. The tales include romantic adventures, fabliaux, saint's biographies, animal fables, religious allegories and even a sermon, and range in tone from pious, moralistic tales to lewd and vulgar sexual farces. More often than not, moreover, the specific tone of the tale is extremely difficult to firmly pin down. (The Canterbury Tales tell the story of a group of pilgrims on their way to Canterbury who engage in a tale-telling contest to pass the time. Besides watching the interactions between the characters, we get to read 24 of the tales the pilgrims tell.)

• What is a frame tale? A narrative structure containing or connecting a series of otherwise unrelated tales.

• What happens in the Prologue? The General Prologue is the key to The Canterbury tales that narrates about the gathering of a group of people in an inn that intend to go on a pilgrimage to Canterbury (England) next morning. In the General Prologue, the narrator of The Canterbury Tales, who is one of the intended pilgrims, provides more or less accurate depictions of the members of the group and describes why and how The Canterbury Tales is told. If we trust the General Prologue, Chaucer determined that each pilgrim should tell two tales on the way to Canterbury and two tales on the way back. The host of the inn offers to be and is appointed as judge of the tales as they are told and is supposed to determine the best hence winning tale. As mentioned before, The Canterbury Tales was never finished 6. What were the “Three Estates” during the Middle Ages?

Estate = When a text is geared toward a particular class of people, it is said to be written ad status, Latin for "to the estate," that is, to everyone in a particular social category (or "estate").

1st = the Church (clergy = those who prayed) 2nd = the Nobility (those who fought = knights) 3rd= the Peasantry (everyone else, at least under feudalism: those who produced the food which supported those who prayed and those who fought, the members of the First and Second Estates).

How were women categorized? Women were classified differently. Like men, medieval women were born into the second or third estate, and might eventually become members of the first (by entering the Church, willingly or not). But women were also categorized according to three specifically "feminine estates": virgin, wife and widow. It is interesting to note that a woman's estate was determined not by her profession but by her sexual activity: she is defined in relationship to the men with whom she sleeps, used to sleep, or never has slept.

The “feminine_estates” • virgin

• wife

• widow

6. What was the Black Death? During the next few years, the European economy slowly improved, and agricultural and manufacturing production eventually reached pre-famine levels. In 1347, that development was suddenly halted by a worse disaster than the Great Famine.

Since the failure of Justinian's attempt to reconquer the lands of the Western Empire in 540-565, Europe had been relatively isolated, its population sparse, and its villages independent of each other. It was as if the continent were divided up into a number of quarantine districts. Although many diseases were endemic (that is, they were always present), contagious diseases did not spread rapidly or easily. So the last pandemic (an epidemic that strikes literally everywhere within a short time) to strike Europe had been that brought by Justinian's armies in 547. The revival of commerce and trade and the growth of population had altered that situation, however. There was much more movement of people from place to place within Europe, and European merchants travelled far afield into many more regions from which they could bring home profitable wares or a contagious disease. Moreover, the European's diet, housing, and clothing was relatively poor, and a shortage of wood for fuel made hot water a luxury and personal hygiene substandard.

Contrary to popular belief, medieval people actually liked to wash. They particularly enjoyed soaking in hot tubs and, as late as the mid- thirteenth century, most towns and even villages had public bath houses not unlike the Japanese of today. The conversion of forest into arable land had reduced the supply of wood, however, and the bath houses began to shut down because of the expense of heating the water. They tried using coal, but decided that burning coal gave off unhealthy fumes (They were right, by the way) and abandoned the use of the stuff. By the mid-fourteenth century, only the rich could afford to bathe during the cold winter months, and most of the population was dirty most of the time.

The Black Death arose somewhere in Asia and was brought to Europe from the Genoese trading station of Kaffa in the Crimea (in the Black Sea). The story goes that the Mongols were besieging Kaffa when the plague broke out among their forces and compelled them to abandon the siege. As a parting shot, the Mongol commander loaded a few of the plague victims onto his catapults and hurled them into the town. Some of the merchants left for Constantinople as soon as the Mongols had left, and carried the plague with them. It spread from Constantinople along the trade routes, causing tremendous mortality.

The disease was spread primarily by fleas and rats. The stomachs of the fleas were infected with bacteria known Y. Pestis. The bacteria would block the "throat" of the infected flea so that no blood could reach the stomach, and the fleas grew ravenous since they were starving to death. They would attempt to suck up blood from their victims, but then would have to disgorge it back into their preys' bloodstreams, only now the blood was mixed with Y. Pestis. They infected rats in this fashion, and the rats spread the disease to other rats and fleas before dying. Without rodent hosts, the fleas then migrated to the bodies of humans and infected them in the same fashion as they had the rats.

The disease appeared in three forms:

• bubonic [infection of the lymph system -- 60% fatal] • pneumonic [respiratory infection -- about 100% fatal], and • septicemic [infection of the blood and probably 100% fatal] The plague lasted in each area only about a year, but a third of a district's population would die during that period. People tried to protect themselves by carrying little bags filled with crushed herbs and flowers over their noses, but to little effect. Those individuals infected with bubonic would suffer from great swelling ("bubos" in the Latin of the times) and take to their beds. Those with septicemic would die quickly, before any obvious symptoms had appeared. Those with respiratory also died quickly, but not before developing evident symptoms: a sudden fever that turned the face a dark rose color, a sudden attack of sneezing, followed by coughing, coughing up blood, and death. This sequence is recalled in a children's game-song that most people know and have both played and sung: Ring around the rosie,
A pocketful of posie,
Ashes, ashes
All fall down!

The ring is a circular dance, and the plague was often portrayed as the danse macabre, in which a half-decomposed corpse was shown pulling an apparently healthy young man or woman into a ring of dancers that included man and women from all stations and dignities of life as well as corpses and skeletons. The rosie is the victim with his or her face suffused with blood, and the posie is the supposedly prophylactic bag of herbs and flowers. Ashes, ashes is the sound of sneezing, and all fall down! is the signal to reenact the death which came so often in those times. [pic]

Death and the lady. From Der Doten Dantz (Dance of the Dead), printed by Heinrich Knoblochzer, Heidelberg, 1490.

7. Choose a picture from the site below to copy and paste it into this document:

What do you notice about the illustration?

Dansa de la Mort (Catalan) is an artistic genre of late-medieval allegory on the universality of death: no matter one's station in life, the Dance of Death unites all. The Danse Macabre consists of the dead or personified Death summoning representatives from all walks of life to dance along to the grave, typically with a pope, emperor, king, child, and labourer. They were produced to remind people of the fragility of their lives and how vain were the glories of earthly life.

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