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The Canterbury Tales

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The Canterbury Tales author · Geoffrey Chaucer type of work · Poetry (two tales are in prose: the Tale of Melibee and the Parson’s Tale) genres · Narrative collection of poems; character portraits; parody; estates satire; romance; fabliau language · Middle English time and place written · Around 1386–1395, England date of first publication · Sometime in the early fifteenth century publisher · Originally circulated in hand-copied manuscripts narrator · The primary narrator is an anonymous, naïve member of the pilgrimage, who is not described. The other pilgrims narrate most of the tales. point of view · In the General Prologue, the narrator speaks in the first person, describing each of the pilgrims as they appeared to him. Though narrated by different pilgrims, each of the tales is told from an omniscient third-person point of view, providing the reader with the thoughts as well as actions of the characters. tone · The Canterbury Tales incorporates an impressive range of attitudes toward life and literature. The tales are by turns satirical, elevated, pious, earthy, bawdy, and comical. The reader should not accept the naïve narrator’s point of view as Chaucer’s. tense · Past setting (time) · The late fourteenth century, after 1381 setting (place) · The Tabard Inn; the road to Canterbury protagonists · Each individual tale has protagonists, but Chaucer’s plan is to make none of his storytellers superior to others; it is an equal company. In the Knight’s Tale, the protagonists are Palamon and Arcite; in the Miller’s Tale, Nicholas and Alisoun; in the Wife of Bath’s Tale, the errant knight and the loathsome hag; in the Nun’s Priest’s Tale, the rooster Chanticleer. major conflict · The struggles between characters, manifested in the links between tales, mostly involve clashes between social classes, differing tastes, and competing professions. There are also clashes...

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