The Canterbury Tales

The Friar's Tale, the Merchant's Tale, and the Miller's Tale are stories from which collection?

And the answer: The Canterbury Tales.  

Photo credit: Chaucer Myth via Bandcamp

Written by Geoffrey Chaucer between the years 1387 and 1400, The Canterbury Tales is a collection of 24 stories told in Middle English. The vast number of characters and stories help to paint a sometimes amusing and critical portrait of English society at the time.

Chaucer's Canterbury Tales are written in Middle English, a language that despite its name hardly resembles the English of today. Used between the 12th and 15th centuries, Middle English evolved out of increased contact with European romantic languages following the Norman Conquest of 1066. Most of the Middle English alphabet would still be familiar today, give or take a few archaic symbols (next time you spell a complex word, be thankful there's no "yogh").

Each of Chaucer's 24 stories contains a narrator from a different walk of life. His colorful cast of characters include a clerk, a knight, and a nun, as well as the less recognizable reeve and mancible (to name a few). The unsuspecting group meets at the Tabard Inn, bonded by their shared pilgrimage to Canterbury. If it weren't for the journey they share, this cast of characters would never have had the occasion to interact. This is due to the fact that in Medieval society, a feudal system divided the clergy and nobility from the lower classes. However, in the tales, no level of society is above mockery. Chaucer used the quirks of each character's language to satirize their world views.

Today, The Canterbury Tales is still widely studied as a masterpiece of early English literature. Check out the video below to learn more.

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