“It is not all gold that glareth.”
On an evening in April, at The Tabard Inn, as Harry Bailly awaits to begin his pilgrimage to the shrine of Thomas Beckett in Canterbury, there comes a group of twenty-nine pilgrims, belonging to the various ranks of the English society. And the next morning, as they all embark on their journey together, begins The Canterbury Tales.From the Knight, the Reeve, the Wife of Bath and the Clerk to the Monk, the Cook and the Yeoman, each one narrates his/her story as a part of the story-telling contest. As rich and varied as their lives are, interspersed with quarrels, conversations and opinions, the tales give a colourful insight into the medieval English society and social milieu of that period. Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales is one of the greatest works of English Literature. This fourteenth century masterpiece has been delighting its readers for almost six centuries and will continue to do so for years to come.
Ackroyd's retelling of Chaucer's classic isn't exactly like the Ethan Hawke'd film version of Hamlet, but it's not altogether different, either. Noting in his introduction that the source material "is as close to a contemporary novel as Wells Cathedral is to an apartment block," Ackroyd translates the original verse into clean and enjoyable prose that clears up the roadblocks readers could face in tackling the classic. "The Knight's Tale," the first of 24 stories, sets the pace by removing distracting tics but keeping those that are characteristic, if occasionally cringe-inducing, like the narrator's insistence on lines like, "Well. Enough of this rambling." The rest of the stories continue in kind, with shorter stories benefiting most from Ackroyd's treatment, though the longer entries tend to... ramble. The tales are a serious undertaking in any translation, and here, through no fault of Ackroyd's work, what is mostly apparent is the absence of the original text, making finishing this an accomplishment that seems diminished, even if the stories themselves prove more readable.