This classic work of medieval literature features the pious and profane stories of commoners on a pilgrimage in fourteenth-century England.
One of the most famous works of literature written in Middle English, The Canterbury Tales were penned by Geoffrey Chaucer, who was widely regarded as the greatest poet of his time. The stories “run the gamut of tales known to people in the Middle Ages and include ribald stories such as the ‘Miller’s Tale’ and the ‘Reeve’s Tale’; medieval romances set against ancient backgrounds such as the ‘Knight’s Tale’; animal fables such as the ‘Nun’s Priest’s Tale’; Arthurian legends such as the ‘Wife of Bath’s Tale’; saint’s lives such as the “Prioress’ Tale”; and the “Second Nun’s Tale”; tragic tales, sort of, such as the Monk’s Tale’; and cautionary tales, such as the Pardoner’s Tale.’ . . . It is rightly considered one of the masterworks of English literature” (The Kansas City Public Library).
“A raucous read.” —The Guardian
Like Charles Lamb's edition of Shakespeare, Hastings's loose prose translation of seven of Chaucer's tales is more faithful to the work's plot than to the poet's language. This is not a prudish retelling (even the bawdy Miller's tale is included here) but the vigor of Chaucer's text is considerably tamed. In the original, the pilgrims possess unique voices, but here the tone is uniformly bookish. The colloquial speech of the storyteller is replaced by formal prose; for example, while Cohen (see review above) directly translates Chaucer's ``domb as a stoon'' as ``silent as stones,'' Hastings writes ``in solemn silence.'' Cartwright's startling paintings skillfully suggest the stylized flatness of a medieval canvas, but often without the accompanying richness of detail. Like Punch and Judy puppets, the faces and voices of these pilgrims are generally representative but lack the life and charm of the original text. Ages 10-up.