The Canterbury Tales

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What to expect

At the Tabard Inn, thirty travelers of widely varying classes and occupations are gathering to make the annual pilgrimage to Becket’s shrine at Canterbury. It is agreed that each traveler will tell four tales to help pass the time and that the host of the inn will judge the tales and reward the best storyteller with a free supper upon their return.

Thus we hear, translated into modern English, twenty-some tales, told in the voices of knight and merchant, wife and miller, squire and nun, and many more. Some are bawdy, some spiritual, some romantic, some mysterious, some chivalrous. Between the stories, the travelers converse, joke, and argue, revealing much of their individual outlooks on life as well as what life was like in late fourteenth-century England.

Critics Review

  • “Chaucer’s blend of humour, realism, philosophical depth, poetic virtuosity, and masterful control of dialogue and character was never matched…As a storyteller, he is supreme.”

    Cambridge Guide to Literature in English
  • “Chaucer’s genius is such that the tales reveal the personalities of their tellers…the pilgrims grow as distinct personalities as they converse and argue between stories.”

    Frank N. Magill, editor, Masterpieces of World Literature
  • “Read by Martin Jarvis and a full cast, The Canterbury Tales reveals the trials and travails of daily life in late fourteenth-century England through stories, conversations, jokes, and arguments between travelers. Truly the most memorable way to experience this literary classic, The Canterbury Tales is especially recommended for public library collections.”

    The Midwest Book Review
  • “The Tales…were still unfinished when Chaucer died in 1400, but their variety and brilliance, all expressed in everyday conversational English, as opposed to the French or Latin written for the elite, created a legacy to which we are still indebted. Chaucer laid the foundation of our rich literary heritage and did it so well that only Shakespeare and, arguably, John Milton, are considered his poetic equals…The Nicholson translation balances as much of the meter, rhyme and syntax of the original as practical with a sometimes quaint but easily comprehensible updated vocabulary, thus retaining the flavor of the old work without compromising accessibility to modern readers.  Martin Jarvis, John Lee, Ralph Cosham, Simon Vance, Rosalyn Ayers, and the rest of the cast are all fine readers who know to emphasize content over rhyme and who generally avoid falling into sing-song…The Nicolson translation would be best suited for committed readers of classics who are not resistant to poetry and who want an immersion experience in medieval literature that feels similar to reading the original.”

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