Chaucer's Canterbury Tales - The Language of Chaucer Essay

Chaucer's Canterbury Tales - The Language of Chaucer Essay

Length: 749 words (2.1 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Better Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

The Language of Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales

   With careful study, the language of Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales is usually clarified and understood as the beautiful verse narrative it is. There is, however, the common problem that comes when one is unable to comprehend it in Middle English enough to coherently study it. The question has been raised as to whether it might be more useful to study a translated version of the poem so that it can be understood on first reading. The main problem with this idea is that in nearly every translation, the great beauty of the language is lost in translation, thus subtracting a great deal of the poem's power and charm. Some gloss, however, is required to make it accessible for the average reader. Therefore, the best answer is moderation between translation and language which captures the beauty in a manageable form.


Such a form is presented in The Norton Anthology of English Literature, from which can be pulled the following four lines:


Whan that April with his showres soote

The droughte of March hath perced to the roote,

And bathed every veine in swich licour,

Of which vertu engendred is the flowr; (ll. 1-4)


The above is a mix of the original spelling with some gloss (in side notes) and spelling translations meant to aide in reading, but not change the poem completely. With relatively little study in the pronunciation of Middle English, most readers could understand and read aloud the poem with its intended lyricism. After some getting used to, it reads almost smoothly, and with concentration is certainly coherent.


In the original manuscript, the reading is difficult enough that coherency is less feasible. The original spe...

... middle of paper ...

... pick up the themes, true, but in reality they are only half of the Chaucer experience.


While there are a variety of modern translations which completely reorient The Canterbury Tales for today's readers, most fall short in expressing the impressive control that Chaucer had over his native language. Changes can be made to his text if we want to understand it, but the best of these modifications interferes little or not at all with the authentic reading; this way the rich sound of the original is maintained and upheld.




Brewer, Derek. Tradition and Innovation in Chaucer. London: Macmillan, 1982.

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. Pp. 3-328. In the Riverside Chaucer. Larry D. Benson, ed. Boston: Houghton, 1987.

 Delasanta, Rodney. "Language and The Canterbury Tales." Chaucer Review 31.3 (1997), 209-231.


Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay about The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

- Chaucer’s Claim to Fame: Entrepreneurial Skills Seen in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Life Chaucer is not some unknown literary author who is known only by a dozen people in the English field. Besides Shakespeare, Chaucer is probably one of the most well-known contributors to English literature, if not the most well-known. His name is instantly recognizable, and many a high school student learned of him through the oftentimes-painful reading of his most famous work, The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer’s work is an extremely important text in terms of the evolution of the English language; The Canterbury Tales set itself apart from other literary works at the time by being one of the first pieces of...   [tags: literature, english language]

Better Essays
1049 words (3 pages)

Chaucer : The Father Of The English Language Essay

- ... Which means that Chaucer is going to attach cherished beliefs and institutions. In Canterbury Tales, Chaucer attacks the hypocrisy of the church, the patriarchy or gender relations, and nobility or the idea of having different classes of people. To begin with, in Canterbury Tales, Chaucer attacks the hypocrisy of the church through a satiric approach. After reading The General Prologue, it is quite clear that Chaucer’s idea of the church isn’t necessarily a very appreciative one. He makes it very obvious right in the beginning that he thinks the church is a game and that it’s not actually a legit institution....   [tags: The Canterbury Tales, The Knight's Tale]

Better Essays
1165 words (3.3 pages)

Chaucer 's The Canterbury Tales Essay

- ... Chaucer worked in the court of King Edward III, who was one of the first kings to use the English language commonly. Chaucer was also one of the first authors of his time to use the English language in public writings. Because of his use of the common language, people were able to enjoy Chaucer’s stories to their full extent. Chaucer is also known for authoring a romantic poem entitled, Troilus and Criseyde. He also wrote an informational text about sea navigation called Treatise on the Astrolabe, as well as several other short poems....   [tags: The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer]

Better Essays
1216 words (3.5 pages)

The Divine Comedy, Inferno And The Canterbury Tales Essay

- ... On the other hand, there is Dante Alighieri, who was born in 1265 in Florence, Italy. The Divine Comedy, Inferno is the most famous work of Dante. Inferno can be counted as a commentary on politics of Florence at that time, from which he was excluded. He takes an example of politicians in his work; describing them as corrupted and being punished in hell. When choosing a character, Chaucer picks a real and regular figure. Some of them might be based on a real people. To make it even more realistic, he brings all different kinds of characters (people) just like in real life; a good character, bad character, and a character who is in the middle (not bad and not good), without leaving anyo...   [tags: Divine Comedy, Inferno, The Canterbury Tales]

Better Essays
1080 words (3.1 pages)

Chaucer 's The Canterbury Tales Essay

- ... Another learning goal that I want my students to understand is that technology may change and evolve, but human nature stays the same. This particular element is something that could not only be applied to The Canterbury Tales, but to all early English literature in general. Throughout the story, Chaucer specifically demonstrates how flawed the pilgrims are, especially in the General Prologue. On the outside the pilgrims perfectly portray their expected roles, but on the inside, through their personalities, emotions, and desires they reveal how distorted they actually are from their typical persona....   [tags: The Canterbury Tales, General Prologue]

Better Essays
1935 words (5.5 pages)

Geoffrey Chaucer 's Use Of Satire Essay

- Chaucer’s Use of Satire An Analysis of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Use of Satire in The Canterbury Tales Every author has a set agenda before writing their piece of literature. Without an agenda, there is no motivation to write such piece of literature. This holds true with Geoffrey Chaucer. In the 14th century, Chaucer read Boccaccio’s Decameron, and was inspired to write his own version of the Decameron essentially. Therefore, Chaucer came up with The Canterbury Tales. Although The Canterbury Tales is very controversial, it was widely famous at the time Chaucer wrote it....   [tags: Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales]

Better Essays
1451 words (4.1 pages)

The Canterbury Tales : Two Character Exegesis Essay

- Canterbury Tales: Two Character Exegesis The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer are a collection of Middle English short stories written about a group of pilgrims telling tales as they journey to the shrine of St Thomas Becket. In this collection of tales, Chaucer introduces a slew of interesting characters representing all walks of life who present intriguing stories of their lives. The character of Chaucer serves as our guide throughout this story. Chaucer’s narration is unique in that we see him both as someone who could be there in the tavern with the group but at other times, Chaucer is a narrator who seems to know far more than he should....   [tags: The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer]

Better Essays
947 words (2.7 pages)

Rhetorical Analysis Of John Chaucer 's ' The Canterbury Tales ' Essay

- ... His decision to write in English rather the other “more beautiful” languages was not only an action of satire but also an effort to communicate with the general public. John Fisher avers in The Importance of Chaucer that, “It is [Chaucer’s] introduction of satire and realism and his experiments with philosophical and scientific prose that demonstrated the capacity of the language…No other writer ranges more widely from serious to comic, from spiritual to bawdy, from lyric to narrative, from poetry to philosophy and science....   [tags: The Canterbury Tales, General Prologue]

Better Essays
1200 words (3.4 pages)

Women in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales Essay

- The only two women most significant and described in great detail in The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer who provide the greatest insight into contemporary medieval society are the Wife of Bath and the Prioress. These two women appear similar in the General Prologue of the poem but, as we see through their tales, they are quite unique women and most importantly very different from one another. By examining both the Wife of Bath and the Prioress's tales, we are able to see the stark contrast between their social standards and behavior....   [tags: The Canterbury Tales Essays]

Better Essays
900 words (2.6 pages)

Insight into Human Nature in Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales Essay examples

- Insight into Human Nature in Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, (written c. 1387), is a richly varied compilation of fictional stories as told by a group of twenty-nine persons involved in a religious pilgrimage to Canterbury, England during the fourteenth century. This journey is to take those travelers who desire religious catharsis to the shrine of the holy martyr St. Thomas a Becket of Canterbury. The device of a springtime pilgrimage provided Chaucer with a diverse range of characters and experiences, with him being both a narrator and an observer....   [tags: Canterbury Tales Essays]

Free Essays
1394 words (4 pages)