The Canterbury Tales

The Canterbury Tales

Warning! Middle English ain't for sissies.

Excerpt of Preface by its Editor, D. LAING PURVES:
The Canterbury Tales are presented in this edition with as near an approach to completeness as regard for the popular character of the volume permitted. The 17,385 verses, of which the poetical Tales consist, have been given without abridgement or purgation — save in a single couplet; but, the main purpose of the volume being to make the general reader acquainted with the "poems" of Chaucer and Spenser, the Editor has ventured to contract the two prose Tales — Chaucer's Tale of Meliboeus, and the Parson's Sermon or Treatise on Penitence — so as to save about thirty pages for the introduction of Chaucer's minor pieces. At the same time, by giving prose outlines of the omitted parts, it has been sought to guard the reader against the fear that he was losing anything essential, or even valuable. It is almost needless to describe the plot, or point out the literary place, of the Canterbury Tales. Perhaps in the entire range of ancient and modern literature there is no work that so clearly and freshly paints for future times the picture of the past; certainly no Englishman has ever approached Chaucer in the power of fixing for ever the fleeting traits of his own time. The plan of the poem had been adopted before Chaucer chose it; notably in the "Decameron" of Boccaccio — although, there, the circumstances under which the tales were told, with the terror of the plague hanging over the merry company, lend a grim grotesqueness to the narrative, unless we can look at it abstracted from its setting. Chaucer, on the other hand, strikes a perpetual key-note of gaiety whenever he mentions the word "pilgrimage;" and at every stage of the connecting story we bless the happy thought which gives us incessant incident, movement, variety, and unclouded but never monotonous joyousness.

Table of Contents

The Prologue

Notes to The Prologue

The Knight's Tale

Notes to The Knight's Tale

The Miller's Tale - The Prologue

The Miller's Tale

Notes to The Miller's Tale

The Reeve's Tale - The Prologue

The Reeve's Tale

Notes to The Reeve's Tale

The Cook's Tale - The Prologue

The Cook's Tale

Notes to The Cook's Tale

The Man of Law's Tale - The Prologue

The Man of Law's Tale

Notes to The Man of Law's Tale

The Wife of Bath's Tale - The Prologue

The Wife of Bath's Tale

Notes to The Wife of Bath's Tale

The Friar's Tale - The Prologue

The Friar's Tale

Notes to The Friar's Tale

The Sompnour's Tale - The Prologue

The Sompnour's Tale

Notes to The Sompnour's Tale

The Clerk's Tale - The Prologue

The Clerk's Tale

Notes to The Clerk's Tale

The Merchant's Tale - The Prologue

The Merchant's Tale

Notes to The Merchant's Tale

The Squire's Tale - The Prologue

The Squire's Tale

Notes to The Squire's Tale

The Franklin's Tale - The Prologue

The Franklin's Tale

Notes to The Franklin's Tale

The Doctor's Tale - The Prologue

The Doctor's Tale

Notes to The Doctor's Tale

The Pardoner's Tale - The Prologue

The Pardoner's Tale

Notes to The Pardoner's Tale

The Shipman's Tale - The Prologue

The Shipman's Tale

Notes to The Shipman's Tale

The Prioress's Tale - The Prologue

The Prioress's Tale

Notes to The Prioress's Tale

Chaucer's Tale of Sir Thopas - The Prologue

Chaucer's Tale of Sir Thopas

Notes to Chaucer's Tale of Sir Thopas

Chaucer's Tale of Meliboeus - The Prologue

Chaucer's Tale of Meliboeus

Notes to Chaucer's Tale of Meliboeus

The Monk's Tale - The Prologue

The Monk's Tale

Notes to The Monk's Tale

The Nun's Priest's Tale - The Prologue

The Nun's Priest's Tale

Notes to The Nun's Priest's Tale

Epilogue - The Nun's Priest's Tale

The Second Nun's Tale

Notes to the Second Nun's Tale

The Canon's Yeoman's Tale - The Prologue

The Canon's Yeoman's Tale

Notes to The Canon's Yeoman's Tale

The Manciple's Tale - The Prologue

The Manciple's Tale

Notes to The Manciple's Tale

The Parson's Tale - The Prologue

The Parson's Tale

Notes to The Parson's Tale

Prayer of Chaucer

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