Canterbury Tales (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

( 394 )

Overview

Pilgrims on their way to worship at the shrine of Saint Thomas ? Becket in Canterbury stop at the Tabard Inn. Representing a cross-section of medieval English society, the group includes a knight and his squire, a prioress, a friar, a miller, and a wife. To amuse themselves on their journey, they agree that each will tell a tale. These stories?by turns bawdy, hilarious, scurrilous, romantic, heroic, and moving?reveal a great deal about the tellers and the world they live in, which, despite the distance of six ...

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The Canterbury Tales (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Overview

Pilgrims on their way to worship at the shrine of Saint Thomas à Becket in Canterbury stop at the Tabard Inn. Representing a cross-section of medieval English society, the group includes a knight and his squire, a prioress, a friar, a miller, and a wife. To amuse themselves on their journey, they agree that each will tell a tale. These stories—by turns bawdy, hilarious, scurrilous, romantic, heroic, and moving—reveal a great deal about the tellers and the world they live in, which, despite the distance of six hundred years, seems remarkably like our own. Indeed, the structure of The Canterbury Tales and the sophisticated, intricate interplay between the stories, their narrators, and the general narrator (himself a complex comic character) give the book its strikingly modern flavor.

Often called the first book of poetry written in English, Chaucer’s masterpiece is also the first anthology of English short fiction, one that will resonate with readers for as long as folly and courage, deceit and generosity, love and jealousy remain part of the human personality.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593080808
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble
  • Publication date: 3/1/2007
  • Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
  • Edition description: Annotated edition
  • Pages: 912
  • Sales rank: 1,361
  • Product dimensions: 5.19 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.83 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert W. Hanning is Professor of English at Columbia University, where he has taught since 1961. He has published The Vision of History in Early Britain, The Individual in Twelfth-Century Romance, The Lais of Marie de France (co-translated with Joan Ferrante), and Castiglione: the Ideal and the Real in Renaissance Culture (co-edited with David Rosand), as well as many articles on Chaucer’s poetry and other medieval and Renaissance subjects.

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Read an Excerpt

From Robert W. Hanning’s Introduction to The Canterbury Tales

The twenty-first-century reader of The Canterbury Tales experiences Chaucer’s tale collection in a manner very different from any the poet could have imagined. What we read today in carefully prepared printed editions may not correspond to what Chaucer wanted his poem to look like; indeed, it seems doubtful that he even had a final plan for its contents and order. He probably began to compose a collection of tales quite different from the monothematic, classically oriented stories comprising The Legend of Good Women—but like it, a collection headed by a considerable prologue—sometime in the late 1380s, before or after he left London for Kent. How long he worked on The Canterbury Tales is unknown—perhaps until illness or death interrupted his labors, but he may have abandoned the project much earlier. Other unanswerable questions: Did he ever really contemplate writing 120 tales, as is implied by the Host’s suggestion to the Canterbury-bound pilgrims that each of the thirty travelers tell two tales on the road to the shrine and two more on the way back to the celebratory dinner at his inn, the Tabard? (Elsewhere in the framing fiction there are suggestions that one tale will suffice from each pilgrim.) And how many of the tales had been written and either circulated in writing or performed orally before the poet had the idea of incorporating them within a frame? (A list of his works included by Chaucer in the prologue to the Legend suggests that “The Knight’s Tale” and “The Second Nun’s Tale of Saint Cecilia”* preexisted the Canterbury collection, and various scholars have conjectured an earlier composition for a number of others.)

What modern presentations of The Canterbury Tales hide behind their neatness and precision is the state in which Chaucer’s Canterbury project actually comes down to us. More than eighty extant manuscripts contain all or part of the text; each has variants and errors because, as with all textual reproduction before the invention of printing, manuscripts were copied one at a time by scribes in differing states of attentiveness or fatigue. Scholars have been unable to work out a system that organizes the manuscripts in such a way as to discover, behind all the variant readings, exactly what Chaucer wrote.

Only one manuscript of The Canterbury Tales (the so-called Hengwrt manuscript, now in the National Library of Wales) may date from Chaucer’s lifetime; it contains a highly accurate text but lacks a tale (that of the Canon’s Yeoman) and several passages linking tales that appear in other manuscripts written within a decade of Chaucer’s death. The most famous manuscript, and until recently the one accorded highest authority because of its completeness and illustrations of all the pilgrims, is the Ellesmere manuscript, now in the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. What emerges from these and other manuscripts is that Chaucer gathered many of the tales into groups, or fragments, by means of interstitial dialogue between the pilgrims. There is no agreed order for these fragments, and some manuscripts omit genuine linking dialogues, while others contain obviously spurious links. So except for the first fragment—containing the so-called “General Prologue,” the Knight’s, Miller’s, and Reeve’s tales, and the Cook’s unfinished tale—which comes first in all manuscripts that contain it, we cannot be absolutely sure about how Chaucer intended to order his stories—if indeed he ever settled on an order or, for that matter, on a text. All the evidence suggests that when he died, or abandoned work on The Canterbury Tales, he left behind piles of papers containing versions of the tales, but that he had also, during his years of composing them, circulated individual stories among his readership that he may later have revised, leaving different versions in circulation to be copied after his death into the manuscripts we now possess. It follows that a cloud of uncertainty, varying in extent and density, must hang over all critical judgments about the meaning and effect of this radically incomplete, but still quite brilliant, collection of tales withhin their framing fiction.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 394 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(128)

4 Star

(79)

3 Star

(75)

2 Star

(41)

1 Star

(71)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 366 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2009

    e-book review only; caution for ease of use

    Hanning's edition is marvelous in standard paper formatting. My review is for the electronic edition formatted for the Nook, however, which is extraordinarily poorly done--hence the detracted stars. 5 stars for content; 1 star for formatting.

    The electronic version has no line numbers, which is a problem. The translation is advertised as "facing page," but in fact it's just haphazardly lumped into the original Middle English with no warning and no formatting changes whatsoever. You'll be reading along in Middle English and suddenly find yourself reading the same thing all over again in Modern English, and there's nothing you can do about it. So basically only someone really familiar with the Canterbury Tales will be able to use this electronic format, and anyone else should stay away.

    It's a shame, because I'd really like to have access to this one on my Nook.

    65 out of 68 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 13, 2010

    Ebook is unreadable--there is no such thing as a facing page ebook.

    The Barnes & Noble Classics Series edition of The Canterbury Tales has Chaucer's original text on one page and a modern translation on the facing page. This works wonderfully well in print books for obvious reasons. This does *not* work for ebooks.

    Reading this book on the nook you will read through a page or two of the original text, then on the next page turn you'll have the modernized translation, then back to the original again. It is not simply a matter of Chaucer's version being in one chapter, followed by a chapter in translation; in fact, Chaucer's version and the translation are interspersed together so that there is NO WAY of choosing to read one or the other without having to manually click forward watching to see when the language changes to Chaucer's language. Because of this, the book is simply unreadable.

    Go find a public domain version of Chaucer's text and take the effort to get a feel for his language.

    40 out of 41 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2012

    Do not recommend

    This book did not switch to the nook format well. It jumps from 1400s style writing to current day at inappropriate moments, which probably made sense in the paper version, but not at all on the Nook. I could only get through the first 5 pages before giving up and going to a store to buy it in paper.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 6, 2011

    not formatted for Nook

    I should have heeded the other review I read that said that the book does not work on the Nook. In paper form the book was supposed to have both the original on one page and the modern form on the right. They end up alternating on the nook. I figured I would just read the original, sort of like reading a real long Jabberwocky. At first there were clear breaks between the original and the modern, but after a few pages I found they ran together, making the book even more difficult to read. At that point I gave up. I'll read it on paper.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2008

    A classic tale for years to come!

    This was one of the best books I ever read. I love that not only is the book presented in the original middle English, but also in translated modern English that I can understand. I was really blown away by the text and how expressive and beautiful it was. It is quite an undertaking, but it will pay off.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 15, 2009

    Good Presentation - So-So Translation

    I love having the original Middle English on one side with a Modern English Translation on the facing page. I decided to try reading the Middle English. It's easy to look over to the translation whenever I get stuck. However, even without being able to completely understand the Middle English, I can tell the translation isn't that great. Also, the text is only footnoted on the Modern English side, which (if you're trying to follow the Middle English text) makes it easy to miss. Still, it's a lot more fun to read this on your own when you don't have a high school English teacher forcing you to do it.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Fascinating

    As someone who's always been interested in England, mythology, and a lot of other things, this book is paradise!! The premise is simple: a group of pilgrims are on the way to the shrine of St. Thomas Beckett in Canterbuty (hence the name). At the Tabard Inn, the host suggests that they each tell two stories on the way there, and two on the way back. They readily agree. The group is comprised of people representing various social positions (knight, reeve, nun, friar, miller, etc) and so the stories are widely varied. And the best part is that the language is easy! It's not the difficult 14th century that we Generation X think it is. Yes, buy the book.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2001

    Delightful to Hear in the Recorded Books Edition

    This version will appeal most to those who have read and studied The Canterbury Tales and enjoyed them. The Canterbury Tales are best heard aloud. With commentary by Professor Murphy and talented actors, the various tales come appealingly alive. Chaucer¿s Middle English has its archaic words explained, and leaves the beauty of the meter and rhymes intact. The tales explore primarily relations between men and women, people and God, and consistently challenge hypocrisy. The tales also exemplify all the major story forms in use during the Middle Ages. The book¿s structure is unbelievable subtle and complex, providing the opportunity to peel the onion down to its core, one layer at a time. Modern anthologies look awfully weak by comparison. Although the material is old, the ideas are not. You will also be impressed by how much closer God was to the lives of these people than He is today. The renunciation at the end comes as a mighty jolt, as a result. My favorites are by the miller, wife of Bath, pardoner, and nun¿s priest. Where do you see the opportunity to give and share spiritual and worldly love? How can you give and receive more love? Donald Mitchell, co-author of The Irresistible Growth Enterprise and The 2,000 Percent Solution

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2013

    Nook format makes this near impossible to read!

    I enjoy Chaucer. But the format of this Nook version made this impossible to enjoy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2012

    nook version not readable

    The free edition didn't scan well, which is a shame because the Canterbury Tales are wonderful stories.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2012

    Nook version hard to read

    Letters joined oodly

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2013

    Not my favorite

    This book was good but the middle english is extremely hard to decipher.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2013

    Unable to read text

    This copy is bad, bad,bad
    Typos, misspellings

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2013

    i didn't believe the other reviews!

    It's true, it's impossible to read , not worth the 1star but i wanted u to know it's bad

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2013

    Dishonest

    This book is in Middle English and I was looking for a modern translation. B&N didn't make it clear on their website that it was in Middle English, which I found dishonest.
    When I wanted to cancel the transaction, my B&N account did not give me that option. Some friends of mine had similarly poor experiences trying to return or exchange their purchases via B&N.
    Thumbs down.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2012

    To: Do not recommend

    Was it a good book on paper?

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2012

    Ok...

    The tales were ok, but they stereotyoed lots of people.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great Edition

    If you don't like the rhymes its unfortunate but it brings a nice flavor to the Canterbury tales

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great book

    Good translation and I like the original text on the opposite page.

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  • Posted June 6, 2009

    Solid

    A good translation

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 366 Customer Reviews

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