The Canterbury Tales (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

The Canterbury Tales (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Paperback(Annotated edition)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781593080808
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 03/01/2007
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Edition description: Annotated edition
Pages: 912
Sales rank: 18,951
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.83(d)

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 within their framing fiction.

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Canterbury Tales (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 394 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Tuirgin More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
LemuelOH More than 1 year ago
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.
Cricket-JT More than 1 year ago
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.
Benedick_101 More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoy Chaucer. But the format of this Nook version made this impossible to enjoy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The free edition didn't scan well, which is a shame because the Canterbury Tales are wonderful stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Letters joined oodly
DanaJean on LibraryThing 3 days ago
The Canterbury Tales is one of those classics that was on my TBR list. I chose to listen to this on audio and was very glad I did. Narrators are a reader's best friend when it comes to more difficult reads, allowing the listener to just sit back and absorb the work. And in between the actual traveler's tales, there would be a brief summary of what exactly was going on. I appreciated this very much because, at times, I wondered if I was listening to the same writer--one story would be fluid and coherent and easy to understand--and then we came to tales that were confusing and tortured in their language. Audio recommended. Overall, interesting.
theokester on LibraryThing 3 days ago
Writing a "review" of The Canterbury Tales is difficult, not because the book/collection isn't worthy of a review, but because it is so widely variant and has so many nuances to be discussed. For those who don't know, The Canterbury Tales is a book containing a bunch of stories told by individuals traveling together on a pilgrimage to Canterbury. The book is written in the late 1300s with the pilgrimage set in the same basic time. It begins with a "General Prologue" providing a description of each of the characters in the group as well as the "game" they'll be playing (that of telling stories on the way to Canterbury). Each pilgrim tells a different tale (well, not "all" of them...the work is "unfinished" in the sense that we're missing tales from some pilgrims). Some tales are set in their contemporary England while others are set in exotic lands, romantic settings, or ancient cultures.So what do you say in a brief review of The Canterbury Tales?To start with, I would suggest you try reading it in the original Middle English. The language/spelling/pronunciation can be a problem, so be sure you get an edition that's glossed (unless you're proficient in Middle English). During the semester, I found a "children's" edition of the tales at my local library. It included Modern English "translations" of a couple of the tales along with some illustrations. It was kind of fun to read, but it lost some of the rhythm and drive of the tales by having them in a modern format.Secondly, there are some bits that can be skipped, but it's difficult to identify which ones. For example, some might suggest that the entire Pardoner's Prologue (and much of his tale) can be ignored altogether and that you should just focus on the actual "tale" part of his tale. While his tale is entertaining and the reading would be much shorter if that's all you read, you would miss a TON of social and religious commentary which is very interesting. Similarly, the Wife of Bath has lengthy rambling passages in her Prologue and the Merchant includes numerous lengthy lists that have little bearing on the plot. It's difficult to create a good synopsis of what can safely be skipped, because it depends in a large extent on what you want to get out of it. Worse still, if you're reading in the unfamiliar Middle English, it's harder to quickly scan the text and get a feel for when the narrative has gotten back to the 'heart of the matter.'The writing is fun and clever (once you get through the 'translation' issues with the Middle English). For a common reference, it's like reading Shakespeare, only more archaic by a couple hundred years. The language of the narrative varies depending on the narrator of the particular prologue/tale, but with Chaucer at the helm behind the scenes, the writing is generally very good, descriptive, layered, humorous, inspiring, etc. (except for when he's trying to illustrate 'bad writing', and then it's good in that it's so bad).The messages presented are widely varied as well. The Knight's Tale was an intriguing tale of romance and chivalry with lots of courtly intrigue...but at times it felt a little dry. The Miller and the Reeve were hilarious tales and introduced me to a new (to me) genre in the fabliau. The Wife of Bath had an interesting prologue and a fun tale, again with a semi-romantic style and an interesting moral. The Nun's Priest gave us a fun little animal fable. The Prioress presented a strange little tale about miracles or anti-semitism or devout love or something else?Overall, I would definitely recommend having a copy of The Canterbury Tales on your shelf. Some tales are easier to read than others. Some tales are more fun while others are more thought provoking (as stated in one of the prologues, a tale has one of two purposes, to educate or to entertain...and there are examples of each). Once you get your teeth into the language (probably the biggest hurdle) I suspe
JeroenBerndsen on LibraryThing 5 days ago
A classic work of literature and one of the first tot criticise society in this way. A wrote a paper about it for my studies and knowing more about the time it was written makes you appreciate it even more.
lit_chick on LibraryThing 5 days ago
I studied The Canterbury Tales in a required literature class. The Tales comprised the entire syllabus. Our professor was one of those rare gems who made the work absolutely come alive. Each Tale became its own masterpiece. We learned to read in Middle English and to translate Middle English to Modern English. From a master, I learned to love and appreciate Chaucer's work. My five-star rating is for the late Professor Douglas Wurtele of Ottawa, ON, who spent his academic life studying Chaucer and tirelessly sharing his rich enthusiasm with his students.
Nouche on LibraryThing 3 months ago
This edition of the Canterbury Tales, edited by Larry Benson, is superb. It is based on the Riverside Chaucer, Third Edition (also edited by Benson) and is as authoritative as you can get. It's greatest attribute is the presentation of a highly readable text that will be appreciated by scholars and lovers of Chaucer of all levels. It's beautifully glossed, but in an unobtrusive manner that allows the language to sing off the page without any unneccesary interruptions; the copious (and useful) vocab and grammar notes are clearly marked by line and placed below the body text, thus one can read (aloud preferably) at one's own pace without being constantly interrupted. The placement and economy of the notes also makes for a clear presentation and a great reading text that allows individual readers to approach the Tales at his or her own pace. Highly informative and entertaining essays on Chaucer's life, the history and conext in which he lived and wrote and on his language and versification introduce the volume and provide an excellent jumping off point into the Tales. The latter essay is a decent - albeit brief - introduction to reading and pronounciation of Chaucer's Middle English, but it is far from comprehensive, covering primarily the most basic elements thereof while paying scant attention to the nuances of inflection and grammar. Nevertheless, that is where this edition acheives - it presents a highly readable and accesible version of Chaucer's masterpiece and allows readers of all levels to approach the poem(s) on their own terms, unencumbered by an intrusive or burdensome scholarly apparatus. In other words, one can approach the Tales with just enough context, historically and linguistically, to engage with it in a manner as close to possible as a fluent reader of Middle English would have. And the perfect balance between inspiring the novice reader to venture forth independently and the superior guidance that is readily available with just a quick glance toward the bottom of the page, will undoubtadly improve one's reading and comprehension of Middle English. Scholars of all levels will appreciate and enjoy this edition. Larry Benson (still teaching at Harvard, by the way) is one of the great Chaucerians and has given us one of the best editions of Chaucer available - one that is equally beneficial and interesting to both the student and the layman. The point is, you can't outgrow this one. If anything, you can grow into it. What more could one want?
megaden on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I read this first in high school, but we read a modernized version. In a college course, we read it in the original Middle English. It took a lot more concentration, but I appreciated it that much more. I do however have the opening 18 lines trapped in my head forever. (In high school, that was the only section we read in the original tongue and we had to memorize it. It won't go away!)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
RChittenden More than 1 year ago
This Nook edition should be withdrawn by Barnes & Noble. As other reviewers have stated, it randomly merges modern and Middle English content that the reader must laboriously untangle. Previously, I had only read the Tales in Middle English and was looking forward to a modern English rendition. I had assumed I did not need to read reviews of The Canterbury Tales. I was wrong.
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