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The General Prologue & The Physician's Tale

The General Prologue & The Physician's Tale


The General Prologue & The Physician's Tale

ratings:
4/5 (65 ratings)
Length:
2 hours
Released:
May 1, 2006
ISBN:
9789629546496
Format:
Audiobook

Description

The Canterbury Tales are widely read and studied. The Middle English in which they were first written differs sufficiently from modern English, in vocabulary and usage, that most of us require a contemporary translation. On this recording the ‘General Prologue’ and ‘The Physician’s Tale’ are read in Middle English by Richard Bebb, under the direction of a leading Chaucerian scholar, Professor Derek Brewer. It is an authoritative performance that brilliantly evokes the fourteenth-century world, both for the general reader and the student alike. This is followed by a witty modern verse translation, and provides a fascinating contrast with the original.
Released:
May 1, 2006
ISBN:
9789629546496
Format:
Audiobook

About the author

Often referred to as the father of English poetry, Geoffrey Chaucer was a fourteenth-century philosopher, alchemist, astrologer, bureaucrat, diplomat, and author of many significant poems. Chaucer’s writing was influential in English literary tradition, as it introduced new rhyming schemes and helped develop the vernacular tradition—the use of everyday English—rather than the literary French and Latin, which were common in written works of the time. Chaucer’s best-known—and most imitated—works include The Canterbury Tales, Troilus and Criseyde, The Book of the Duchess, and The House of Fame.


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3.9
65 ratings / 73 Reviews
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  • (2/5)
    In honour of my late medieval studies adviser, Dr John Bugge, I figured it was time to finish reading one of his favourite books. I read it. It's a collection of stories. I am honestly still not sure what the appeal is. *And I'm a medievalist.* But I read it and now I don't feel like I have to read it again. It can go onto my bookshelves so I can feel intelligent and well read.
  • (4/5)
    The Canterbury Tales is by a wide margin the best-known work of English literature from the medieval period. It's not only enshrined in the school History syllabus between Crop Rotation, Monasticism and Castles, but it's a book that many modern readers still seem to turn to for pleasure, despite the obvious difficulties caused by the linguistic and cultural distance of six centuries. I've often dipped into it pleasurably before, and I've had a copy sitting on my shelves for many years, but this is the first time I've tried a cover-to-cover read. I found the language easier to deal with than I expected - Chaucer's version of southern English is a lot more straightforward for the modern reader than the nearly contemporary Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Anyone who knows a bit of French or Latin and a bit of German or Dutch ought to be able to read it fairly easily with the help of the marginal glosses. Especially with 600 pages to practice on, you soon get the hang of what it means and a rough idea of how it sounds (I listened to an audio recording of the General Prologue for help with this). In fact, the pronunciation of Middle English is usually more logical than that of Modern English. If what's written is "knight", it makes far more sense to say cnicht (or kerniggut if you're John Cleese) than nite...Like most people, I had mixed reactions to the Tales. The bawdy ones were fun - it's always interesting to see that people enjoyed fart-jokes as much (or perhaps even more) in those days as they do now. The chivalric-romance style of several other Tales was colourful but sometimes a bit slow for modern tastes (some of the descriptions in the "Knight's Tale" seem to go on for ever), but it was revealing to see that Chaucer was well aware of that and was prepared to make fun of it in the mock-heroic "Nun's Priest's Tale" and the deliberately boring and directionless "Tale of Sir Thopas", which is supposedly being told by the poet's narrator-persona, "Chaucer", until he's cut off by the Host. There are several "high-minded" religious Tales that look as though they are meant to be taken straight - the blatantly antisemitic - "Prioress's Tale" is perhaps best ignored; the "Physician's Tale", a gruesome story about an honour-killing, is not much better, except that there at least the narrator seems to distance himself a little from the idea that it's better to kill your (innocent) daughter than risk shame attaching to her; the "Second Nun's Tale" (the gloriously over-the-top martyrdom of St Cecilia) is almost readable, but even I was forced into skimming by the "Parson's Tale", a lengthy and very dry sermon on the subject of "penance" (it does get a bit livelier when it's discussing the Seven Deadly Sins...).Probably the most interesting aspect of the Tales overall is what Chaucer has to say about the relations between men and women. Several Tales deal with this topic explicitly in various different ways, and the core of the argument is obviously in the "Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale" - she argues powerfully and directly that the world will not collapse into disorder if women are allowed to decide the course of their own lives. The "Franklin's Tale" also takes up the idea of an equitable marriage in which neither partner owes obedience to the other and presents it in a positive light. It's tempting to read something of the Chaucers' domestic situation into this, but of course we don't have the slightest bit of evidence for anything other than that Philippa Chaucer had a career of her own. We read this for its scope, vitality and colour, and for the liveliness of Chaucer's verse, which manages to jump the centuries without any problem. It's striking how we're so used to groaning and expecting dullness or difficulty when we see a passage of verse in a modern prose novel - here it's precisely the opposite; we (rightly) groan when we see the prose text of the "Parson's Tale" and the "Tale of Melibee" coming up, and are relieved when we get back to verse again...One - irrelevant - thought that struck me for the first time on this reading was to wonder how the practicalities of storytelling on horseback work out. Even on foot, it's difficult to talk to more than two or three people at once whilst walking along, and when riding you can't get as close together as you can on foot, plus you've got the noise of the horses. So I don't know how you would go about telling a story to a group of 29 riders in a way that they can all hear it. If they were riding two abreast, they would be spread out over something like 50m of road, and it's unlikely that the A2 was more than two lanes wide in the 14th century...
  • (4/5)
    A wife destroys her husband and contrives,
    As husbands know, the ruin of their lives


    Much as the theme of estrangement dominates a thread of traditional songs, (see Wayfaring Stranger, Motherless Child etc) much of early Modern literature appears concerned with faithless brides and the looming spectre of cuckoldry. It is possible that I am full of shit in tall weeds, but that said, I do think that there is a link between the themes (alienation and infidelity) and that both are understood in terms of our ontological displacement. Such were my reasoned reactions to Canterbury Tales. My unreasoned ones amounted to observation: look there’s a rape, that’s a rape, that’s a pogrom, why would anyone’s daughter want to sleep with him etc, etc? I read this in translation into modern English and was impressed about the rhyme, especially between Flanders and extravagances: who can fault that? The Tales is a display of language's majesty.

    My grasp of Chaucer amounts to the author saying through his myriad voices -- much like Bill Nighy in Hitchhiker’s Guide: there really is no point, just keep busy
  • (3/5)
    One of my English teachers had a penchant for making his students memorize passages from certain books. Thanks to him, I will forever have the first few lines of the prologue memorized. It randomly pops into my head in lilting Middle English, and I find myself repeating, "Whan that aprill with his shoures soote, the droghte of march hath perced to the roote, and bathed every veyne in switch licour..."
  • (5/5)
    This is a very approachable translation of The Canterbury Tales. Many of my students still struggle with reading Chaucer in translation (at least with the translation in our anthology); however, this translation seems more approachable for my college students.
  • (4/5)
    This is a wonderful book. It took me some time to get into the book, because I am not that used anymore to this style of writing. However, when you get into the meat of the book, you will be amazed at the amazing variety of styles in the book. There are a multitude of characters. The stories cover a wide range, from the raunchy to the spiritual, to the boring. The style in which each story is told matches the story teller, and matches the story. It is astounding to come across such range in one book. Apart from the sheer brilliance of the writing, I think the book does give us a glimpse into the England of the times. This book is a must read
  • (4/5)
    Mark Twain said something like: "Classics are books you think you ought to read, but never do." Well, I am glad I put in the hours to listen to this book, but I cannot say I enjoyed much of it. Partially, it was the narration--some of the accents used were simply impossible--and partially it was boredom that set in when discussing theology that is so far from my own. Still, it is part of the "canon" and as such, it is good to be a bit more literate today than I was yesterday....
  • (5/5)
    I suppose this is my own Ulysses. Canterbury Tales is certainly one of those books, like Ulysses or Proust or Golden Bowl, that no one's actually read or if they have they hated it or if they didn't they're lying because they think it'll impress you. But I took a whole class on this in college and I had this terrific professor, and she showed me how awesome this is. Really, it's a heap of fun. Are you impressed?
  • (2/5)
    Zeer ongelijkmatig; sommige verhalen zitten met haken en ogen in elkaar, andere zijn pareltjes.Steken er bovenuit: ridder,vrouw uit Bath, klerk, grondbezitter, aflaatkramer, nonnenpriester.Wel mooie psychologische tekening.
  • (4/5)
    I could listen to and read this repeatedly and still find more to love I think.
  • (4/5)
    I actually reread this in my copy of the Norton Critical edition, which is very good, with glosses, notes, and a lot of supplementary material. Unfortunately, you can't put two read dates in, so. Here we go.

    I decided to reread The Canterbury Tales because a) I've read Troilus and Criseyde twice now, and loved it, and b) I had to look at the Wife of Bath's tale as a Gawain romance. Gawain is always going to be a draw for me, so I settled down to read it. I find it frustrating, in its unfinished and uncertain nature -- which tale responds to which, are we supposed to connect this tale with this part, etc -- but I did enjoy it a lot more this time. The different stories and styles display Chaucer's versatility as a writer, of course, and I found most of them fascinating in their own right. I have a special fondness for the Franklin's Tale, because I studied that and reading it again after some time away (and after earning my degree!) taught me so much more about it.

    I still prefer Troilus and Criseyde, and I still wish people could come to artists like Shakespeare and Chaucer in their own time instead of as a chore, as homework. But still! I appreciate The Canterbury Tales a lot more now.
  • (5/5)
    Oh, the treasure of finding and holding a shopworn copy of Chaucer's tales in my hands is just too much for words. His tales are not just downright funny, but they can be applied even today to the people we work with, live with, and play with on a daily basis. In fact, I kept laughing every time I read another tale that was a ringer for someone I knew. The classics hold up well, don't they?


    Book Season = Sping ("when the sweet showers of April fall and shoot")
  • (4/5)
    Fun reads but a bit eclectic in a chaotic sense.
  • (5/5)
    Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales consists of a collection of stories framed as being told during a pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral. Each in this company of about 30 pilgrims is to tell a tale on the journey there--the one judged to have told the best to get a free meal. In structure, and sometimes even in the content of the stories, this resembles the Italian Decameron by Boccaccio, written over a century before which Chaucer probably read. One of the differences is that while the Decameron is prose, most of The Canterbury Tales is in verse. But I think what really distinguishes it in my mind is the cross-section of English Medieval society Chaucer presents. Boccacio's storytellers were young members of Florence nobility, Chaucer on the other hand has people from all levels of society: a knight and his squire, a prioress, friar, parson, canon, priests, nuns and a monk, various professions, tradesmen and artisans, a merchant, cook, physician etc. Each tale has a content and style that matches the teller. The most memorable passages to me are the little portraits of the various pilgrims, especially the Wife of Bath. Which is not to say the individual stories don't have their pleasures; some are dull and long-winded, but quite a few are vivid, funny, and/or bawdy. I especially remember "The Shipman's Tale" with its pun on "double entry" bookkeeping, and "The Knight's Tale" was adapted by Shakespeare into Two Noble Kinsman. Purists and scholars will want to suffer through Chaucer's original Middle English. It can, with difficulty and frustration, be made out by the modern reader. Here's the opening:Whan that aprill with his shoures sooteThe droghte of march hath perced to the roote,And bathed every veyne in swich licourOf which vertu engendred is the flour;Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breethInspired hath in every holt and heethTendre croppes, and the yonge sonneHath in the ram his halve cours yronne,And smale foweles maken melodye,That slepen al the nyght with open ye(so priketh hem nature in hir corages);Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimagesMore power to you if you choose to do so. But if you're looking to enjoy yourself and read with understanding without constantly referring to footnotes, sacrilege though it may be, you might want to try one of the translations into Modern English such as those by Nevill Coghill, Colin Wilcockson or David Wright.
  • (4/5)
    The whole idea of the Canterbury Tales is very cool, and I certainly enjoy reading the different stories and poetry, but I find that I don't actually -like- most of the stories. They all follow a distinct pattern and are either crude and tragic or just plain tragic.
  • (5/5)
    I love the Canterbury Tales. I took an entire class dedicated to the study of this beautiful piece of work. What I love about this collection of tales is that there is something for everyone; tons of dirty humor, some love stories, tragic stories, morality stories, animal fables, a satire on chivalry tales, poetry...

    There are over 20 individual stories, some that were unfortunately left unfinished. Each tale is told by a different person in this group of pilgrims making their way to Canterbury Cathedral. They are all from different walks of life; there is a Knight, a squire, a scholar, a prioress, a priest, a pardoner, etc. They decide to tell stories in order to pass the time as they travel.

    For those who are not used to Middle English is that you can read one at a time and/or skip around (after you read the General Prologue), and though you may miss a few things about the actual pilgrimage (some of the story tellers argue and whatnot), the tales themselves are still very enjoyable.

    I suggest finding a copy that has both the original spelling and the Middle English spelling in order to enjoy the full impact of the language even if you are not a Middle English expert.

    It is a delightful collection of tales! I wish more people would read and enjoy them!
  • (3/5)
    Read in a Penguin Classics translation from the 50s, this is a re-read for me. I last read this approaching 20 years ago when I needed distracting on a long haul flight. And having read it again, I can see why it did it's job! It's not exactly an easy read, it demands attention and concentration - no skimming here. but it rewards the attention with some classic pieces of story telling. The concept was enormous, each of the pilgrims (and there are approaching 30 identified) were to tell two tales. He didn't even get as far as one tale each, the work remains unfinished, but some of the stories are just sparkling studies of human nature even now. A lot of the stories are relayed as if the pilgrim is telling a story they have heard elsewhere, so a lot of them can be traced to other sources - there's little in the narrative arc that is original. What is all Chaucer is the linking passages, the representation of all of life in one group. They are a mixture of positions in life and it is noticeable that the ladies represented in the group and in the tales tend to be very strong females - very few shrinking violets here. For his time, that strikes me as noticeable. The introduction, when the pilgrims are introduces, could be (with a little tweaking) any group of random strangers you could gather together today. OK, there are a few more religious job titles then than now (they'd be bankers or management consultants now) but they're such an assorted bunch that they seem to spring to life as you read. I think that's part of the charm, this is the English at the birth of a national consciousness - these are my people, this is part of what makes us who we are.
  • (5/5)
    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.
  • (5/5)
    Reading The Canterbury Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer from beginning to end is an exhilarating experience. The humor and variety that abound in these stories particularly impresses this reader. That aside, the game established by Chaucer at the Tabard the night before the journey is a competition for the tale "of best sentence and moost solaas," the prize being "a soper at oure aller cost." He leaves no doubt that some of his pilgrims would rate the prospect of a free meal more highly than the feast promised at the Cathedral: a view of not only the St. Thomas a Becket relics, but the whole arms of eleven saints, the bed of the Blessed Virgin, fragments of the rock at Calvary and of rock from the Holy Sepulchre, Aaron's Rod, a piece of the clay from which Adam was made, and more. Since Chaucer does not complete his tale-telling, nor get his pilgrims to their destination, neither earthly nor spiritual nourishment is realized. The reader should not let this deter him from enjoying the tales that Chaucer did complete as presented in this effective modern english verse translation.
  • (2/5)
    It haunted me in my high school English class, and I guess I just couldn't get the sour taste out of my mouth. I do respect the scope of this novel, and the ambitious points of view expressed by each character's story. This just wasn't my cup of tea.
  • (4/5)
    Maybe one day I'll read ALL of the tales. Not today.
  • (5/5)
    The pleasure of this book lies in the double bonus of the ever green stories of Chaucer together with the wonderful selection of illustrations drawn from contemporary, medieval illuminated manuscripts. I know that Cresset is a publisher for the mass market but this edition is particularly attractive and I think very collectable. There is an excellent introduction by John Wain and an apposite foreword by Melvyn Bragg while the text is Chaucer but with old English given an understandable and very readable translation by the great Chaucer authority, Nevill Coghill. This particular volume is not a text for university study but is a volume for pleasurable and bedtime reading. It returns me to the humour and the wisdom of Chaucer and reminds me that there are so many English expression from Chaucer which we still use today - for example, keeping mum, or many a true word said in jest, or rotten apples spoiling all in the barrel. We are reminded of the richness of the English language, the debt we owe to Chaucer and the freshness of these 14th century tales. This particular edition is worth acquiring ( readily available) and adding to one's book treasures. It is a very beautiful book. The illustrations are well matched to the text and repay close study. If you have never read Chaucer or if you read Chaucer as a chore, take another look and give yourself the treat of a classic of literature in a lovely format.
  • (4/5)
    The premise behind Chaucer's tale is really quite simple: out of a group of pilgrims traveling to Canterbury Cathedral, who can tell the best tale? Whoever wins gets a free meal at the Tabard Inn at the end of the journey. Most of the stories center around three themes, religion, fidelity and social class.
  • (4/5)
    The narrator of this audiobook bumped this book from a 3.5 to a 4 star rating. David Cutler had an excellent grasp of the Old English and helped the poetry flow smoothly. I was able to enjoy the bawdy humor and misogynistic views of womanly virtues". It is always interesting to read what was considered important in our past and Chaucer definitely wrote as a man of the times. He did occasionally get a few knocks in for the women, though. It was fun re-reading these tales now that I don't have to analyze them for a term paper."
  • (5/5)
    I received this book as part of the Early Reviewers program, and have slowly been slogging through it. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the Canterbury tales - as you can see, I've given it 4.5 stars. No matter what translation, I find the Tales always to be a long, hard read - but this translation is beautiful. It makes the long, hard read much less of a slog and much more enjoyable!
  • (5/5)
    I read this in high school for AP English. Don't let the old english throw you, this book is awesome. It's full of hilarious stories and are certainly worth a read. Medieval people definately have fantastic senses of humor.
  • (4/5)
    The first time I had to read this book for school I hated it. Later, as an adult I came to love the book. Some stories are more captivating than others but they're all entertaining. Each story carries different characteristics, and range in purposes from providing moral dilemmas to being just plain hilarious. Everything from love, jealousy, hate, revenge, sex, and stupidity is covered! If you read this book for school, and hated it, give it another chance! It deserves that much at least!
  • (4/5)
    I really enjoyed reading this. When I finally got past reading the last word of each line (distracted by the rhyming verse), I really enjoyed reading The Canterbury Tales, which was a surprise to me, because I normally hate anything that teachers assign us to read. The tales were realistic, easy-to-understand, and above all, kind of funny. Totally shocked me. 4/5
  • (3/5)
    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.
  • (3/5)
    -The Canterbury Tales are told by people on a pilgrimage in medieval England (the tales are set in various places) and deal with the themes of love and morality.-29 people on their way to Canterbury tell various tales to be rewarded at the end of their journeyCharacters: Knight- chivalrous, modest; Squire- gay, romantic; Yeoman- forester; Prioress- false elegance, proper; Monk- manly, wealthy; Friar- well-dressed, wanton; Merchant- flaunting dress, in debt; Clerk- poor, learned; Sergeant of Law- wise, "busy"; Franklin- son of Epicurus; Cook- had ulcer, special chicken soup; Shipman- crafty, no conscience; Doctor- dealt in astronomy, gold; Wife of Bath- 5 husbands, weaver, gossip; Parson- devout, poor; Plowman- faithful; Miller- brawny, ribald; Munciple- purchase supplies, wealthy; Reeve- cheated master, feared; Summoner- devilish, fond of wine; Pardoner- long haired, avaricious; Host- manlyCharacteristics: multiple storiesResponse: I found it enjoyable and entertaining considering it was medieval literature