Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Reader's Diary #1722- Geoffrey Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales

Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales took me forever to finish. It's long and written in middle English so it definitely wasn't a book I could just plow through. I had many others on the go ever since I started this one (back in 1926, I think it was). Usually after such a clunkster of a book I joke that I have gotten Stockholm Syndrome, grown to love the book that had held me hostage for such a long time.

That didn't happen this time around. Perhaps it had most to do with the long final tale, the Parson's Tale, that wasn't representative of the book as a whole. Whereas most were narrative poems, the final was a prose sermon. I just chugged my way through it and that was it.

I did enjoy the narrative poem tales though head elsewhere if you're looking for an in-depth analysis or summary of each. There was a lot of variety in themes and moods, from from funny and entertaining pieces to serious and moralistic. It was enlightening, if not a little depressing, to see how little humanity has changed since the late 1300s.

The language was difficult to get through, much harder than Shakespeare and I tried at one point switching to a modernized translation. This however, had been done poorly, and removed the poetry aspect. I found myself missing the rhythm of Chaucer, even if I was understanding it a little better. My new strategy, and the one I stuck with, was Googling online summaries of the tales ahead of time in order to get at least a vague idea.

While I'm glad, I suppose, that I've finally read it, it's also a book that I think better served perhaps in a university class setting where students would benefit from a group (and led) discussion.

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