Born: c. 1343
Died: 25 October 1400
Father of English Literature
widely considered the
greatest English poet of
the Middle Ages
the first poet to have been
buried in Poet's
Corner of Westminster Abbey.
He is also
philosopher,, alchemist and astronome
Chaucer also maintained an active
career in the civil service as a
bureaucrat, courtier and diplomat.
Chaucer is a crucial figure in
developing the legitimacy of
the vernacular, Middle English, at a
time when the dominant literary
languages in England were French and
Among his many works, which
The Book of the Duchess,
The House of Fame
The Legend of Good Women
Troilus and Criseyde,
he is best known today for The
TYPE OF WORK
Poetry (two tales are in prose: the Tale of Melibee
and the Parson’s Tale)
Narrative collection of poems; character portraits;
parody; estates satire; romance; fabliau
The primary narrator is an anonymous, naïve
member of the pilgrimage, who is not described.
The other pilgrims narrate most of the tales.
POINT OF VIEW
In the General Prologue, the narrator speaks in the
first person, describing each of the pilgrims as they
appeared to him. Though narrated by different
pilgrims, each of the tales is told from an
omniscient third-person point of view, providing
the reader with the thoughts as well as actions of
TONE · The Canterbury Tales incorporates an
impressive range of attitudes toward life and
literature. The tales are by turns satirical, elevated,
pious, earthy, bawdy, and comical. The reader
should not accept the naïve narrator’s point of
view as Chaucer’s.
SETTING (TIME) · The late fourteenth century,
SETTING (PLACE) · The Tabard Inn; the road to
PROTAGONISTS · Each individual tale has
protagonists, but Chaucer’s plan is to make
none of his storytellers superior to others; it is
an equal company
Fragment Group Tales
I A General Prologue,
Knight, Miller, Reeve, Cook
II B1 Man of Law
III D Wife of Bath, Friar,
IV E Clerk, Merchant
V F Squire, Franklin
VI C Physician, Pardoner
VII B2 Shipman, Prioress, Sir
Thopas, Melibee, Monk,
VIII G Second Nun, Canon’s
IX H Manciple
X I Parson
MAJOR CONFLICT · The struggles
between characters, manifested in the
links between tales, mostly involve
clashes between social classes, differing
tastes, and competing professions.
There are also clashes between the
sexes, and there is resistance to the
Host’s somewhat tyrannical leadership.
The pervasiveness of courtly love,
the importance of company, the
corruption of the church
It is a decasyllable line, probably borrowed
from French and Italian forms,
with riding rhyme and
a caesura in the middle of a line.
His meter would later develop into the heroic
meter of the 15th and 16th centuries and is an
ancestor of iambic pentameter.
He avoids allowing couplets to become too
prominent in the poem, and four of the tales
(the Man of Law's, Clerk's, Prioress', and
Second Nun's) use rhyme royal
The springtime symbolizes rebirth and fresh
beginnings, and is thus appropriate for the beginning
of Chaucer’s text.
>>> Springtime also evokes erotic love, as evidenced by
the moment when Palamon first sees Emelye
gathering fresh flowers to make garlands in honor of
In the General Prologue, the description of
garments helps to define each character. In a
sense, the clothes symbolize what lies
beneath the surface of each personality.
>>>The Physician’s love of wealth reveals
itself most clearly to us in the rich silk and
fur of his gown.
>>>The Merchant’s forked beard could
symbolize his duplicity, at which Chaucer
Physiognomy was a science that judged a person’s
temperament and character based on his or her
anatomy. Physiognomy plays a significant role in
Chaucer’s descriptions of the pilgrims in the General
Prologue. The most exaggerated facial features are
those of the peasants.
>>>> The Miller represents the stereotypical peasant
physiognomy most clearly: round and ruddy, with a
wart on his nose, the Miller appears rough and
therefore suited to rough, simple work.
>>>> The Pardoner’s glaring eyes and limp hair illustrate
The tales are presented as part of a story-telling
contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together
on a journey from Southwark to the shrine of
Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. The
prize for this contest is a free meal at the Tabard Inn at
Southwark on their return.
RISING ACTION ·
As he sets off on a pilgrimage to Canterbury, the
narrator encounters a group of other pilgrims and joins
them. That night, the Host of the tavern where the
pilgrims are staying presents them with a storytelling
challenge and appoints himself judge of the
competition and leader of the company.
CLIMAX · Not applicable (collection of tales)
After twenty-three tales have been told, the
Parson delivers a long sermon. Chaucer then makes a
retraction, asking to be forgiven for his sins, including
having written The Canterbury Tales.
Cousins Arcite and Palamon are
captured and imprisoned
by Theseus, duke of Athens
following his intervention against
Creon. Their cell is in the tower of
Theseus's castle which overlooks his
Hint of Conflict:
In prison Palamon wakes early one
morning in May, to see Emily
(Emelye) in the courtyard; his moan
is heard by Arcite, who then too
wakes to see Emily, and falls in love
with her as well.
The competition brought about by
this love causes them to hate each
After some years, Arcite is released from
prison through the good offices of
Theseus's friend Pirithoos, and then
returns to Athens in disguise and enters
service in Emily's household.
Palamon eventually escapes by
drugging the jailer and while hiding in a
grove overhears Arcite singing about
love and fortune.
They begin to duel with each other over who
should get Emily, but are thwarted by the arrival
of Theseus, who sentences them to gather 100
men apiece and fight a mass judicial
tournament, the winner of which is to marry
The forces assemble; Palamon prays to Venus to
make Emily his wife; Emily prays to Diana to
stay unmarried and that if that should prove
impossible that she marry the one who really
loves her; and Arcite prays to Mars for victory.
Arcite wins the battle, but following
an intervention by Saturn, is
wounded by his horse throwing him
off and then falling on him before he
can claim Emily as his prize.
As he dies, he tells Emily that she
should marry Palamon, because he
would make a good husband for her,
and so Palamon marries Emily.
all prayers were fulfilled by the
gods for those who asked for
Palamon and Emily Are
getting married and they live
happily ever after.
A holy young woman named
Cecilia is determined to live a
Christian life in pagan Rome.
She converts her husband and his
brother-in-law to Christianity.
Almachius decrees that everyone
must worship at the shrine of
Jupiter, or die.
Cecilia’s husband and brother-in-
law choose to die, converting their
executioner, Maximus, in the
Confrontation between pagan
oppressor and virgin martyr.
Almachius tries to convince Cecilia to
worship at Jupiters’s shrine, and to fear
Cecilia responds that his gods are deaf
and dumb, Almachius is foolish and
powerless, and hers is the true faith
Almachius offers Cecilia an ultimatum: worship
at Jupiter’s shrine or die. Cecilia refused.
Almachius ordered that Cecilia be burnt to
death by being sealed in a boiling hot bath.
However the intense heat of the fire had no
effect upon her. Then the evil Almachius sent
an executioner to murder Cecilia in the bath.
This killer struck three times on Cecilia’s neck
but failed to behead her. He left her half dead
with a slit neck in the bath.
Cecilia continued to live for three
days and her preaching succeeded
in winning more converts to
Cecilia entrusted the Christians to
Pope Urban and died after expressing
the wish that her house be turned into
Pope Urban secretly buried her corpse
at night and named her house St.
the three young men are at a bar
talking to each other until they see a
dead body. A boy tells them it is a
companion of theirs who died by the
plague. Innkeeper then talks about the
plague and the three men agree to find
and kill death.
the three men go on journey and
talk to the man on path and then
find the gold. One leaves to get
food and wine while the others
guard the treasure. Both groups
then plan to do the other group in.
The man who returns from town gets stabbed to
the two remaining men drink poison and die.
Everyone dies at the end which means the three men find
•Died: March 14, 1471, Newgate
•Knighted in 1442, he served in the
parliament of 1445.
•He was evidently a violent, lawless
individual who committed a series of
crimes, including poaching,
extortion, robbery, rape, and
•Most of his life from 1451 on was
spent in prison, and he probably did
most of his writing there.
compilation of Romance tales about
the legendary King
Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, and
the Knights of the Round Table.
best-known work of English-
language Arthurian Literature today.
In composing this work, Malory took a
body of legends, mostly French in
origin, and adapted them to English
life, with an English perspective.
Le Morte d'Arthur is thought to have
been written in 1469, the first known
publication was in 1485, by William
Caxton was responsible for separating
Malory's eight book format into 21
books, subdividing each book into a
total of 507 chapters, and adding a
summary of each chapter
and colophon to the entire book.
Originally, Malory divided his work principally into eight
The birth and rise of Arthur: "From the Marriage of
King Uther unto King Arthur that Reigned After
Him and Did Many Battles"
King Arthur's war against the Romans: "The Noble
Tale Between King Arthur and Lucius the Emperor
The book of Lancelot: "The Tale of Sir Launcelot Du
The book of Gareth (brother of Gawain): "The Tale of
Tristan and Isolde: "The Book of Sir Tristrams de
The Quest for the Holy Grail: “The Noble Tale of the
The affair between Lancelot and Guinevere: "Sir
Launcelot and Queen Gwynevere"
The breaking of the Knights of the Round Table and
the death of Arthur: "Le Morte D'Arthur"
Revenge (or Vengeance)
Rules and Order
Tradition and Customs
Strength and Skill
morgan le fay
England, Ireland, Cornwall, France, and Western
Europe in the Middle Ages
Third Person (omniscient)
>>Our narrator is absolutely all-knowing
in the truest sense of the word. He sees
and hears just about everything, and
instead of narrating events from the
point of view of just one two people, he
opts to follow almost one hundred
different characters on their adventures
throughout the course of the story.
King Arthur's reign than just getting
crowned, getting married, and getting the
world's largest table as a wedding gift. But
it's with the establishment of the Round
Table that the plot really takes off.
Love Triangle, Vengeful Nephews,
Arthur's goal after establishing the Round Table is to
have unity amongst his knights, and to command the
loyalty and respect of the best knights in the world.
Unfortunately, Artie, that's a bit of a pipe dream.
Launcelot's love for Gwenyvere obviously conflicts
with this goal, and the blood feud between the families
of Lot and Pellynore splits the Round Table in two.
Caught in the Act!
Launcelot's affair with Gwenyvere has been going on
for a long time, but it's not until now that Aggravayne
and Mordred decide to do something about it. It forces
the knights in court to take sides so battle-lines form
quickly. Launcelot's rescue of Gwenyvere, who's about
to be burned at the stake, leaves things unresolved,
though. The affair has ended, but nobody has really
Arthur at War
He's been in several wars. He goes to war with
Launcelot, of all people. Of course the only possible
reason a king would go to war with his favorite knight
is a woman. So this war is the inevitable end of
Launcelot and Gwenyvere's affair. Arthur can't ignore
what Launcelot has done; he has to punish the guy
somehow. And Launcelot can't help fighting with
Arthur once he invades his lands.
Death and Reconciliation
o The war with Launcelot is still going on, but now
Mordred's set himself up as King of England, while
Arthur's off, fighting over his Queen.
o Gawain's reconciliation with Launcelot symbolizes
the end of the feuding between Arthur's Knights,
resolving that tension. Unfortunately, though,
Arthur is not able to re-claim his lands from
Mordred without dying.
A Love Triangle Loses a Side. England loses a king.
With Arthur dead at the hands of Mordred,
Launcelot and Gwenyvere's affair is really at an
end. Both of them have now devoted
themselves to God. Launcelot's burial of
Gwenyvere's body at Arthur's side signals his
final ceding of Gwenyvere to the King in death,
which is something he refused to do in life.
And so ends the reign of Arthur.
a late 14th-century Middle
English alliterative romance
It's written in a dialect of Middle
English called North West Midland.
one of the better-known Arthurian
Written in bob and wheel stanzas, it
emerges from Welsh, Irish and
English tradition and highlights the
importance of honor and chivalry
The author of Sir Gawain and the
Green Knight is an anonymous
A few things are clear: the man
knew French and French poetry
well, lived in or came from a
northwest English province, and
placed great import on his
Christianity and his knowledge
The Green Knight / Lord
Morgan le Fay
>>These five ways in which Gawain is virtuous
are in the dexterity of his five fingers, the
perfection of his five senses, his devotion to
the five wounds of Christ, his reflection on
the five joys of Mary in Christ and, finally,
five virtues: generosity, fellowship, chastity,
courtesy, and charity.
King Arthur’s court at Christmas
the enchanted wilderness;
Sir Bertilak’s castle at Christmas
Third Person (Limited Omniscient)
For the most part, the narrator of Sir
Gawain recounts his tale in a third-person
voice limited to Gawain’s point of view. This
voice is necessary in order for the tale’s
surprise ending – that Sir Bertilak and the
Green Knight are really one and the same
person – to really be a surprise.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a medieval
romance. This genre of literature features
adventuring knights, noble ladies, and often,
elements of the supernatural. More
importantly, the hero usually undergoes a
process of self-discovery in the course of his
adventure, which enables him to reincorporate
into society (represented by the court) as a
better version of himself.
And all his vesture verayly watz clene
(And truly all his clothing was brilliant
Bothe the barres of his belt and other blythe
(Both the bars on his belt and other gay
The "bob" is a short connecting
line, sometimes only two syllables
in length, that connects a four-line
ABAB rhyming section in iambic
trimeter to the rest of the stanza
The fole that he ferkkes on fyn of that ilke,
(The horse that he rides entirely of that color,)
A grene hors gret and thikke,
(A green horse huge and strong,)
A stede ful stif to strayne,
(A proud steed to restrain,)
In brawden brydel quik;
(Spirited under bridle,)
To the gome he watz ful gayn.
(But obedient to the man.)
Arthur and his knights have
gathered at his castle for the
Christmas holiday season, but
Arthur has a custom of refusing to
eat until he has heard a marvelous
tale or witnessed a wonder.
Suddenly, an enormous, completely
green man carrying a giant axe rides
in on a completely green horse.
Gawain chops off the Green
Knight’s head, but he picks it
right back up and clatters out
of the castle on his horse.
Gawain spends the next holiday
season at a mysterious castle in
the middle of an enchanted
Gawain meets the Green
Gawain withstands two feints
(blows that aren’t carried
through) and one blow that
breaks the skin on his neck.
The Green Knight explains that he is actually Lord
Bertilak, and that the feints represent the days on
which Gawain honorably followed the rules of
their exchange-of-winnings game, whereas the
last stroke represents his dishonesty in
withholding the magic girdle. Furthermore,
Bertilak tells Gawain that the old lady in his castle
is Morgan le Fay, a powerful sorceress who
enchanted him and sent him to Arthur’s court in
order to test the knights and frighten Guinevere.
Gawain returns to Arthur’s court and
recounts his adventure, explaining that
he will wear the green girdle forever as a
symbol of his failure and of how his
misdeeds can never be erased. The
knights of the round table decide to
wear a similar belt in honor of Gawain,
and it becomes a symbol of honor.
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