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620 years since the passing of Geoffrey Chaucer

It was on 25 October of 1400 that the author of The Canterbury Tales died, probably from the plague that was circulating at the time, although there's speculation of more nefarious possibilities.

The pilgrimage to Canterbury begins at the Tabard Inn in Southwark -- before it was incorporated into London proper, Southwark was the place to go for illicit entertainment, like prostitution and bearbaiting, but the Inn itself was an outpost for the Abbot at Hyde (outside Winchester) when he or his minions were in London on business, and it became the staging point for pilgrimages.

It was demolished in 1873, but Chaucer was buried in Westminster Abbey - not because of his writing, which hardly anyone knew about while he was alive, but because he had a gov't job as the Clerk of Works.

The Writer's Almanac points out that
"The Canterbury Tales is among the first English literary work to mention the use of paper. Books of Chaucer's day were written by hand on scraped and stretched animal skins and a large Bible could require hundreds of animals to complete, making the distribution of written materials impractical and expensive. For this reason, none of Chaucer's writing was printed in his day, and it is likely that his manuscripts were only circulated among his friends and remained unknown to most people until well after his death."

Posted by
2314 posts

If I'm looking at the right spot in google streetview, where the Tabard Inn used to be is now a franchise outlet of Creams Cafe, where you can get their signature milkshake, described as follows:

Creams Signature – Piece of Cake
Forest Fruit Sorbet blended with milk, Creams soft vanilla ice cream, white chocolate sauce, topped with a piece of red velvet cake, finished with mini marshmallows, berry compote and a Creams wafer

It's interesting to imagine which pilgrim in his Tales would choose which menu item at Creams Cafe ... ... ...

Posted by
3401 posts

Another interesting post Avi. I can honestly say that I have perused these Tales years ago. You always get me thinking.

Posted by
3653 posts

Whenever I read of a reference to Chaucer my mind automatically goes to Paul Bettany's portrayal of Chaucer in my favourite sports movie A Knight's Tale. In my mind, they are the same person. Another reminder that ever since I first saw that movie (and I must have watched it 7 or 8 times now) I've been meaning to read the Canterbury Tales.

Posted by
1202 posts

I love the Canterbury Tales, and read them in their entirety for a college class. I dragged my then boyfriend, now husband, to Canterbury to see the city for myself and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Posted by
2314 posts

Allan, that movie is definitely a keeper - it bridges the earlier movies like Bill & Ted and Romeo + Juliet to more recent mashups like Abe Lincoln hunting vampires. The electric guitar soundtrack on A Knight's Tale is wicked, too.

Posted by
7009 posts

I studied Canterbury Tales in College Literature class. I loved the tales. We had a book that had the Tales in the original Middle English, side by side with modern English. I had never know how much different the language had changed over the centuries.

Posted by
1973 posts

I read these in my senior year in High School English class. I still remember our teacher reading the original. We too made the pilgrimage to Canterbury for the same reason so many years later. I have a much revised impression of my high school education now than I did back then, I can tell you for sure.
Thanks for posting these avirosemail. Stay safe and healthy.

Posted by
5183 posts

St. Mary de Castro where Chaucer was reputedly married for the second time is somewhat unusual and worth a visit if in Leicester, although the hours it is open are brief. The tower of the church is mainly inside the building as originally it was two. As the name suggests it was associated with Leicester castle. The services are very High Anglican.

Posted by
9734 posts

Another gem, avi. Thanks. And if anyone wants to see a film of the tales, there’s Pasolini’s lusty version.

We went to Canterbury, too, in our youth on our way back to Paris, trying to reach the ferry on the coast as cheaply as possible by local buses, way before any tunnel under the water.

Posted by
279 posts

As an English lit major, Chaucer was a required class. On the first day, the professor recommended that we memorize the opening of the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, just to help us read and comprehend the Middle English for the rest of the semester. It worked, because I really had much less difficulty understanding the language. 35 years later, I still have it stuck in my head, complete with the Middle English accent, and can bore anyone upon request by breaking into “Whan that April /With his showers soothe...”

Posted by
22888 posts

When I was in graduate school one of my housemates was pursuing a masters degree in middle English. Had several textbooks written in middle English. Looked more like German.

Posted by
1277 posts

Kathy. Good for you!!! The best I can recite on demand is what I memorized for high school speech contest by Dr Seuss. I do frequently trot out the first line as a social commentary. "If I ran the zoo" said young Gerald McGrew, " I'd make a few changes, that's just what I'd do!"

Posted by
6782 posts

I’d missed this fascinating posting the first time, but I’m thrilled it has surfaced again, now. I wonder whether Rick Steves would recommend any Wife of Bath to guide visitors around that town now?