During his life, Geoffrey Chaucer (born c.1340) was courtier,
diplomat, revenue collector, administrator, negotiator, overseer of
building projects, landowner and knight of the shire. He was
servant, retainer, husband, friend and father, but is now mainly
known as a poet and 'the father of English literature', a postion
to which he was raised by other writers in the generation after his
death. It was Boccaccio's Decameron which inspired Chaucer, in the
1390s, to begin work on The Canterbury Tales, which was still
unfinished at his death in October 1400. It tells the story of a
group of 30 pilgrims who meet at the Tabard Inn in Southwark, on
the south bank of the Thames opposite the city of London, and
travel together to visit the then famous shrine of St Thomas Becket
in Canterbury cathedral. The tavern host, who accompanies them,
suggests that they amuse one another along the way by telling
stories, with the best storyteller awarded a meal in the tavern
(paid for by all the others) on their return. The stories told by
the pilgrims range from bawdy comedies through saints' lives and
moral tracts to courtly romances, always delivered with a generous
helping of Chaucer's own sly wit and ironic humour. Although basing
his characters on the stereotypes of 'estates satire', Chaucer
succeeds in his aim of producing an overview of his times and their
culture, for posterity, in the manner of Italian,
proto-Renaissance, writers.This transcription and edition is taken
from British Library MS Harley 7334, produced within ten years of
Chaucer's death. The on-page notes and glosses aim to enable
readers with little or no previous experience of medieva
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