View Full Version : Canterbury Tales

08-21-2008, 12:38 PM

My 15 year old son enjoys literature and wants to read all of The Canterbury Tales. A couple of questions:

1. How appropriate is this for a very mature 15 year old boy that will probably study literature in college in some capacity? What is the level of inappropiatness? I glanced over the warnings that you all put out and the ones we looked at we had no problem with and I would not have cautioned my son. He does not want to be surprised with something that is way off for a 15 year old boy to be reading but he also wants to read these.

2. What book do you suggest he read these from if you could suggest any? He found two today at the library : one is a Bantam Classic and is edited and translated by Peter G. Beidler building on an earlier edidtion by Hieatt and Hieatt. He also found a Penguin book edition titled: The Portable Chaucer edited and translated by Theodore Morrison. If he does read these he would like to read them from a good translation.

Barb Spanier

08-21-2008, 05:49 PM
Hi Barb! Well, let me see... with the warnings we try to flag ANYTHING that might be at all objectionable, so I can see why you find it a little overkill. :-) That being said, however, let me assure you that some of Chaucer's stories really are QUITE bawdy and (or) inappropriate. Part of the Wife of Bath's Prologue, for instance, made me blush! That's why I didn't assign all of it to students in Year 2.

So, of the twenty-three or so stories, there are definitely some that should not be read. On the other hand, I know off the top of my head that a couple of the tales are more or less good to read. The Nun's Priest's Tale and the Knight's Tale leap to mind. I'm sure there are others, but those are the ones I've read that I know treat sexuality in a more or less appropriate way, are not too bawdy, and have good themes.

As to edition, that's a little trickier. The BEST thing, of course, is to learn to read Chaucer in Middle English. However, I think your son would have to be fanatically interested in Chaucer to do that. Yours truly found it hard enough just to memorize the first 18 lines of the General Prologue in Middle English as a sixteen-year-old (though I will say I remember them to this day and have fallen in love with the rhythms of Middle English!). I am not personally familiar with the translations you mentioned, but as an edition I know I'd recommend to you the Oxford World's Classics version. It is by David Wright, and Amazon informs me that currently there are 95 used and new copies starting at 63 cents (plus shipping). How can you beat that? ;-)

I hope this helps a little bit!

08-21-2008, 06:37 PM

That helps a lot. I will have him read these two additional tales only. I just glanced over the prologue for the Wife of Bath's Tale and you are right...he does not need to read that!

Thanks for the heads up on Oxford World Classic version.

My son LOVES the Tapestry Literature...so thank you so much for all of your hard work and the many hours of your time that you have dedicated to this curriculum.