The Canterbury Tales: A Retelling

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9780670021222: The Canterbury Tales: A Retelling
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A fresh, modern prose retelling captures the vigorous and bawdy spirit of Chaucer’s classic

Renowned critic, historian, and biographer Peter Ackroyd takes on what is arguably the greatest poem in the English language and presents the work in a prose vernacular that makes it accessible to modern readers while preserving the spirit of the original.

A mirror for medieval society, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales concerns a motley group of pilgrims who meet in a London inn on their way to Canterbury and agree to take part in a storytelling competition. Ranging from comedy to tragedy, pious sermon to ribald farce, heroic adventure to passionate romance, the tales serve not only as a summation of the sensibility of the Middle Ages but as a representation of the drama of the human condition.

Ackroyd’s contemporary prose emphasizes the humanity of these characters—as well as explicitly rendering the naughty good humor of the writer whose comedy influenced Fielding and Dickens—yet still masterfully evokes the euphonies and harmonies of Chaucer’s verse. This retelling is sure to delight modern readers and bring a new appreciation to those already familiar with the classic tales.


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About the Author:

Peter Ackroyd is an award-winning novelist, critic, and biographer.

From The Washington Post:

From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com Reviewed by Steven Levingston Remember struggling over "The Canterbury Tales" in high school? It was a labor of laughs borne only for the puerile joy of reading about farts and arse-kissing. And there was this weird recognition: Could people really have been so much like us 600 years ago? For the pleasure of it all, you had to put up with English that was nothing like the English you knew. As Chaucer wrote of the Wife of Bath: Housbondes at chirche-dore she hadde fyve, Withouten other companye in youthe . . . In felawschip wel coude she laughe and carpe. Of remedyes of love she knew perchaunce, For she coude of that art the olde daunce. Now here comes Peter Ackroyd, novelist, biographer and historian, with "The Canterbury Tales" for a new generation -- it's Chaucer in vivid, expressive English exactly as you speak it. Here in Ackroyd-ese, the same passage quoted above: "She had been married in church five times but, in her youth, she had enjoyed any number of liaisons. . . . She had performed in that game before. She knew, as they say, the ways of the dance." Of course, "The Canterbury Tales" is far more than its ribaldry. It gives a rich and complex portrait of the sensibility of the Middle Ages and, in its original, is beautiful poetry. As Ackroyd remarks, "It is one of the greatest poems in all of English literature, one that will last as long as the language itself endures." levingstons@washpost.com
Copyright 2009, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

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