All 18 entries tagged Canterburytales

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May 21, 2010

Good luck for the exam!

Tuesday 1st June 2010 (week 6)

9:10am, Butterworth Hall

Best of luck to you all!

May 12, 2010

Last Two Sample Translations

I'm posting these now so they're available for anyone who wants them. Here are the last two optional passages for translation, which gives you four in all to practice on. As ever, do feel free to e-mail me with your versions and I'll be happy to give you feedback. If you complete all four and want more (!), let me know.


"Nay, frayst I no fyght, in fayth I the telle.
Hit are aboute on this bench bot berdles childer.
If I were hasped in armes on a high stede,
Here is no mon me to mach, for myghtes so wayke.
Forthy I crave in this court a Cristmasse game,
For hit is Yol and Newe Yere and here are yep mony.
If any so hardy in this house holdes himselven,
Be so bold in his blode, brayn in his hed,
That dar stifly strike a stroke for an other,
I schal gif him of my gift this giserne rich,
This axe, that is hevy innogh, to hondele as him likes."

yep: young men
brayn: rash
giserne: axe

The Wife of Bath's Prologue

Wher can ye seye, in any manere age,
That hye God defended mariage
By expres word? I pray yow, telleth me.
Or where comanded he virginitee?
I woot as wel as ye, it is no drede,
Th'apostel, whan he speketh of maydenhede,
He seyde that precept therof hadde he noon.
Men may conseille a womman to been oon,
But conseillyng is no comandement.
He putte it in oure owene juggement;
For hadde God comanded maydenhede,
Thanne hadde he dampned weddyng with the dede.

expres: explicit
drede: doubt

April 30, 2010

Translation test and sample answers

Here are the two extracts from this week's translation test, and some sample answers. First, though, a couple of general tips/reminders.

1) Translate into PROSE, not verse. The reason I keep emphasising this is because it will allow you to see much better the grammar and syntax of your translated version. If you translate into verse, you run the risk of seeing each line as a self-contained unit, and not linking it correctly to the next.

2) Make sure it is MODERN English prose. Read it back to yourself afterwards - if you've let constructions like "It it be so" or "From me turn their hearts away" or "this grace I desire", say it back to yourself and ask yourself if that is really modern English, or if you're preserving archaic forms. This is a judgement call, but it will help you enormously with the next point.

3) Don't just modernise the words. If there's an easy line where all the words are obvious, too many of you are simply modernising the words and leaving them all in the same order. We're asking you to translate; if you just modernise, that's too mechanical, and has a habit of leaving you with archaic-sounding constructions, or sometimes simple nonsense. Even if it looks easy, we still want to see you creating something out of it that shows us you're engaging with the meaning as well as the words.

GAWAIN 2091-2109:

'For I have wonnen yow hider, wye, at this tyme,
And now nare ye not fer fro that note place
That ye han spied and spured so specially after.
Bot I schal say yow for sothe, sithen I yow know
And ye are a lede upon live that I wel lovie;
Wolde ye worch by my wyt, ye worthed the better.
The place that ye prese to ful perelous is holden.
There wones a wye in that waste the worst upon erthe,
For he is stif and sturn and to strike lovies.'

For I have brought you here, sir, at this time and you are now not far from that well-known place which you have sought and asked after so particularly. But I shall tell you truthfully, since I know you and since you are a living man whom I love well, that if you would act according to my suggestion you would fare better. The place that you are hurrying towards is considered to be very dangerous. A man lives there in that waste land who is the worst on earth, because is he strong and grim and loves to strike.

There are several possible variations. Note 'holden', which many people missed: the place is "held to be", "considered" to be very dangerous - that ambiguity, of course, is deliberate in terms of the (unknown) test Gawain is facing.

KNIGHT'S TALE: 2314-2325

And Palamon, that hath swich love to me,
And eek Arcite, that loveth me so soore,
This grace I preye thee withoute moore,
As sende love and pees bitwixe hem two,
And fro me turne awey hir hertes so
That al hire hoote love and hir desir,
And al hir bisy torment, and hir fir
Be queynt, or turned in another place.
And if so be thou wolt nat do me grace,
Or if my destynee be shapen so
That I shal nedes have oon of hem two,
As sende me hym that moost desireth me.

And as far as concerns Palamon, who has such love for me, and also Arcite who loves me so deeply, I pray you for this favour above anything else, that you should send love and peace between the two of them, and so turn their hearts away from me that all their hot love and desire, and their continual torment and fire should be quenched or directed in another direction. And if it happens that you do not wish to do me this favour or if my fate has been so organised that I must necessarily have one of the two of them, please give me the one who desires me the most.

The passage demanded something at the start to link the first two lines into the construction that follows: I suggested "as regards" to everyone, while the sample suggests "as far as concerns" - this is an example of needing to look at the whole in order to make sense of the individual lines. It's also worth making the distinction between "grace" and "favour" - obviously the passage uses the word "grace", but in modern English the context carries the sense of 'favour', 'reward' or 'request' far more strongly than the kind of 'grace' we discussed in relation to The Faerie Queene.

March 19, 2010

Re–reading suggestions

Here are some suggestions, questions and discussion points which you might like to bear in mind as you revisit our key texts over the next few weeks in your own time. They're obviously not exhaustive of the points of interest in each one, but this selection specifically tries to prompt some of the important debates and ideas that transcend individual texts and tie the Med/Ren module together.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

In the Everyman tradition of morality dramas, a “blank” human figure is manipulated on a spiritual journey by opposing forces of good and evil. How far is Gawain an “Everyman” figure? Can his spiritual journey be related to that of Redcrosse?

What do Gawain’s armour and arms signify? Think about the other armed knights we meet: Redcrosse, Britomart, Arthur. What happens when armour is removed? What kinds of spiritual, physical and moral protection do the knights depend on?

Gawain journeys from court through wild forests. There is a marked contrast between civilised and untamed spaces throughout our work: Faerie Queene, The Knight’s Tale, The Franklin’s Tale, Wyatt’s translations of Petrarch. How are these figures affected by their environments? What do they mean?

Hunting and love-making are closely linked in Fitt 3, and the figures of Cupid the archer and the chaste huntress Diana pervade Renaissance literature; how are love and violence associated throughout the course?

Honour and chivalric reputation are central to Gawain. What are we meant to understand by these concepts? Compare Gawain with his counterpart in The Wife of Bath’s Tale or the knights of Faerie Queene. How does honour develop?

Canterbury Tales

Cuckoldry and fears over women’s chastity pervade the Tales. How far are women active in seduction (cf Bertilak’s wife), and how far are they objectified (cf Florimell)?

What is a virtuous woman? The Wife of Bath, Dorigern and Emelye have some views. Compare them with the women of Faerie Queene Book III.

How does Fate pervade The Knight’s Tale and The Nun’s Priest’s Tale? Where does man fit into the universe? How much control do we have over our own destinies? Shakespeare and Sidney are preoccupied with this too, while Spenser creates his own mythology about how the universe perpetuates itself in the Garden of Adonis.

How do Chaucer and Spenser utilise fabliau motifs for educational/entertainment value? How does this fit in with Sidney’s theories on the power of poetry in Defence of Poesy? How cruel is their treatment of mankind?

Do the images of Eden in The Merchant’s Tale and Faerie Queene I.xi-xii have anything in common?

How much attention do we need to pay to the narrators of the Tales and their influence on the stories they tell? Can this be usefully compared to the strategies employed by the poets of Gawain and Faerie Queene, or the speakers of the sonnets? How artful are our poets?

Lyric Poetry

How painful is unrequited love? It’s described as an illness, a wound, an act of violence. Compare this to the masque of Cupid in the House of Busirane, or to the contrasting attitudes of Timias, the Witch’s son, Britomart herself, Aurelius (Franklin’s Tale), Palamon and Arcite or Damian (Merchant’s Tale), to name just a few.

How far is unrequited love about the object of love, and how far is it about the lover?

The importance of procreation is a major theme in the first seventeen sonnets of Shakespeare, as well as elsewhere. How far is this a wooing device? Or is there a genuine concern with the continuation of lines? See the importance of Britomart’s lineage and the contemporary concerns over Elizabeth’s heir. How, in all these, is procreation positioned in the ongoing war against time? Think about the Garden of Adonis.

What is the nature of “truth” in lyric poetry? What does Sidney argue is the value of poetic truth? Is truth, in fiction, even important (particularly if you’re trying to teach something)?

Spend some time looking at form and sound. How do the music of the lines and words impact on meaning? How does the formal, rhetorical construction of the whole piece (often built around a ‘volta’ or turn) turn each song or sonnet into an argument?

Faerie Queene

The allegory of Faerie Queene shifts and changes, like a “dream narrative”. How does this allegory compare to earlier stories such as The Knight’s Tale? How can these allegorical reading strategies help you interpret the sonnets? For example, Britomart’s entrance into the castle of Busirane plays on conventional ideas of what “fire” represents.

The formal complaints (rhetorical bemoaning of loss/unhappiness) of Una and Britomart are part of a formal tradition. How do they compare to those of Dorigern, Emelye or the speaker of Howard’s “O Happy Dames”?

How do the “tests” suffered by Redcrosse compare to the Green Knight’s challenging of Gawain?

Faerie Queene Book I is usefully read in light of the Reformation and anti-Catholic discourse. How do these political sentiments translate to the more political sonnets and songs we have looked at? What are the fears and anxieties that underpin the writing of the period?

How does Gloriana, Arthur’s (seemingly) unreachable goal, link to the striving of Petrarch, Sidney and Wyatt after their “loves”?

What are the greatest challenges facing good Christians? How do these challenges relate to those facing Gawain and Dorigern?

January 22, 2010

Sample Translations

Well done for all getting through the translation test. Here are some sample translations of the pieces you worked on. Note they're in prose - this is how we prefer you to format your answers. Any questions, as ever, come and see me.


'For were I worth all the won of wymmen alyve
And all the wele of the worlde were in my hande,
And I schulde chepen and chose to cheve me a lord,
For the costes that I have knowen upon the, knyght, here
Of bewty and debonerty and blithe semblaunt -
And that I have ere herkened and holde hit here true-
There schulde no freke upon folde before yow be chosen.'
'Iwis, worthy', quoth the wye, 'ye have waled wel better;
Bot I am proud of the pris that ye put on me
And, soberly your servaunt, my soverayn I holde yow
And your knight I becom and Cryst yow foryelde.'

"For if I was equal in merit to all the many women alive, and if I possessed all the wealth in the world and I were in a position to bargain and choose to get myself a husband, because of the qualities that I have seen you show here, sir, in beauty and courtesy and joyeous behaviour, which I had heard about before and consider to be correct, no man on earth should be chosen before you."

"Indeed, worthy lady," said the man, "you have chosen much better; but I am proud of the value that you set on me, and seriously as your servant I consider you to be my ruler, and I have become your knight, and may Christ recompense you."

Canterbury Tales

Out of the ground a furie infernal sterte,
From Pluto sent at requeste of Saturne,
For which his hors for fere gan to turne,
And leep aside, and foundred as he leep;
And er that Arcite may taken keep,
He pighte hym on the pomel of his heed,
That in the place he lay as he were deed,
His brest tobrosten with his sadel-bowe.
As blak he lay as any cole or crowe,
So was the blood yronnen in his face.
Anon he was yborn out of the place.

A fury from hell rose out of the ground, sent by Pluto in response to Saturn's request. Because of this his horse turned away in fear and jumped to the side and stumbled as it jumped. And before Arcite could react he banged his head on the pommel so that he lay there in that place as if he were dead, with his breast shattered by his saddle. The blood had run into his head so much that he lay there as black as any coal or crow. He was carried out of the place at once.

January 13, 2010

Canterbury Tales tour dates

Writing about web page

Tour dates for the Northern Broadsides production of Canterbury Tales are now available, all below in case it's coming anywhere near you. Unfortunately there aren't resources to organise a mass Med/Ren trip, but do try to go under your own steam if you can! In particular, the London dates (Rose Theatre) are quite close to the exam period, so it might be a useful revision aid!

New Vic Theatre , Newcastle-under-Lyme 
26th Feb - 20th March
Box office: 01782 717 962

Liverpool Playhouse
23 - 27 March
Box office: 0151 709 4776

West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
30 March – 17 April
Box office: 0113 213 7700

Joseph Theatre, Scarborough
20 – 24 April
Box office: 01723

The Nuffield, Southampton
27 Apr – 1 May
Box office: 023 8067 1771

Palace Theatre, Mansfield
4 – 8 May
Box office: 01623 633 133

Theatre Royal, Windsor
11 – 15 May
Box office: 01753 853 888

The Lowry
18 – 22 May
Box office: 0870 787 5780

The Rose, Kingston
25 – 29 May
Box office 0871 230 1552

The Viaduct, Halifax
Dates to be confirmed

December 11, 2009

Week Ten: Franklin's Tale translation

Congratulations to you all on coping admirably with an unseen translation! Here's the extract we looked at, and a sample translation:

The Franklin’s Tale, lines 768-778.

Wommen, of kinde, desiren libertee,

And nat to been constreined as a thral,

And so doon men, if I sooth seyen shal.

Looke who that is moost pacient in love,

He is at his avantage al above.

Pacience is an heigh vertu, certain,

For it venquisseth, as thise clerkes seyn,

Thinges that rigour sholde nevere atteine.

For every word men may nat chide or pleine;

Lerneth to suffre, or ells, so moot I gon,

Ye shul it lerne, wherso ye wole or non.

Women, by their nature, desire freedom and not to be ruled as a subject, and, if I tell the truth, so do men. Whoever is most patient in love is at an advantage above all else. Patience is a high virtue, for certain, for it conquers (as these scholars say) things that harshness would never achieve. Men may not reproach or complain at every word; learn to endure or else, as I live, you shall learn it whether you want to or not.

Translation test is on MONDAY 11TH JANUARY at 12 NOON in the ARTS CENTRE CONFERENCE ROOM.

Over Christmas, the best concrete thing you can do is look through your pink(?) translation guides and vocabulary lists, which will give you most of the necessaries. The other way to revise is quite simply to spend some time reading chunks of both Gawain and The Canterbury Tales, which will be most useful for getting you accustomed to the style and linguistic forms used.

December 06, 2009

Northern Broadsides present The Canterbury Tales

You should ALL make plans to see this, if at all possible. Mike Poulton's two-part adaptation of The Canterbury Tales played at the RSC and on tour about five years ago, and now Northern Broadsides are resurrecting the play in an abbreviated version that is touring in early 2010.

The Canterbury Tales

I haven't seen an official announcement of all of the tour dates yet, but I know that they're playing the New Vic in Newcastle-under-Lyme from February 26th to March 20th, and Liverpool Playhouse the following week. I believe Coventry isn't on the tour route, but there'll hopefully be some closer venues. In any case, try to see it if you can!

December 04, 2009

Work for Week Ten (Franklin's and Nun's Priest's Tales)

In the Week 10 Seminar:

  • Hand in your essays! Do please get in touch with questions/problems.

  • There will be an unseen translation in class, from either the Franklin's or the Nun's Priest's Tales. No preparation needed, though as ever you might like to look over your notes from translation classes.

  • Read The Franklin's and The Nun's Priest's Tales and Prologues.

  • Suggestions for things to think about: 'trowthe' in The Franklin's Tale, and that tale's relationship with the Wife of Bath's and The Merchant's as part of a 'marriage group'.

  • How animal and human characteristics are juxtaposed in The Nun's Priest's Tale, and the purpose of this.

  • The morals of both stories, whether obvious, implied or inverted.

It's the Christmas Party seminar, and the end of Chaucer, so bring festive cheer!

Merchant's Tale commentary

Here's a translation of the passage we used for group commentary work today. I've put below them some of the bullet points that I'd come up with ahead of the seminar, some of which we discussed in class and some of which are new. These are far from exhaustive, and represent just starting points from which you might start to construct a commentary.

Merchant’s Tale 1637-47

'I have', quod he, 'herd seid, ful yoore ago,
Ther may no man han parfite blisses two -
This to seye, in erthe and eek in hevene.
For thogh he kepe him fro the sinnes sevene,
And eek from every branche of thilke tree,
Yet is ther so parfit felicitee
And so greet ese and lust in mariage,
That evere I am agast now in min age
That I shal lede now so murye a lif,
So delicat, withouten wo and strif,
That I shal have min hevene in erthe heere.


“I have”, he said, “heard it said, very long ago, that no man may have two perfect joys – that is to say, in earth and also in heaven. For even if he abstains from the seven sins, and also from every branch of that same tree, yet there is such perfect happiness and such great pleasure and enjoyment in marriage, that I am perpetually afraid that now, in my old age, I shall now lead so happy a life, so luxurious, without woe or strife, that I shall have my heaven here on earth.”

•    Speaker: January.

•    Context: He has just chosen his young, beautiful wife, and is telling his brothers of his choice.

•    Surface meaning of passage: He is expressing some last minute anxiety over whether or not marrying is spiritually acceptable, or if it will put him into sin.

•    Subtext: This could be an attempt at self-justification of his decision to wed, getting formal, public support from his brothers. As we have already seen in his rebuttal to Justinus, if they don’t say what he wants them to say, he gets extremely angry and does it anyway.

•     Irony: January’s idealising of marriage, particularly “withouten wo and strif”, is obviously naïve and ridiculous, and we read it as such. His desires are ridiculous, and fabliau conventions prompt us to foresee what will happen even before Damian is introduced.

•    January thinks in easy absolutes, and his repeated references to ‘parfit’ joy and happiness show a lack of practical understanding of marriage. Particularly in the context of the Merchant’s Prologue, we will already be laughing at his idealised version of marriage.

•    A reminder of January’s age. He is the senex, the old man figure. His age is referred to constantly throughout, and of course will be linked to his inability to perform satisfactorily. Perhaps optimistic about the “ese” and “lust”?

•    The tree of sin (“thilke tree”) foreshadows the rather more literal tree of sin in which January will be cuckolded. The references to trees and heaven of earth may also recall the Garden of Eden, or Paradise, which will be parodied in January’s enclosed garden.

•    Blasphemy and idolatry: January’s repeated references to marriage as a paradise or heaven on earth suggest an unhealthy idolising of both the institution of marriage and May in particular. This over-devotion to a wife, which inevitably becomes jealousy, is a common theme in fabliaux (see also Miller’s and Reeve’s Tales), alerting us to the ridiculousness of the cuckold figure and his distorted priorities.

•    January’s fears are that he will be too happy, which will be distorted into the more usual fears of the jealous husband once he is blinded.

•    January cites an unnamed authority for his saying. He thus frames his question as almost rhetorical, a philosophical question rather than a genuine concern. It situates him in a theoretical discourse of marriage, the oft-quoted ‘marriage debate’, which is a core part of other tales such as The Wife of Bath’s.

•    There is some confusion in January’s mind, perhaps, over the nature of sin. Lust is one of the seven deadly sins, and he mentions that there is great ‘lust’ in marriage, though he means ‘pleasure’ in this case. Is his worry that he will be ‘parfit’ in marriage, thus excluded perfection in heaven; or rather that he will be committing sin in his lustful marriage bed? He later justifies himself to May, that their intercourse is lawful and not sinful as they are married. Perhaps the hormones have taken over by this point, assuaging his anxiety?


  • January's idealising of marriage contrasts directly with the Merchant's own experience as outlined in the Prologue.

  • The tree of sin might be directly connected with the Tree of Knowledge from which Eve plucks an apple, precisely prefiguring May's own plucking of 'pears' from the tree in January's garden. It can also be tied to the general rhetoric surrounding Eve, and women as the cause (or root!) of evil in men.

  • Discussion of how the passage relates to January's own lustful past; perhaps this passage articulates a very real concern he already has about not being able to get into Heaven, and therefore can be read as him wanting to make his own heaven on earth through pleasures of the flesh.
  • Emphasis of his age can be contrasted with his recent demand that his wife be, at the most, under 30; there is a comical hypocrisy here.

  • The fact that the authority he cites at the start of the passage is unnamed may indicate his general gullibility and readiness to believe what others say; this could also be contrasted with his reluctance to take Justinus's advice when it goes against what he already wants.

  • Use of "I shal" twice is forceful, perhaps even with Biblical overtones of commandments. This feeds into the definitive, absolute ideas of happiness he articulates.

  • Marriage is commodified in his descriptions of 'ese', as if it is something he is purchasing.

  • The pairs of words chosen to fit the rhyme scheme often express opposing or incompatible ideas/ideals. Thus 'hevene' rhymes with 'sinnes sevene', the 'tree' of sin rhymes with the 'felicitee' of marriage, 'murye a lif' is countered with 'wo and strif', and the lust of 'mariage' fits oddly with January's 'min age'. We are comically reminded of the inherent contradictions, hypocrisies and ridiculous assumptions that characterise January's speech.

  • Love is not mentioned at all in January's descriptions of the perfections of marriage.

  • His happiness is repeatedly emphasised in words such as 'blisses', 'parfite', 'murye', lust' etc. The outward show of marriage may be prized more than an emotionally mature 'real' happiness, or there may be an element of self-persuasion.

  • The French-derived 'parfit' may be a deliberate choice when given to a knightly character; cf for example the use of the word in the General Prologue in relation to The Knight. If it emphasises courtesy and courtliness, we may then see a form of social mockery in the ridiculous description of January's ideas. Perhaps age has drawn him away from his knightly principles.

  • The iambic rhythm may be disrupted slightly, particularly in 'That evere', which could be indicative of his own lack of control/continence/moral ability. As ever, be careful with this kind of reading in Medieval narrative poetry - what looks like a rhythmic break may not have been in Medieval pronunciation.

  • His high expectations for marriage are set up deliberately in order to be dashed, in accordance with fabliau conventions, yet the rhetoric of happiness is not something we would necessarily associate with that genre.

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