The Canterbury Tales


Significant Quotations

The Canterbury Tales was originally written in Middle English, and the true power of its poetry can only be appreciated when one reads it in the original language. Middle English is sufficiently similar to modern English that when one reads the dead language aloud, one can generally understand what is being said.

Quotation One: Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote/The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,/And bathed every veyne in swich licour/Of which vertu engendred is the flour.

These are the opening lines to The Canterbury Tales and set the scene for the pilgrimage that unfolds in the poem. The lines make it clear that it is springtime, specifically April. April showers have wakened the dry earth, bringing forth the flowers one associates with springtime. The imagery in the next several lines invokes the idea of rebirth, which is associated with springtime.

Quotation Two: Thus swyved was this carpenteris wyf,/For al his kepyng and his jalousye;/And Absolon hath kist hir nether ye;/And Nicholas is scalded in the towte.
This tale is doon, and God save al the rowte!

These lines are at the conclusion of the Miller’s tale and describe what occurred in the story. It describes that Alisoun slept with someone other than her husband, despite his best efforts to keep her to himself; describes that Absolon kissed Alisoun’s rear end; and describes Nicholas being burned by the hot poker.

Quotation Three: But every thyng which schyneth as the gold, Nis nat gold, as that I have herd it told.

These lines are featured in the Yeoman’s tale. He is specifically speaking about the different metals that alchemists could use to pretend as if they had created gold. However, the line has morphed into a general admonishment that “all that glitters is not gold.”

Quotation Four: Thanne is it wysdom, as thynketh me, To maken vertu of necessite, And take it weel, that we may not eschu, And namely...

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Essays About The Canterbury Tales