The Canterbury Tales
An Unfinished Extraordinary Work
Geoffrey Chaucer set out to create a masterpiece of one-hundred and twenty tales, two from each of the thirty pilgrims on their journey to pay their respects to St. Thomas Beckett in Canterbury. Chaucer was unable to finish the masterpiece he set upon to create, but the twenty-four tales we are left with are masterpieces in their own sense in the form of The Canterbury Tales. (“Works of Geoffrey” xxviii) Geoffrey Chaucer lives on with this collection of tales that never were able to be organized in a final manner. The tales we have are not in chronological order that Geoffrey Chaucer was writing them, for some tales are identified as tales towards the beginning and some tales are distinctly...
Some historical documents say he had stopped working on The Canterbury Tales toward the end of the 1390’s. It is unknown if his health played in to this or if he shifted focus on to other works. Since it was left unfinished unlike the Italian counterpart, Decameron that Larry Benson states in The Riverside Chaucer as, “by far the most suggestive analogue to The Canterbury Tales.” (3) does this hurt the legacy of The Canterbury Tales as a whole since Chaucer was unable to complete so many of the tales he had set out to do, when the work by the Italian, Boccaccio, in the Decameron included all 100 tales he had planned for? Does the fact The Decameron is complete when The Canterbury Tales is nowhere near complete affect the legacy of Chaucer’s...
Unlike some of Chaucer’s tales that were influenced by, or almost entirely stolen, in concept from other works of the time. There is nothing quite like The General Prologue or at least to its extent and legacy.
The General Prologue sets the tone of tales Chaucer has written, but some of the twenty-four tales fall under heavy scrutiny. According to James Dean in the article, “Dismantling the Canterbury Book”,
Everyone agrees that The General Prologue and the first three or four stories of The Canterbury Tales – Knight, Miller, Reeve, Cook (incomplete)—form a coherent unit and that this unit, Fragment I or A… There is less consensus concerning the ending of the Canterbury book. (746)
Does this mean only Fragment I is worthy of the praise Chaucer gets for times on end? No, it doesn’t. We must remember that Chaucer only completed a fraction of his work and accept that each tale cannot be placed with a hundred percent confidence. With most of the tales that cannot be placed for certain, it would not matter where they are placed. Few of the tales have the transition The Miller’s Tale takes after the telling of The Knights...
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