The Man and His Work
Chaucer was a man of importance: so much so that when he was taken prisoner in 1359, King Edward paid an enormous ransom of £16 for his return. He was a courier in peace negotiations, related by marriage to royals and had a £20 pension and an annual butt of wine Moreover, he was a JP, a controller of Customs and Clerk of the King’s Works. He enjoyed the patronage of Edward III, Richard II and Henry IV
His work was read aloud at court and manuscripts were commissioned by the wealthy. There would be gatherings where there would be readings of the work. Chaucer writes in a courtly style with words via French from Latin e.g.: ‘mesurable, ‘habitacioun’, ‘maladye’, ‘superfluytee’. He uses such structural elements as rhyming couplets and the iambic pentameter of English poetry rather than the alliterative provincial, Anglo Saxon style of Langland and the Gawain poet where there were three stressed alliterated sounds to the line as in this example:
‘Sheer sheds the rain in showers full warm.’
The fourth stressed syllable (in this case ‘warm’) would be used for the alliterated syllables of the next line.
Contrast this with Chaucer’s rhyming pentameters:
‘Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote
The Droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote’
Bibliography to all work on Chaucer on this website:
Chaucer The Pardoner’s Tale C W R D Moseley Penguin Critical Studies
Chaucer Brian Stone Penguin Critical Studies
The Pardoner’s Tale Geoffrey Lester MacMillan Master Guides
The CanterburyTales Helen Cooper OxfordGuides to Chaucer
Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales ed J J Anderson Casebook Series
Other Recommended Sites:
Very useful website giving insights into many aspects of the text, including a commentary on the significance of phrases: http://crossref-it.info/textguide/The-Pardoner’s-Prologue-and-Tale/12/0
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