"Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is undeniably one of the English
language's greatest literary achievements."
~ Robert W. Hanning ~
I did it! I actually read Chaucer's Canterbury Tales! I read them completely! In both Middle and Modern English! And wow was it interesting, challenging and rewarding.
I had started reading Chaucer back in the early summer, but got bogged down with it and so walked away from it until last week. I picked it up again and breezed through it (not sure what changed... maybe the onset of fall, perhaps?). I read each tale in the Middle English first and then went back and re-read it in Modern English. It was really interesting because I struggled quite a bit with deciphering some of the Middle English spellings. But at the same time, it was rewarding because I was better able to understand the cadence and the rhyme. The Modern English was just as interesting. Especially since sometimes it had to completely change a sentence in order to make sense with the rest of the translation. Again, both translations were challenging, but rewarding.
I have to admit part of the reason I walked away from it earlier in the year and why it was still such a challenge this last week was that I am not a poetry fan. I have such a hard time reading any poetry because it seems so choppy and to have no fluidity. Granted, that's why a lot of people love poetry. But not this girl. It drove me crazy that I had to oftentimes re-read a section of Chaucer after looking at the punctuation so I could actually know how to read it and how to make it sound right in my head. While parts of it were beautiful and parts of it were fluid, the majority of it was hard and choppy. Too much for my taste.
My favorite tale was "The Man of Law's Tale" and his story of Constance. It was beautiful! And also the one easiest for me to focus on. I don't know what it was about her, but I was drawn to her story. A story of arranged marriage, betrayal, murder, travel, redemption, renewal and reunions. Constance was a woman of strength who endured a great deal of hardship and she did so with grace and faith. She overcame so many different trials and yet she did it with character. Chaucer did wonders through the "Man of Law" in telling Constance's story. It was my favorite for sure!
While I am not sure I will ever re-read all of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, I am sure I will re-read parts of them. And I will hold on to the story of Constance for a long time.