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While Geoffrey Chaucer composed several magnificent works of poetry, his reputation as "the father of English literature" rests mainly on The Canterbury Tales, a group of stories told by assorted pilgrims en route to the shrine of Thomas à Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. From the mirthful and bawdy to the profoundly moral, the tales, taken in their entirety, reflect not only the manners and mores of medieval England, but indeed, the full comic and tragic dimensions of the human condition. Considered the greatest collection of narrative poems in English literature, The Canterbury Taleswas composed in the Middle English of Chaucer's day, possibly to be read aloud at the court of Richard II. However, their grandeur, humor, and relevance are timeless, as readers of this authoritative edition will discover. UNIQUE FEATURES OF THE SIGNET CLASSICS CANTERBURY TALES Full critical Introduction by editor Donald R. Howard * Normalized spelling system for easier reading and pronunciation * Extensive footnotes * Special section "On Pronouncing Chaucer" * Glossary of basic Middle English words With a Foreword by Frank Grady and a New Afterword
The son of a wealthy and high-connected vintner, Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1342–1400) received a classical education prior to becoming a page at the court of King Edward III. As soldier, statesman, public official, and court poet, he remained in contact with the most important people of his time. Chaucer was sent on several diplomatic missions to Italy, where he read and was deeply influenced by the works of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio. The Italian influence is evident in his masterpiece, Canterbury Tales, on which he worked intermittently for at least twenty years.
Donald R. Howard was the Olive H. Palmer Professor in the Humanities at Stanford University and the author of a number of noted books on medieval literature, including The Three Temptations: Medieval Man in Search of the World, The Idea of the World (1966), The Idea of The Canterbury Tales (1976), and Writers and Pilgrims: Medieval Pilgrimage Narratives and Their Posterity (1980).
Frank Grady is Professor of English at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, where he teaches medieval literature, literary theory, and film. He has published essays on both late medieval English literature and contemporary American popular culture, and he is currently editor of the annual of the New Chaucer Society, Studies in the Age of Chaucer.