The canterbury tales, p.1
The Canterbury Tales, p.1Geoffrey Chaucer
GENERAL EDITOR, POETRY: CHRISTOPHER RICKS
THE CANTERBURY TALES
GEOFFREY CHAUCER was born in London, the son of a wine-merchant, in about 1340, and as he spent his life in royal and government service his career happens to be unusually well documented. By 1357 Chaucer was a page to the wife of Prince Lionel, second son of Edward III, and it was while in the prince’s service that Chaucer was ransomed when captured during the English campaign in France in 1359–60. Chaucer’s wife Philippa, whom he married c. 1365, was the sister of Katherine Swynford, the mistress (c. 1370) and third wife (1396) of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, whose first wife Blanche (d. 1368) is commemorated in Chaucer’s earliest major poem, The Book of the Duchess.
From 1374 Chaucer worked as controller of customs on wool in the port of London, but between 1366 and 1378 he made a number of trips abroad on official business, including two trips to Italy in 1372–3 and 1378. The influence of Chaucer’s encounter with Italian literature is felt in the poems he wrote in the late 1370s and early 1380s – The House of Fame, The Parliament of Fowls and a version of The Knight’s Tale – and finds its fullest expression in Troilus and Criseyde.
In 1386 Chaucer was member of parliament for Kent, but in the same year he resigned his customs post, although in 1389 he was appointed Clerk of the King’s Works (resigning in 1391). After finishing Troilus and his translation into English prose of Boethius’ De consolatione philosophiae, Chaucer started his Legend of Good Women. In the 1390s he worked on his most ambitious project, The Canterbury Tales, which remained unfinished at his death. In 1399 Chaucer leased a house in the precincts of Westminster Abbey but died in 1400 and was buried in the Abbey.
JILL MANN took her BA from the University of Oxford and her PhD from the University of Cambridge. She taught medieval literature at Cambridge from 1972 onwards and from 1988 to 1998 was Professor of Medieval and Renaissance English. From 1999 to 2004 she was Notre Dame Professor of English at the University of Notre Dame. She is the author of Chaucer and Medieval Estates Satire (1973) and Feminizing Chaucer (2002), and co-editor (with Piero Boitani) of The Cambridge Chaucer Companion (2nd edition, 2003). She has also published on medieval Latin and has written many articles on medieval literature. She is a Fellow of the British Academy, an Honorary Fellow of St Anne’s College, Oxford, and a Life Fellow of Girton College, Cambridge.
The Canterbury Tales
Edited with an Introduction and Notes by
Published by the Penguin Group
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This edition first published 2005
Text and editorial matter copyright © Jill Mann, 2005;
Chronology copyright © Barry Windeatt, 2003
All rights reserved
The moral right of the editor has been asserted
Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser
A Note on the Text
Abbreviations of the Canterbury Tales
The Canterbury Tales
Fragment I (Group A)
THE GENERAL PROLOGUE
THE KNIGHT’S TALE
THE MILLER’S PROLOGUE AND TALE
THE REEVE’S PROLOGUE AND TALE
THE COOK’S PROLOGUE AND TALE
Fragment II (Group B 1 )
THE MAN OF LAW’S PROLOGUE, TALE [AND EPILOGUE]
Fragment III (Group D)
THE WIFE OF BATH’S PROLOGUE AND TALE
THE FRIAR’S PROLOGUE AND TALE
THE SUMMONER’S PROLOGUE AND TALE
Fragment IV (Group E)
THE CLERK’S PROLOGUE AND TALE
THE MERCHANT’S PROLOGUE, TALE AND EPILOGUE
Fragment V (Group F)
THE SQUIRE’S PROLOGUE AND TALE
THE SQUIRE–FRANKLIN LINK, THE FRANKLIN’S PROLOGUE AND TALE
Fragment VI (Group C)
THE PHYSICIAN’S TALE
THE PHYSICIAN–PARDONER LINK, THE PARDONER’S PROLOGUE AND TALE
Fragment VII (Group B 2 )
THE SHIPMAN’S TALE
THE SHIPMAN–PRIORESS LINK, THE PRIORESS’S PROLOGUE AND TALE
THE PRIORESS–SIR THOPAS LINK AND SIR THOPAS
THE THOPAS–MELIBEE LINK AND THE TALE OF MELIBEE
THE MONK’S PROLOGUE AND TALE
THE NUN’S PRIEST’S PROLOGUE, TALE [AND EPILOGUE]
Fragment VIII (Group G)
THE SECOND NUN’S PROLOGUE AND TALE
THE CANON’S YEOMAN’S PROLOGUE AND TALE
Fragment IX (Group H)
THE MANCIPLE’S PROLOGUE AND TALE
Fragment X (Group I)
THE PARSON’S PROLOGUE AND TALE
This edition has been longer in the making than anyone connected with it will care to recall. My first thanks must therefore go to Christopher Ricks, who has shown the patience of Griselda in seeing the project through to completion, and has been a constant source of encouragement, helpful criticism and wise advice. I am also grateful to Lindeth Vasey and Laura Barber at Penguin for their counsel and support. Over the years I have incurred many other debts to scholars and friends who have responded generously to questions falling within their particular area of expertise: for help of this sort, I am grateful to Caroline Barron, Richard Beadle, Larry Benson, Pat Boyde, the late David Burnley, Helen Cooper, John Davies, Peter Dronke, Chris Dyer, Robert Hardy, Sir James Holt, George Kane, Ruth Mazo Karras, Henry Ansgar Kelly, Robert Markus, Ludo Milis, James Murray, J. D. North, Oliver Padel, Christopher Page, Richard Partington, Peter Spufford, Matthew Strickland and Siegfried Wenzel. I am grateful to Barry Winde-att, editor of the companion edition of Troilus and Criseyde in this series, for permission to use his Chronology of Chaucer’s life in this volume, and for friendly discussion of our parallel enterprises. Michael Lapidge has provided me with constant support, the benefits of his learning and practical assistance.
Girton College, Cambridge, provided a grant to pay for the i
Like all editors of Chaucer, I am deeply indebted to the labours of former editors, especially to W. W. Skeat, and to Larry Benson and all those who contributed to the Riverside Chaucer. If I have been able on occasion to correct or supplement the latter, I am aware that I have doubtless created a new crop of errors all my own, which are well-nigh inevitable in a project of this scope, and for which I ask the reader’s indulgence. That there are not more is due to the eagle-eyed proof-reading of Sophia Kingshill, and above all to the meticulous copy-editing of Monica Schmoller, whose perceptive eye for detail and tireless concern for accuracy have given the final touches to the volume.
The text of the Canterbury Tales in this edition is accompanied by glosses, at the foot of each page, of those words and phrases with which modern readers may need immediate help. Since readers will not necessarily read the tales in sequence, it has not been assumed that knowledge of the meaning of words will be acquired cumulatively, and they are, as far as possible, glossed afresh within each individual tale. For definitions of parts of speech, and for fuller indications of a word’s possible range of meanings in the Tales, readers should consult the Glossary. For a brief explanation of grammatical forms, they are referred to the section on Chaucer’s Language. For the modern spelling of proper names, readers should usually consult the Notes, but where there is no relevant note, the modern spelling is given in an on-page gloss. Where entries in the Notes or the Glossary provide fuller linguistic information, this is indicated in the on-page gloss by ‘n.’ and ‘g.’ respectively, but information of other kinds contained in the Notes is not signalled in this way. For the abbreviations used for the individual Canterbury tales in the Notes, the Glossary and elsewhere in this edition, see Abbreviations of the Canterbury Tales. The list of Abbreviated References provides full details of frequently cited works. A select list of Further Reading has also been provided as a guide to some contemporary criticism devoted to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
c. 1340 Born in London, son of John Chaucer, a well-to-do wine-merchant, and his wife Agnes. John Chaucer holds office (1347–9) as the king’s deputy-butler in the port of Southampton, supervising wine shipments from Bordeaux for the royal cellars.
1357 In service as a young ‘page’ in the household of Elizabeth, Countess of Ulster, wife of Prince Lionel, second surviving son of Edward III. (The Countess’s household expense accounts record payments to Chaucer at Easter 1357 for a paltock (short cloak), a pair of black and red hose and a pair of shoes, and at Whitsun and Christmas for other necessities.)
1359–60 In service as a valettus or yeoman in Prince Lionel’s retinue in France; captured at the siege of Rheims and ransomed for £16 (payment from the King’s Wardrobe, 1 March 1360); see 15 October 1386, below.
1360 October: Paid by Prince Lionel for carrying letters to England from Calais.
1361–6 Prince Lionel in Ireland as Viceroy; Chaucer’s life in these years is unrecorded; presumably in service in a royal household.
1365/6 Marries Philippa, eldest daughter of Paon de Roet (of the household of Queen Philippa) and sister of Katherine Swynford, who became mistress (c. 1370) and third wife (1396) of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster.
1366 Chaucer’s father dies; his mother remarries.
February–May: receives a safe-conduct from the King of Navarre; possibly on pilgrimage to Santiago, or on diplomatic business. Perhaps previously in Aquitaine with the Black Prince.
1367 20 June: granted an annuity of 20 marks as an esquire of the royal household.
c. 1367 Chaucer’s son Thomas born.
late 1360s Translates (part of) the Roman de la Rose.
1368 July–September: abroad on the king’s service.
12 September: death of Blanche, Duchess of Lancaster, John of Gaunt’s first wife. The Book of the Duchess written not long after.
1369 September: in France with John of Gaunt’s expeditionary force.
1370 June–September: in France again, presumably in connection with the annual military campaign.
1372 30 August: Philippa Chaucer granted an annuity of £10 by John of Gaunt for service in the household of his second wife, Constance of Castille (through whose right he claimed the throne of Castille).
1371–3 Payments for winter and summer robes to Chaucer as an ‘esquire of the King’s chamber’, i.e. Edward III’s inner household.
1372–3 1 December–23 May: in Italy (Genoa and Florence), as a member of a trading and diplomatic mission.
1373 20 August: Chaucer receives a royal commission to travel to Dartmouth to arrange for the restoration to its master of an arrested Genoese merchant ship.
1374 23 April: granted a pitcher of wine a day for life by the king (commuted in 1378 for an exchequer annuity of 20 marks).
10 May: granted lease for life of rent-free dwelling above the city gate at Aldgate.
8 June: appointed controller of the customs of hides, skins and wools in the port of London (annual income £16 13s 4d), with requirement to keep the records in his own hand.
13 June: receives an annuity of £10 from John of Gaunt.
1375–7 Writing The House of Fame; probably completed by 1378.
1376–7 In France on several occasions, deputed from the customs to serve on diplomatic commissions negotiating for peace and for the marriage of Richard II.
late 1370s Writing Anelida and Arcite.
1378 May–September: in Lombardy on diplomatic business to Bernabò Visconti, lord of Milan, and Sir John Hawkwood (an English mercenary adventurer in Italy).
1380 Birth of Chaucer’s son Lewis (said to be aged eleven when Chaucer writes the Treatise on the Astrolabe for him in 1391).
4 May: released by Cecily Champain from any legal action in respect of what the deed of release terms her raptus (a term used in legal documents to refer to both abduction and/ or rape).
c. 1380 Writes The Parliament of Fowls.
c. 1380–81 Writes Palamon and Arcite (later The Knight’s Tale).
1381 Chaucer’s mother dies.
c. 1381–6 Writing Troilus and Criseyde; perhaps simultaneously with, or shortly after, the Boece, his prose translation of Boethius.
1382 Appointed controller of the petty custom in the port of London.
1383 23 June–1 November: obtains permission to appoint a deputy in his principal controllership (pleading pressure of unspecified other business).
1385 The French poet Eustache Deschamps sends a poem of praise to Chaucer with the refrain ‘Grand translateur, noble Geoffroy Chaucier!’.
17 February: obtains permission to have a permanent deputy at the wool customs.
10 September: Receives livery of mourning as an esquire of the King’s Household upon the death of the king’s mother, Joan of Kent.
12 October: Appointed a member of the commission of the peace in Kent; appointment renewed 28 June 1386, possibly with occasional service until 1389; probably now living in Kent.
c. 1385 The Complaint of Mars written.
1386 1 October–28 November: Member of Parliament for Kent at one session, the ‘Wonderful Parliament’ (held in the chapter-house of Westminster Abbey); one minor petition presented by the Commons requested that life-appointed controllers of customs be removed from office, on suspicion of financial irregularities, and that in future no such life appointments be made.
By 5 October: gives up lease on Aldgate dwelling.
4 December: resigns his two controllerships at the customs.
c. 1386–7 Writing The Legend of Good Women.
1387 Philippa Chaucer dies.
c. 1387 Begins The Canterbury Tales.
1388 3 February–4 June: the ‘Merciless Parliament’, hostile to the King’s Household and personal patronage, and to the practice of granting life annuities.
1 May: transfers his two exchequer annuities to John Scalby.
1389 12 July: appointed Clerk of the King’s Works.
1390s Appointed deputy-forester of North Petherton in Somerset (possibly a legal appointment while the estate’s owner was a minor).
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