Review: The Canterbury Tales

The Canterbury Tales
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chaucer's tales are delightful and instructive as to human nature.

I read some of these in college but this is the first time I read them ALL. Yes, some are PG-13 or R rated for their bawdy descriptions. Not having read the secondary literature on Chaucer, I may be way off, but...

There's a theme that runs through most of the tales of marital, romantic or sexual relationship and love. How are a husband and wife to relate to each other? We hear lots of stories about how NOT to do it! The henpecked husband, the deceitful spouse, many virtues are considered and how they affect the marriage relationship. Chaunticleer's pride almost gets him killed - will we learn our lesson and reform before it's too late?

There are a few other tales that don't relate to love, but I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't cover the seven deadly sins systematically. The tale of the alchemist and how greed leads to a downfall comes to mind.

The last "tale" struck me the most - the parson's sermon. It could almost have been told by a Puritan! He quotes Augustine a great deal, and goes through how to repent of your sins, describing the seven deadly ones and their remedies. There's some Roman error mixed in of course, given his time, such as clericalism and penance (even self-flagellation approved on the second to last page!

But Chaucer's leave-taking last page is a glorious testimony to one seeking the grace of Jesus Christ and forgiveness for his sins, even in his life's work.

Several of the tamer tales are great for younger teens.
The whole lot might want to wait for college or beyond.

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