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Chaucer & His World
The Aristocratic World
The Churl's World
The Clerk's World
The Townsperson's World
A Woman's World
Discussion Points
Theory & Genre
How to Guide


Introduction for Students

The aim of these pages is to provide you with an introduction to Geoffrey Chaucer and the Canterbury Tales. It is designed to be easy to understand and to use, to be accessible and interesting. The site does not attempt to provide sophisticated translation facilities, or large amounts of edited text, but it does offer you some useful material, which will help you initially – some may be of help to you later on.

As well as biographical and historical background information, ‘The World of the Canterbury Tales’ offers summaries of the characters and their tales (with an audio reading which can be heard whilst reading the text in translation or original spelling and phraseology), and some discussion points to help you when thinking about the stories.

Characters, plot summaries, discussion points, audio-visual and theoretical materials are all accessible on the first page of each ‘World’.

On the second page you will find social and historical background material. This is illustrated with images, mostly taken from surviving medieval art and architecture. These pictures are downloadable and copyright-free, so you can use them for any educational purpose without permission (unlike the images on most other sites).


On the ‘How to’ pages you will find information about writing essays, and making effective presentations and handouts, as well as information about how this site was put together, in case you would like to use the pedagogy or make up a (probably better!) site of your own.

Having used this site as an introduction to Chaucer and the Canterbury Tales, you can then find more, and different material, by using other sites listed on the ‘Links’ page. This offers quick links to the best Chaucer materials available on the World Wide Web, so you don’t have to spend lots of time searching for them.

Key to the icons used on this site:

Listen and Read
= Listen and Read

Clicking on this icon will launch a small window with a Flash multimedia player. This player allows you to read the text in both original form and modern translation as well as listen to a reading of the modern translation. To view the player you must have the 'Flash' player installed - (this is a free download)
For a guide to using the Flash Viewer please read below..

Discussion Points
= Discussion Points

Clicking on this icon will take you to a series of questions designed to stimulate your thinking about the characters in the tales.

Theory and Genre
= Theory and Genre

The 'theory and genre' page contains summaries of generic descriptions and literary theories/ideas which may be useful in evaluating and discussing the Canterbury Tales. There are direct links to this page in the left-hand navigation bar on the other pages, and from the Tales themselves to the most relevant genre descriptions. This is not, of course, intended to be definitive, but to provide an initial stimulus to thinking about the Tales in terms of theory and genre.

How to use the Flash Viewer

To read excerpts from the Canterbury Tales in both original and modern translation and to listen to the modern translation being read, you will need to have the Flash player (version 6) installed on your computer. This is a free download available here.

Select the icon '' and the Flash Viewer will load in a small pop-up window. A guide to the controls is indicated on the diagram below:

Guide to using the multimedia controls on the Flash Viewer


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The Aristocratic World
The Churl's World
The Clerk's World
The Townspeople's world
A Woman's World
Chaucer and his world