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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 Teachers

The aim of these pages is to provide an introduction to Geoffrey Chaucer and the Canterbury Tales, to help introduce the subject to new students at any level. It acknowledges that such students are often daunted by the prospect of reading a medieval English text, expecting to find it dry and irrelevant to their own life experiences. This site is designed to be immediately accessible and attractive to students, whilst providing basic information, and reference points to which they can return if they wish.

The World of the Canterbury Tales

This offers an introduction to Chaucer’s life. On the first page of each ‘world’, you will find 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 when analysing the stories. These can be used by students individually, or in class groups.

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. All of these images are copyright-free for all educational uses, and may be downloaded and/or printed without permission (which is, of course, not true in the case of most other sites). For this reason manuscript illuminations, although desirable, have been avoided.

Some of the other sites accessible through the ‘Links’ page, have these. ‘Geoffrey’s’ descriptions of the pilgrims are available in audio, and as text in both translated and medieval versions. It is hoped that this will benefit students who have disabilities in either of these areas. Each Tale is summarised, and provided with ‘discussion points’ to help students in their analysis and discussion of the stories. The discussion points are divided into sections based upon common themes, then subdivided into individual points, for easier use and reference.

Students may then follow up their interests and knowledge by visiting other sites; direct links to the best of these are provided on the ‘Links’ pages. This site is not universally comprehensive, and does not, on the whole, duplicate material which can be found on these other sites. So much printed material is available that it would not be possible to replace printed sources. However, it is also true that only one student can use a book at any given time, whilst a website is available to any number at once, and may be accessed from any on-line computer source. This is not an on-line edition of the Canterbury Tales, but two useful printed editions are (a) The Riverside Chaucer, edited by Larry Benson (Oxford: University Press, 1987), which, although relatively expensive, is scholarly and extremely detailed, containing all Chaucer’s known works, with very full notes and glossaries. There is also (b) Geoffrey Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales, edited by Lesley A Coote (Ware: Wordsworth, 2002), which contains the Canterbury Tales only, with much less detailed (but still scholarly) notes and glossary, constructed with beginners in mind.

The ‘How to’ pages contain basic key skills material, which may be of benefit to students in writing essays, constructing presentations and handouts and using images effectively. All of this material is copyright-free for educational uses, and may be downloaded and used without permission being sought. There are also notes on how this material has previously been successfully used in teaching, and a case study of the construction of the website, in the hope that this will encourage and inspire others to expand and improve upon this site with ideas and resources of their own.

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