A selection of the best-loved and most frequently studied of The Canterbury Tales
This collection is the perfect introduction to one of the cornerstones of English literature. The General Prologue provides picturesque character sketches of the colorful band of pilgrims who gather at a London inn on their way to Canterbury. The nine tales chosen range from the noble Knight's story of rivalry in love to the boastful and hypocritical Pardoner's moral treatise, and from the exuberant Wife of Bath's Arthurian legend to the Miller's worldly, ribald farce. Incorporating every type of medieval narrative-bawdy anecdote, allegorical fable, and courtly romance-the tales selected here encompass the blend of universal human themes and individual personal detail that have enthralled readers for more than six hundred years.
Like Charles Lamb's edition of Shakespeare, Hastings's loose prose translation of seven of Chaucer's tales is more faithful to the work's plot than to the poet's language. This is not a prudish retelling (even the bawdy Miller's tale is included here) but the vigor of Chaucer's text is considerably tamed. In the original, the pilgrims possess unique voices, but here the tone is uniformly bookish. The colloquial speech of the storyteller is replaced by formal prose; for example, while Cohen (see review above) directly translates Chaucer's ``domb as a stoon'' as ``silent as stones,'' Hastings writes ``in solemn silence.'' Cartwright's startling paintings skillfully suggest the stylized flatness of a medieval canvas, but often without the accompanying richness of detail. Like Punch and Judy puppets, the faces and voices of these pilgrims are generally representative but lack the life and charm of the original text. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)