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Everything you need to know to read "The Canterbury Tales" - Iseult Gillespie

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A portly Miller, barely able to sit on his horse, rambles on about the flighty wife of a crotchety old carpenter and the scholar she takes as her lover. This might sound like a bawdy joke, but it’s part of one of the most esteemed works of English literature ever created: The Canterbury Tales. Iseult Gillespie shares everything you need to know to read Geoffrey Chaucer’s classic collection.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Iseult Gillespie
  • Director Anton Bogaty
  • Narrator Adrian Dannatt
  • Animator Anton Bogaty
  • Composer Jarrett Farkas
  • Sound Designer Weston Fonger
  • Content Producer Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Fact-checker Francisco Diez
  • See more
Additional Resources for you to Explore
For a comprehensive version of The Canterbury Tales, including analysis and notes, visit this site. For useful Chaucer resources, visit the Chaucer homepage at the British Library.

You can find more information about the lost letters of the Middle English alphabet here, and the history of the language here.

Learn more about the social world Chaucer represented, the different roles of each of the characters, and how they were divided here.

Plus, you can encounter a virtual tour of Chaucer’s England and the sites his pilgrims visit here.

The Canterbury Tales have supplied ample historical material, as well as literary influence and rollicking entertainment, by informing audiences about society during the Middle Ages—and sharing the way ordinary folk spoke and joked in the context of everyday life.

This article
explores the variation in voice and narrative style throughout the Tales. The variation and vitality of the language is one of the most beloved traits of Chaucer’s writing. This article makes the case for Chaucer’s continuing popularity.

This piece explores what we know about the author and his creative process.

In this documentary, Chaucer is discussed as the “father of modern literature.”

Although Medieval society was dominated by the codes of religion, Chaucer’s world is anything but solemn, and is frequently radical—from the feminist tale of the Wife of Bath to the bawdy humor or scatalogical language of some of the vignettes.

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Iseult Gillespie
  • Director Anton Bogaty
  • Narrator Adrian Dannatt
  • Animator Anton Bogaty
  • Composer Jarrett Farkas
  • Sound Designer Weston Fonger
  • Content Producer Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Fact-checker Francisco Diez
  • See more