A Modern Teenager's Perspective on "The Canterbury Tales"
By Hannah P.
I have read many classic novels during my high school years. My tastes are rather old-fashioned so these books suit me well. This past month, I read The Canterbury Tales and enjoyed the book very much. I studied the history of the Middle Ages while I was reading the book, and The Canterbury Tales addresses many of the practices, beliefs and philosophies of that time. It was a great way to explore medieval literature.
The poetry in The Canterbury Tales is some of the best I have ever read. Before, I didn’t care for poetry because of the “musing” style and primary focus on emotions. But I like the way The Canterbury Tales uses poetry to tell entire stories with fully developed characters. My favorite story is The Knight’s Tale , because it tells a classic story of chivalry and romance set in the ancient Greek era. I also enjoyed The Wife of Bath’s Tale , because it tells a moral story about true beauty being found inside. This is one of the reasons why I prefer classic literature to modern writings; an emphasis on chivalry and morality don’t seem to be very popular for teenage novels and I think that it makes for better heroes and heroines.
A lot of the stories in The Canterbury Tales are religious in nature and talk about the Catholic beliefs of the time. They address the corrupt and greedy nature of some of the members of the church, like the Summoner and the Pardoner. It contrasts well with the respectable and intelligent Parson, and the religious devotion and piety of the nuns. Not all of the tales are spiritual stories though. Some are dramatic tales of love and heroism while others are witty and entertaining. They also feature quite a few Greek and Roman legends and mention characters like Achilles, Phoebus and Theseus. During the Middles Ages and the Renaissance periods, popular interest in Greek and Roman mythology was renewed. As a result, a lot of medieval art and literature often contained references to the ancient legends. The Canterbury Tales are no exception and blend mythology and Catholic symbolism. For example, The Monk’s Tale is a combination of many tragic stories. Some are about real historical figures such as Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar; some are about people from the Bible like Adam and Nebuchadnezzar, while others are about mythological heroes like Hercules.
I would recommend The Canterbury Tales to others who enjoy classic literature and poetry. However, some of the stories like The Miller’s Tale, The Summoner’s Tale, and The Merchant’s Tale, are sometimes crude and include some unsophisticated humor. These tales tell of women scheming about ways to be unfaithful to their husbands; references to sexual misconduct and several vulgar pranks are played on unsuspecting characters. For these reasons I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. But on the whole I found The Canterbury Tales to be a good book with no two stories exactly the same, though several share similar themes. The book says a lot about the culture, religious beliefs, and social views of the era, and is a great companion to a Middle Ages history course.