Each year I teach selections from Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales.” I find the tales entertaining as well as revealing. I enjoy challenging my students to try and connect these medieval archetypes and their stories with our current world. In most cases, the truth then is still the truth now. It’s not always an easy lesson for my high school students to understand. Then automatically assume that something that old can’t be relevant today. This usually leads to the idea of good literature and how the “truth” in good literature is relevant (to vary degrees, albeit) across eras.
This book takes the fictional characters in “Caterbury Tales” and dives into the historical contexts around each one. That’s what first caught my eye. I hadn’t stopped to consider the “Why” to Chaucer’s decision to describe certain characters one way, or to consider some of the random (in my opinion) details about the character’s personality and clothing. Ms. Picard delves into these details and logics what Chaucer may be telling us about the medieval world.
My favorite part of this read is Ms. Picard’s sense of humor. There’s a lot of medievalists who take themselves VERY seriously. Ms. Picard isn’t one of those. There’s a lot of side comments and alleviate some of the tedious and bawdy aspects of medieval life and added to the reading experience. If you’ve ever encountered the “Canterbury Tales” I highly recommend you give this a read.