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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 16 July 2011
My review relates specifically to the Kindle edition of the Canterbury Tales (Bantam Classic) as at July 2011. Judging from the other very positive reviews, my guess is that the print version of this book is much, much, much better!

I was looking for a good version of Cantebury Tales for Kindle, ideally with both middle english and modern text, and this ebook sounded perfect as described. I downloaded the sample and I was impressed by the content as far as it went. Unfortunately, the sample content only includes the Table of Contents, Preface and Introduction etc. It did not contain any portion of the Tales themselves, not even part of the General Prologue. So I purchased the whole thing to have a better look. That's when I decided to give this a 1-star rating in Kindle edition.

Amazon really do need to ensure that Kindle sample content samples the book and not just its introductory sections.

According to other reviewers, in the printed version the two formats of the text (middle english and modern) are presented opposite each other on facing pages. Ideal!

I knew this would not be possible on Kindle which can only display one page (or part page) at a time so I expected a bit of a challenge. But...woe...the formatting is such that blocks of middle english text and the modern text just follow on from each other with no clear breaks between the two versions of text and no way of jumping between the two. The poetry line formatting is OK but The Knight's Tale, for example, is just one continuous poem with middle english, then modern english, then middle english again etc. Every page and a half you have to spot the line where one text ends and the other begins. There is rarely even a line gap to make that easy to do. It is very, very hard therefore to read the work fluently in either text format and pretty much impossible to try to compare the two. I gave up trying after flicking through the General Prologue and the Knight's Tale.

For me, this makes this Kindle edition of this book practically unreadable in either middle or modern english. I have requested a refund from Amazon which I am sure will be forthcoming.
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on 4 May 2003
As with all of the Penguin Classics, this is a nicely presented book. An introduction at the start covers the life and works of Chaucer in good detail.
The text has been updated into modern English by Neville Coghill. It is easy to read and retains the effect of Chaucer's poetic language.
The modern English means that it is easy to understand but is not suitable for those needing to study the original English. There are, however, boooks with the original old English.
A very informative set of notes and annotations add to the efectiveness of the translation, and give essential detail needed to understand the text.
All of the tales are included, including the General Prologue.
Worth buying if you need to study the tales or are interested in reading them and understanding them properly.
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on 4 May 2004
Steeling myself for the hell I remember this book to be from my school days, I was delighted to find reading it to be a completely different experience!
I couldn't put it down - I can't admit to understanding absolutely all of it, but the notes at the bottom of each page really help to bring the text to life and the book itself brings to life this period of the middle ages.
It gives indepth social commentary which I believe anyone would benefit from having sight of.
I would recommend this book most highly; it is fantastic! (My only regret is there is no sequel)
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on 21 December 2001
Although difficult at first to get your head around the old english, be patient and before long you will enjoy geoffrey Chaucers unique sense of humour and light critizicm of the times.
The Wife of Baths story is particuarly interesting. Her tale of the woes of marriage - which for her are numerous! are hilarious! she argues for remarriage very well, and her whole demenour is a refreshing change from those male dominated times. it is worth buying this book, just to be able to read the wifes story.
Dont be put off by the language - it adds to the appeal.
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This version will appeal most to those who have read and studied The Canterbury Tales and enjoyed them.
The Canterbury Tales are best heard aloud. With commentary by Professor Murphy and talented actors, the various tales come appealingly alive. Chaucer's Middle English has its archaic words explained, and leaves the beauty of the meter and rhymes intact.
The tales explore primarily relations between men and women, people and God, and consistently challenge hypocrisy. The tales also exemplify all the major story forms in use during the Middle Ages.
The book's structure is unbelievable subtle and complex, providing the opportunity to peel the onion down to its core, one layer at a time. Modern anthologies look awfully weak by comparison.
Although the material is old, the ideas are not. You will also be impressed by how much closer God was to the lives of these people than He is today. The renunciation at the end comes as a mighty jolt, as a result.
My favorites are by the miller, wife of Bath, pardoner, and nun's priest.
Where do you see the opportunity to give and share spiritual and worldly love? How can you give and receive more love?
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on 26 August 2002
This modern translation is for those who struggle with Chaucer's original language. Coghill's melodious verse captures the timely flow of the original text, thus preventing the reading from becoming a slow and erudite undertaking. Chaucer's Tales were not designed for sluggish meditation, but to be read aloud in an engaging manner, which is what makes this translation an ideal buy for those who wish to experience the Tales for their original charm.
The immortal Canterbury Tales is a must for all lovers of great literature. What we can witness in this noble poem "is the concise portrait of an entire nation: high and low, old and young, male and female, rogue and righteous, land and sea, town and country", as Nevill Coghill describes in his introduction to this translation. The past has become magical to us through the great works of Epic poetry; where the Greeks had Homer, and the Roman's Virgil; the English have none other than Geoffrey Chaucer.
It is only infrequently that we can find classic ideas that have captured readers throughout the ages, be it Pickwick's proposed adventure to study his fellow men, Dante's quest for his beloved Beatrice, or indeed Chaucer's undying Pilgrimage; The Canterbury Tales manifests its own unique appeal in an immortal journey through the Tales of many different voices.
On the Eve of a Pilgrimage from a London Cheapside Inn to St Thomas a Becket's shrine in Canterbury, a group of thirty pilgrims are challenged by the inn's Host to a competition: to while away their morrow's journey by each telling a tale; on returning to London their Host will then decided the best storyteller: and their reward? a luxurious meal on behalf of that Pilgrim's fellows. What follows are many tales, of many varieties: those of courtly love, bawdy comedy, fresh wit, menacing macabre, didactic fables, in short, to use John Dryden's words "God's plenty".
But it is the prologue to Chaucer's great collection of tales that marks its individuality from the Likes of Ovid, Petrarch and Boccaccio - of whom some of the tales are largely indebted to. The translator of this edition advocates that "in all literature there is nothing that touches or resembles the prologue". And this is by all means a cogent argument: what we witness at the beginning of Tales is patchwork quilt of Medieval England, a Tapestry of Chaucer's times, or if you like: a doorway into a world long faded away.
The prologue simply follows the task of introducing the diverse tellers of the Tales, and yet in doing so it records a valuable sample of history. William Blake faithfully promulgates the Prologue's vitality by declaring that: "Chaucer is himself the great poetical observer of men, who in every age is born to record and eternize its acts". The Pilgrims are not only well presented characters, they are also true embodiments of normality. What we see in the Tales is not just a snap-shot of Olde England, but something indeed far bigger: a blueprint of our own society's individuals - "the perennial progeny of men and women". What Chaucer portrays to us in his Canterbury Tales is nothing greater than our very selves.
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on 30 August 2007
As is proved by the delightfully wicked set of stories mirroring in some respects Boccaccio's Decameron, which predated Chaucer, but which expand on bawdiness and give a fascinating insight into human nature: the very language is stripped of all ambiguity: for example, 'and sodeynly anon, Damyan gan pullen up hir smock and in he throng' is almost something out of a Jilly Cooper, although far more exotic!

And if you don't like the olde English, you can read the translation, which I think is extremely helpful if you're new to Chaucer or don't warm immediately to the lingo.
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on 29 December 2012
I downloaded this version as it was cheaper than others and I am studying Chaucer for my A Level English Literature. However, the stories are not in the original old English but have been translated into modern English - totally unhelpful as the whole point is that they were in Middle English! Moreover, you have to skim through the whole book to find a particular tale as the contents page has no links or page numbers. Overall, an unworthy copy, I would advise you to look for a different version, what a waste of money!
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on 11 June 2011
I'm afraid I have to give this no stars (except the system won't let you), it certainly doesn't deserve the one star I had to give it in order to leave a review. The first 4% seems to be a long introduction which mentions that the volume also includes poems by Spencer which I didn't really want, but this is not mentioned in the listing description. When you finally get to the actual text of the Canterbury Tales it seems to be neither the original medieval spelling or a modern translation. They seem to have 'mispelt' the words in a different way or updated some of them to modern spelling in a random way.

It is truly irritating that there is not enough information about these e-books for you to make an informed choice, except when people have kindly left reviews to give some guidance.

It would be much more helpful if in cases like this they could tell you if in the original or a modern translation and more about what the e-book contains and the formatting.

It doesn't matter so much if it is a free one but there aren't any Canterbury Tales for free.
I would say this is no good whatsoever for someone studying Chaucer seriously or for someone who wants a modern translation so you can get the story without coping with the original language. This falls badly between both of these. Don't bother buying it I would say. Off to try another one. Incidently anyone know if you can get a refund for e-books?
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on 3 February 2012
Unfortunately, this text has not been formatted for the Kindle and is practically unreadable. Sections of the modern translation flow on from the original text without even a line break. I spent much of my time skipping back and forth, trying to work out where I was.

The introduction and pronunciation notes were very helpful but the above issue meant that I gave up halfway through the General Prologue. I am now looking for an alternative version.

If you would like a modern translation to accompany the original then I suspect a printed edition with the texts on facing pages would be the better solution.
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