What is the background to The Canterbury Tales? I need information about the author, time period, language, overall structure, and situation.

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Author: Geoffrey Chaucer was born in approximately 1343 and died on 25 October 1400, probably in London or nearby. He came from a family of prosperous tradespeople. He was educated at St. Paul’s Cathedral School, where he would have studied Latin, rhetoric, and classical literature among other topics. In 1366, Chaucer married Philippa Roet, the daughter of a member of the gentry. He prospered in the service of Edward III, engaging in various diplomatic missions. He was the author of many notable poetic works, also including Troilus and Criseyde, Parliament of Fouls, and a treatise on the astrolabe.

Time Period: The poem was written in the 1380s, or the late middle ages. 

Language: The Canterbury Tales was written in Middle English, which blends Old English or Anglo-Saxon with the French language superimposed by the Norman conquest. The poem is one of the earliest English poems using accentual-syllabic verse and is a milestone in the development of iambic pentameter as the most important meter of English.

Structure and Situation: The Canterbury Tales recounts a pilgrimage that takes place in April, beginning in the Tabard Inn in London. Over four days, the pilgrims travel 60 miles to the town of Canterbury. They decide that they will entertain themselves on the journey by telling stories, with each pilgrim agreeing to tell two stories on the way to Canterbury and two on the return. The structure of the book is basically that of a narrator setting the context for the stories with a series of embedded tales.

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The Canterbury Tales

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