The Canterbury Tales Questions and Answers
by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Canterbury Tales book cover
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In what genre does The Canterbury Tales fall?  

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Dayna Balistreri eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The genre of The Canterbury Tales is hard to pin down. It is certainly poetry—other than the two prose tales, the work is written in rhyming couplets in iambic pentameter. The Canterbury Tales are also a collection of tales, almost like an anthology, each loosely connected by a frame story. These tales contain elements of comedy, adventure, morality, and courtly love. While the tales themselves fall into these different genre categories, the story as a whole is satirical. Chaucer creates a frame narrative in the "General Prologue"—when all the pilgrims meet and decide to have a contest to tell the best tale—in order to let the readers know that this is a work that readers can laugh at. The narrator's straightforward and naive descriptions that inadvertently mock and expose the laughable parts of each of the pilgrims set readers up to find humor in each pilgrim's tale.

In short, the genre might be best described as a collection of tales, written in verse, that contain elements of satire.

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mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Talesis recognized as the first book of poetry written in the English language. A composer of French poetry as well, Chaucer incorporates in his tales many of the techniques of this genre. There are, however, two tales that are written in prose: "The Tale of Melibee" and "The Parson's Tale." Within this broad genre of poetry, Chaucer's work falls into the categories of narrative, satiric, romantic, and fabliau, a short metrical tale of French poetry which is usually a rough (bawdy) and humorous narrative. Examples of fabliaux are "The Miller's Tale" and "The Reeve's Tales."

The narrator of Chaucer's poetry is anonymous and should not be mistaken as the voice of the poet. By using his naive voice of the anonymous narrator, Chaucer is able in is intricate tableaux of medieval life to incorporate a wide range of attitudes. The Canterbury tales in, without question, Geoffrey Chaucer's magnum opus.

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