The Canterbury Tales: Reading Chaucer across time

Lesson Rationale

Through a focus on digitised images of manuscript and print editions of Chaucer’s work, students will develop their understanding of how his poetry has been produced and read over the centuries. Focusing on the General Prologue, students will become acquainted with the framing device of The Canterbury Tales, enabling them to contextualise the individual Tale they are studying. Activities move from a consideration of medieval illuminated manuscripts through to the late 19th-century medievalism of the Kelmscott Chaucer.

Key questions

  • In what form was Chaucer’s poetry first produced and read?
  • How did the advent of printing serve to popularise The Canterbury Tales?
  • What is the main structure of The Canterbury Tales and what does it tell us about medieval society?
  • In what ways have responses to The Canterbury Tales changed over time?