The Canterbury Tales: A Review

Someone once told me poetry is food for the soul. But they were not referring to The Canterbury Tales. I can see why. When the term “food for the soul” is uttered, one thinks of something noble, inspiring and idealistic. The Canterbury Tales is not that. (At least, I don't think it is. Incidentally, this review is mostly what I didn't like about the book. So don't say I didn't warn you!)

Image source: Goodreads
So let's start at the beginning – shall we?

A bevy of folk are going to Canterbury, which is a pilgrimage within the borders of England, where the story takes place. (And while it was considered a perfectly legitimate pilgrimage, I can't help but wonder if it was something of a budget trip.) And said pilgrims meet at an inn.

It is suggested that to while away the weary hours of travel, each member of the company should tell a tale. This premise actually sounds rather interesting, but it didn't turn out quite the way I would have liked.

Now I know Chaucer’s work is a classic. And it's a great look at the life and views everyday middle aged people. Excuse me, people of the Middle Ages. (Although some of them were in midlife.) And if nothing else, this book is a cornerstone of medieval literature.

But I didn't enjoy it – I found it a bit dull. And because of that, I admit, I didn't work very hard at appreciating this book.

Why, I was only halfway through the knight's tale and my interest was waning. Every time the knight said he would skip a part of his story, I thought “bless you, knight, bless you.” And then when he got to the part about a jousting match in ancient Greece, my mind meandered down a rabbit trail about anachronisms and medieval culture.

But not only was it hard to keep my mind on the narrative, many tales were lewd, crude and terrible inappropriate. 

Having been aware of the raunchy themes prior to reading it, I figured I could skip and skim as I deemed necessary. When I got to the reader's caveat before the miller's tale, that warned the reader of the bawdy story, I had a choice to make. And Chaucer says right there in the book the reader may skip the tale, if they don't care such things. How often does an author say you can/may/should skip a part in their book? So naturally I had to skip it. It was a chance I couldn't miss, and the miller's tale sounded like something I would regret reading rather than regret missing. So I didn't read it.

And if you have made it to the end of this meandering review, congratulations. You are a determined reader. You have proved your mettle. You could very well last through The Canterbury Tales and live to tell, well, the tale.

But to quote Mr. Woodhouse of Jane Austen's novel Emma, I don't want to encourage people to take risks . . .


  1. Haha, I actually have read part of the Canterbury Tales--for a high school English class several years ago. I don't remember a thing about it, but your sentiments feel very familiar. I shall heed your warning and not take this risk. :)

    1. Glad the review was of some help! :D


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