Lesson 1

The General Prologue, Lines 1-18

Everyone knows the famous opening lines of The Canterbury Tales. Read carefully through the first eighteen lines of The General Prologue, going slowly and making full use of the interlinear translation.

When you are sure you understand the first eighteen lines of the General Prologue, listen to them read aloud.

There is a very useful collection of passages read aloud on Alan Baragona's page "The Criyng and the Soun: The Chaucer Metapage Audio Files," compiled for the Chaucer Metapage. This includes a number of different voices reading the opening lines of the General Prologue, including a female voice, that of Jane Zatta of Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville.

Then choose another reader and listen carefully. You will find slight differences in each version; that is to be expected. No two speakers of Middle English sounded just alike, and no two modern readers will sound exactly the same. For this reason, in the next set of exercises there are a number of different voices reading the words and lines.

Then try it yourself; read aloud the first 18 lines of the General Prologue. Your performance will not be perfect (none of the readers you have heard achieves perfection). It should improve after you have gone through the next lesson.