Figure 1. Julie Walters as the Wife of Bath in BBC-TV’s contemporary adaptation of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

*this paper assignment is adapted from Prof. Alan Baragona’s ENG413 Chaucer course at Virginia Military Institute, which he has generously shared with us.

Contemporary Chaucer

On YouTube you will find modernized television versions of two of Chaucer’s tales produced a few years ago by the BBC: “The Knight’s Tale” and “The Wife of Bath” (which combines her prologue and tale, as well as her portrait in “The General Prologue”).

Pick one of these BBC episodes and compare it thoroughly to Chaucer’s original.  Consider the significance of the absence of a tale teller if that is appropriate, and look for every parallel you can find. Consider how the producers came up with modern equivalents of Chaucer’s characters and plot devices and whether the TV show captures, distorts, or just waters down Chaucer’s tale. Make sure you refer to passages in the text to support your view of Chaucer’s intentions. Use only the Middle English text for quotations, paraphrases and reference to content. Even if you are writing about a tale that you also read in Modern English, you should not rely on the translation as evidence for your opinion, in case the translator changed the text in a way that would undermine your case.

Ultimately, I would like for you to ruminate [to reflect and think out loud] in any way you see fit on how the contemporary television adaptation of the tale sheds light on Chaucer’s original story and methods as a an artist, and conversely, how having read Chaucer’s original story has helped you to detect things [meaning-wise and otherwise] in the television adaptation you otherwise would not have noticed. What, finally, is the value, in your opinion, of such adaptations, both for reading Chaucer but also for thinking about how his work endures?

Length: 5-6 double spaced pages.

Due: Monday, October 24th

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