Broadcaster: BBC Radio 4
Year:  2011
Genre: Documentary

Review by  Lisa Smalley

Starting off in South London and moving Canterbury West, Lenny Henry tries to get to grips with the Middle English in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.  ‘This is not Jay-Z, its G.C’.  Tourists often believe the Middle English version of the prologue to be a foreign language, and Lenny finds reading it a challenge.  The question here is does Chaucer remain relevant over six hundred years after his death?

With brief outlines of the plot and use of language in The Canterbury Tales, students of EN2010 may find this a useful introduction to the ‘Chaucer and English Tradition’ module.

Accompanied at various points by readings of the prologue set to music, various efforts have been made over the years to keep public interest in The Canterbury Tales, with even a musical version produced for the stage.

The contributors to this programme seem to be in agreement that Chaucer had a skill for depicting the subtlety of human nature.  Even making a comparison with ‘Coronation Street’, in that human nature hasn’t really changed over six hundred years.  The stereotypes that existed then still exist today, which allow modern readers to identify with characters’ strengths and weaknesses.  Allowing appreciation to be found in each generation.

Tags: Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, Middle English, EN2010, Chaucer and English Tradition.