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Publisher's Summary

At the Tabard Inn, 30 travelers of widely varying classes and occupations are gathering to make the annual pilgrimage to Becket's shrine at Canterbury. It is agreed that each traveler will tell four tales to help pass the time and that the host of the inn will judge the tales and reward the best storyteller with a free supper upon their return.

Thus we hear, translated into modern English, 20-some tales, told in the voices of knight and merchant, wife and miller, squire and nun, and many more. Some are bawdy, some spiritual, some romantic, some mysterious, some chivalrous. Between the stories, the travelers converse, joke, and argue, revealing much about their individual outlooks on life, as well as what life was like in late 14th-century England.

©2003 Gavin Menzies (P)2008 Blackstone Audio

What members say

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  • Overall

Many voices, at times enthralling

This new Blackstone recording of "Canterbury Tales" is wonderful and at times enthralling -- and also at times laugh-out-loud funny. Like the Charlton Griffin recording (also available here), it's the whole ball of wax: every tale, including the often-omitted Tale of Melibee and the Parson's Tale (which is really a three-hour sermon rather than a tale. Listen to it. It's good for the digestion, and quite a bit more interesting than it sounds). This translation, by J.U. Nicholson, uses a more old-fashioned vocabulary in places than the Coghill translation used by Griffin; but at the same time, it's also saltier. There are few crude names for parts or functions of the human body that Chaucer fails to use at one point or another, and most of them find their way into this recording. (For me, that's a GOOD thing!) One notable feature is that this is a multi-voice recording. Martin Jarvis is Chaucer, Ralph Cosham the Lawyer, Simon Vance the Squire; and that's only a few examples. Both this version and Griffin's version are five-star recordings in my book. Griffin's has occasional music, which this one lacks; on the other hand, this one has greater variety of tone and voice.

136 of 136 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A helpful index

I love this audio version of the Tales, but without an index it can be frustrating to locate a particular tale. I'm a teacher, and like to have students listen to excerpts. I didn't complete the times for all of the tales, but hopefully what I provide here will save another teacher a lot of time.
Canterbury Tales Bookmarks on Audible edition

Part I
General Prologue, Part I to 46:20

Knight's Tale, Part I 46:25-- 2:51:52

Miller's Tale, Part I 2:52:03-- 3:30

Reeve's Tale, 3:30-- 3:55

Cook's Tale, 3:55-- 4:06

Lawyer's Tale, 4:06-- 4:57

Sailor's Tale, 4:57-- 5:23

Prioress' Tale, 5:23-- 5:39

Sir Thopas, 5:39-- 5:50

Melibee, 5:50-- 7:49

Part II

Monk, 00-- 48.56

Nun's Priest, 49:00-- 1:25:46
Epilogue 1:25:46 - 1:26.41

Physician, 1:26-- 1:42:13

Words of Host to Physician and Pardoner, 1:42:23-- 1:45

Pardoner, 1:45-- 2:18

Wife of Bath, 2:18-- 3:32:54

Friar 3:32:56 --




Part III

Squire, 00-- 32:21 (unfinished)

Host to Squire and Franklin, 32:22-- 34:15

Franklin, 34:15-- 1:18:33

Second Nun's Tale, 1:18:33

Canon's Yeoman



Here the Maker, 6:19-- 6:21:50

218 of 220 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Dawn
  • San Marcos, TX, USA
  • 03-11-09

Perfect for grad students

I purchased this audiobook to listen to as I read the Tales in Middle English for a graduate level seminar in Chaucer. Listening to this translation brought a deeper level of understanding to my studies. The translators' voices and tones fit perfectly with the tales they related. I enjoyed this experience immensely, and would recommend it to any student of Medieval Literature.

42 of 42 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Marco
  • West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • 03-25-09

Great all around!

I thought the people reading these stories were fantastic! They were clear, emotive, and clearly had a strong grasp of what they were reading. Sometimes I had trouble navigating through the tales to find the one that I wanted, but that's just a minor inconvenience.

18 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

A Perfect Canterbury Tales from Many Voices

The fourteen readers of The Canterbury Tales are excellent in changing their inflection, tone, and register to suit whatever is happening in their tales. Thus the ribald tales and insulting exchanges between pilgrims are funny, the tragic tales moving, and the virtuous tales uplifting. Nicholson's translation into modern English seems accurate enough; he maintains much of Chaucer's language and rhymes. At the same time, it is easy to follow the tales because of the fine readers, the clear translation, and Chaucer's natural storytelling.

The tales and their prologues and epilogues (in which the pilgrims comment on the tales and each other) are fascinating and enjoyable and depict the full range of human folly (sanctimonious con men friars, corrupt judges, cuckolded husbands, lickerish wives, drunken cooks, and crooked millers) and goodness (noble courtly lovers, wise wives, faithful husbands, self-sacrificing virgins, and pure saints). The variety of tales is also impressive: beast fables, ribald jokes, sermons, parables, romances, and so on. They give a priceless glimpse into various Medieval English occupations, lifestyles, and philosophies.

In short, if you're interested in Chaucer's tales, the Middle Ages, fine readings of good poetry, and life, or if you're studying the original Middle English version, I recommend this audiobook.

29 of 30 people found this review helpful

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This audio is worth the listen

I once owned the Canterbury Tales but I gave it to my local library when I moved, I really liked Canterbury but I did not have the time to reread them, Audio Books makes it possible for me to enjoy this collection again. Thirty travelers, from many walks of life, on a pilgrimage to the shrine at Canterbury are invited by the Tabard Inn keeper to tell stories that he will judge in exchange for a free meal when the winner returns. The travelers tell their stories covering many topics which are narrated by Martin Jarvis and Jay Carnes both doing justice to Geoffrey Chaucer works. This version of Canterbury is worth hearing and one I will come back to in the future, it is a keeper.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Marvelous, marvelous!

ALWAYS compelling. The verse is a joy to hear. In addition, Chaucer's crude, vulgar passages are uproarious! I WILL admit, however, that the Parson's tale, tho interesting, is a pain-in-the-ass to listen to (and I'm sure his fellow pilgrims probably agreed!). Overall, quite a treat!

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

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Best way to "read" Chaucer!

If you could sum up The Canterbury Tales in three words, what would they be?

Moral, Eternal, Bawdy

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Realizing that the common theme was that you eventually get what you deserve.

Any additional comments?

Having these classic tales told by the excellent narrators gave them life and made them understandable and enjoyable. It really beat reading them in school!

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Epitome of what an audio book should be!

A Middle-English classic in the tradition of the Decameron, a series of storied told by a wide cross-section of 15th century English men & women. Terrific story telling, wonderful reading and a translation that maintains the rhythms and syntax of the original. Listening to the readers I found it simple to follow the original Middle English.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

Finally it made sense...

Would you consider the audio edition of The Canterbury Tales to be better than the print version?

Gee. I've struggled in print both in old english and whatever modern translation I had but this translation was alive whereas in the past the language stood in my way. This time the language enhanced the personalities of the story...

Who was your favorite character and why?

I forget her name but she had intensely foul language.. and poetry to boot..

Have you listened to any of the narrators’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

This was a good group for the various voices.. Women and men telling the tale..

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

No not one moment but I realized that I probably am a medieval christian prior to being a Buddhist..

Any additional comments?

Listen and let this solve the mystery of what the whole trip was about...

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
  • Curran
  • 01-08-13

masterly reading makes this classic enjoyable

I am not in the least a Chaucer scholar - partly because previously I had not managed to get very far with reading the Tales for myself. So I can only write as a novice and an amateur, but I am listening intently and enjoying the book in a multiplicity of ways. The variety of the Tales themselves, the drama and humour of the work, the way in which is it all structured; and the music of the language , which is retained in this modern translation and which does gain from being read aloud. I hesitated for some time before buying this book, thinking it might be too much for me. On the contrary, I am relishing it and am grateful to such gifted readers for bringing this very special text alive for me.

18 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Zoe
  • 04-07-13

Olde English classic

If, like me, you have always intended to read this national treasure but been daunted by the language then the audiobook is a good option. The various narrators do an excellent job of bringing the different characters to life. Some tales are witty and interesting but I found a few others to be too preachy or long-winded for modern tastes. However, I am glad that I have finally heard the tales in full!

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Story
  • 12-01-15

English Classic

I wish Goodreads allowed us a half mark, as this book is worth 4 1/2 star rating. I could not give it 5 as that belongs to the original Middle English version which I have read along side this version.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • Hilary
  • 07-10-17

Great balance achieved

Great balance struck between not using Chaucerian English yet staying as close to it as possible whilst easy to understand for the modern reader. Excellent version, though inevitably a lot of Chaucer's subject matter is mess appealing today but I skipped through those parts on 2x speed (mainly religious lists) and slowed down to enjoy the rollicking yarns.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-21-14

Bit disappointing

Like other reviewers I thought I would try this having struggled with the books, thinking that a "modern english " version might be easier. Although it isn't Chaucerian language I still would not call this modern english. Prehaps it's was the book and not the language I am not enjoying, but can't fault the actors.

1 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Miss
  • 05-27-14

How bizarre

I am glad I am not a literature student and have to read through and study these. I bought them because it was something I thought I should have read, a classic. I didn't manage to complete, perhaps only one third. Many of them just appear to be rhyming toilet humour. A group of people go on pilgrimage - a rough set of coarse non-believing folk it appears, why go to a holy site? Each tells a different tale to entertain the others, some are very sad and moral, most smutty and boring. It is rather hard to listen to great quantities of poetry when used to listening to prose, but the narrators do a very good job. Not recommended, but perhaps I am a literary heathen.

2 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Story
  • Ian
  • 02-18-16

A Spot o' Banter

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Only for those who liked good rhyming schemes.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Canterbury Tales [Blackstone]?

The friar's tale

Any additional comments?

I want to translate all future books into rhyme.
Also, its not olde or middle English, very listenable.

0 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Mr. Paul M. Quirk
  • 04-08-13

Not as good as I thought it might be...

I bought this because I have never read the Cantebury tales and thought I really ought to. At it's best it is amusing in parts but so much of book is intended to be salutory that I found myself wishing seveal of the pieces would just end.

The narration was fine with some excellent performances and that did help somewhat, but at the end we have a rather preachy story lightened with a few interesting tales.

1 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Daniel
  • 02-26-12

The Canterbury Tales

It may be a classic but since my daughter wasn't that into it I will have to give it one star.

1 of 52 people found this review helpful