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The ballad

Ballad appeared in Europe when the  idea of courtly love was gaining popularity amongst the nobility. Ballads were a tradition of the unschooled and illiterate. It used simple language and was composed of short stanzas of two or four lines. He balladeer relied on a stock of phrases which he would combine in new ways. For this reason 818h79i ballads tend to be repetitive in structure. Repetition of this type is called a refrain. The stories are tragic, but often have an underlying sense of black humour. There were border ballads, outlaw ballads, ballads of magic and town ballads. My ballads involved form of social and political protest. In 1476 William Caxton established the first printing press in England and he published 80 books. Ballads were considered an expression of the "people", that spoke of common experience. Many English and Scottish Ballads are difficult to date because they came mainly from ordinary country people and were transmitted orally.

Geoffrey Chaucer: life and works

Geoffrey Chaucer was born in London in 1343 into an emerging wealthy class and was educated well. When he was 26, he was frequently employed, on important diplomatic mission both at home and abroad. In Italy he met Petrarch, Boccaccio and Dante. It was during the last ten years of his life that Chaucer worked on his masterpiece The Canterbury Tales, in or around 1376-1377. Chaucer died in 1400. Chaucer's work can be divided in three periods: The French period, the Italian period and the English period. In the French period the translated from French "The Romaunt of the Rose" and he wrote "the Book of the Duchess" for the death of his patron's wife. In the Italian period he wrote "The Parliament of Fouls", "the House of Fame", "Troilus and Criseyde" and "The Legend of Good Women". In the English period he wrote The Canterbury Tales, a group of 120 tales a written by a group of pilgrims.

The Canterbury tales

Who are travelling to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Thomas Becket. The cycle is prefaced by a General Prologue and each tale is preceded by a prologue in which the pilgrim tells us something about himself. Every pilgrims tell two stories on the way to Canterbury and two tales on the way back. The allusion is to Boccaccio's Decameron, in which a group of aristocrats tells stories, but here the situation is somewhat different: in fact the pilgrims met by chance and come from all levels of society. However neither the aristocracy nor the poorest ranks of society are included in Chaucer's gallery. Chaucer's characters have a human and individual quality which makes them extremely vital. In this they are different from characters in medieval ballads who can generally be considered static. Many of the pilgrims are portrayed physically, through detailed description of their clothes and tools which show their character and social standing. Moreover, the pilgrims are often described morally, including their qualities and their weaknesses. But Chaucer is highly modern in the way he suspends judgement of his characters, allowing them free voice. The tales themselves cover a wide range of themes. Among the themes are love, marriage, corruption, hypocrisy and chivalry.


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