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Canterbury Tales or Shakespeare?

What is your opinion; that the Canterbury Tales were better than Shakespeare, or the other way 'round? To start the topic, I think that Shakespeare was better. Even though Chaucer reflected the ideas of his time, he was quite sexist and sometimes stereotyped. Shakespeare, only a few hundered years later, when women were still treated unequally, gave them greater roles. What do you think? Why?
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Re: Canterbury Tales or Shakespeare?

All of Shakespeare's female roles were performed by men until the Restoration (approx. 1670) - so about 75-100 years give or take.  He was essentially writing great roles for boys/young men.  They are now considered great women's roles (Lady Macbeth, Ophelia, Juliet, Viola, etc.) because few productions are mounted in the original style.


Shakespeare is eminently more quotable - written in Chancery Standard/Early Modern English it needs no translation - but Chaucer often has better puns, especially when read alound in the Middle English so you can hear the cadence.


If you haven't read it, Boccacio's Decameron is condsidered a direct influence on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and contains a wide range of humor and pathos.

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Re: Canterbury Tales or Shakespeare?

[ Edited ]

I personally enjoy reading Shakespeare more than I enjoy reading Chaucer, as IMO Shakespeare is a better storyteller.  It's not much of a literary analysis, but I'd rather curl up on the couch with Twelfth Night than Canterbury Tales.

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Re: Canterbury Tales or Shakespeare?

     If Chaucer were alive today I believe he would be a famous stand up comedian &/or a sit-com star.  He wrote comically about the falsehoods of people and the norms of society. 

     Shakespeare,on the other hand, was a brilliant businessman who wrote flowery poetry for the rich and raunchy one liners for the poor.  This type of writing to all classes kept the masses attending his plays.  Today we can compare him to Steven Spielberg or Aaron Sorkin.  Stories are serious with a touch of humor and romance.

     I guess it depends on my mood.  If I wanted light irony I would choose Chaucer or if I was looking for the big picture and deeper story I would choose Shakespeare.

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Re: Canterbury Tales or Shakespeare?

I think I have to agree with you, both Chaucer & Shakespeare bring different styles to the table. Both are equally as enjoyable.

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Re: Canterbury Tales or Shakespeare?

Chaucer is a very mind betwixting author. In "The Canterbury Tales" he was both the author and the narrator. I do not believe, however, that Chaucer was sexist. If a close reading is used on the Wyf of Bath, I personally interpreted that part of Chaucer's text as the way that women in that time, like Allison, who wanted power, or authority in the relationship. Her tale is heavily supports that theme. I think he was merely projecting ot the reader the prospect of balance of power in a marriage. In the Clerk of Oxford's Tale, which in a sense "quyts" the Wyf, his Tale was a exemplum of a wife who obeyed her husband's every whim, but at the end Chaucer writes an envoy imploring his female readers not to follow the Clerk's lead in obeying your husband, but even fight against them.

As for being stereotyped, you have a point, but yet again I think that was Chaucer's sort of aim and charm was to make moral ememplums, escially on the characteristics and fallibility of the Church with the issues of simony, relics, and other abuse of Church power.


Shakespeare is a mind blowing jewel with so many in laid facets. His sonnets, which are interlaced with sexual puns and innuendos will always be explored and new things discovered.

"The Tempest" a play seemingly on the reversion of power and control in society from the very begining. Or Macbeth, a look on the inversion of worlds, living in a walking sleep, a hell on earth. But Shakespeare may or may not appear as treating women uequally. Sometimes Shakespeare could be interpreted as misognistic...that is still difficult to answer.



GREAT TOPIC By the way!

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Re: Canterbury Tales or Shakespeare?

I enjoyed The Canterbury Tales, detested Shakespeare.  Yep, every single work.  I always felt Shakespeare was overrated although I confess his works are much more bearable when viewed as plays (as they're supposed to be) rather than read.

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