On April 17, 1397, Geoffrey Chaucer first told The Canterbury Tales at the court of King Richard II, introducing the world to one of the most lasting literary works in history, driven by such memorable characters as the Wife of Bath. The Tales, which may have been the first to use a pilgrimage as its framing device, drew from many other famous works of the time, including the Bible and the poetry of Ovid. It offers a fascinating peek into the everyday lives of people at that time, as it includes characters from all walks of life (gentry, clergy, merchant class, working class), and doesn’t shrink from commenting on current events and questionable practices (like selling absolution for sins). This, and the fact that the stories are really fun to read, accounts for the poem’s longevity. Over the centuries, it’s inspired stories, operas, and plays from authors that range from Shakespeare to J.K. Rowling, and it’s been made into a movie at least twice. It’s also a mainstay of many a college and high school English class’s curriculum, ensuring the Tales live on as a new generation discovers them year after year.

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