Mini Middle English Tutorial

...for absolute beginners!

In this Mini Middle English Tutorial, you will see and hear examples of “Middle English”—the language spoken during the Middle Ages (from the time of the Norman Conquest [1066] until about 1500)—according to this Harvard College Geoffrey Chaucer website.

The Harvard College website examines “The Canterbury Tales,” a collection of stories written in the “Middle English” language by English poet Geoffrey Chaucer at the end of the 14th century.

You can find out all about Geoffrey Chaucer and “The Canterbury Tales” from this index page on the Harvard College website.

You will note the “Navigation” buttons on the upper left side of this page. You can click on the “Video 1-18” button to see and hear the first 18-lines of The General Prologue (Introduction) to “The Canterbury Tales.”

[Print readers will have to go to this tutorial's website address:,

to access these navigation links. The blue/purple, underlined reference-links on this page are listed on the second page of this printout.]

Each line of The General Prologue will be presented in three formats on the video you will see—one under the other. The first format-line will be in the prologue’s Middle English spelling. The second format-line will act as a Pronunciation Guide—to help you to sort out the syllabication of the first format-line. (There is a Pronunciation Guide above the video to help you in this regard.) The third format-line on the video will give you a rough Modern English translation of the first Middle English format-line spelling.

This three-line format in the video is repeated in more detail on the “Lines x-x” pages, where additional information about each pair of rhyming lines (and the Pronunciation Guide on each page) will aid you in familiarizing yourself with the unfamiliar-sounding words that comprise the Middle English language.

Below the “Video 1-18” button there are 9 other buttons (for Lines 1-2, Lines 3-4, etc.) that you can choose from to see and hear the 9-pairs of rhyming lines that comprise the first 18-lines of The General Prologue. Each pair of these rhyming lines is called a couplet.

The original “audio” on the “Video 1-18” page video, and on the “Lines 1-2” thru “Lines 17-18” audio-pages, comes from the Baragona’s Literary Resources website.

The voice you will hear reading the first 18-lines of The General Prologue verse is that of Dr. Tom Hanks of the Baylor University English Department, at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

Most of the information contained in this tutorial was gleaned from the Harvard College Geoffrey Chaucer website, maintained by author and Harvard Professor of English, Emeritus, Larry D. Benson.

A special thanks to Colonel S. Alan Baragona, Professor of English at the Virginia Military Institute.

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