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 article.

Click for menu menu icon

You will note the “menu” icon-bars symbol directly above, that will be found on each page of this tutorial. If you click on the icon-bars symbol above, a menu will open, and you can then click on the Video (Lines 1–18) option to see and hear a video of the first 18 lines of The General Prologue (Introduction) to “The Canterbury Tales.”

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 full 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 1–34 audio page, where additional information about each line (and the Pronunciation Guide on each page) will aid you in familiarizing yourself with the unfamiliar-sounding words that comprise the Middle English language.

It is worth noting that Lines 1 thru 34 of the The General Prologue (that you will be hearing and reading on the Lines 1–34 audio page) are grouped into rhyming pairs of lines called couplets, as in “lines 1 & 2,” “lines 3 & 4,” etc.

The original “audio” on the “Video (Lines 1–18)” video page, and on the “Lines 1–34” audio page, comes from the Baragona’s Literary Resources website.

The voice you will hear reading Lines 1 thru 18 of The General Prologue verse is that of Dr. Tom Hanks, Jr., recently retired Professor of English of the Baylor University English Department, at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

The voice you will hear reading Lines 19 thru 34 of The General Prologue will be that of Colonel S. Alan Baragona, Emeritus Professor of English at the Virginia Military Institute.

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.

Note: Editing, enhancement, and file-conversion of the audio clips for Lines 19 thru 34 of the The General Prologue were accomplished using the free, open source Audacity sound editor and recorder.

A special thanks to Dr. Thomas Hanks for metrical marking guidance with lines 19–34.

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