Saturday, 5 May 2018

Chaucer and the Tudors


 Image result for chaucer canterbury tales

On April 8th I attended the Canterbury Medieval Weekend (https://www.canterbury.ac.uk/arts-and-humanities/school-of-humanities/medieval-canterbury-weekend/medieval-canterbury-weekend.aspx).
It hammered down with rain all day but the lectures were really interesting and well attended. I learned that a tailor's apprentice found a copy of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in the Merchant Tailor's Hall library shortly after 1420 and he thought that this would be just the thing to read out to entertain his fellow apprentices at one of the feast day banquets. The other apprentices loved the stories and before long the stories were being clandestinely copied and circulated amongst other apprentices.  The wife of Bath's tale proved to be very popular amongst the young men. After Chaucer's death there were very few copies of his works and most were in private collections except for the one in the Merchant Tailors' library which was most probably donated by John Brinchele. I also learned that Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a treatise on the astrolabe in middle English around 1391. The treatise was intended to have been in five parts but only the first two were written or have survived. There is a fair amount of astronomical observation in Chaucer's Franklin's Tale so Chaucer was obviously interested in observing the night sky.
The third thing I learned was that the Tudors did not refer to themselves as Tudors. Shakespeare's Richard III never mentions the word Tudor but the real Richard III was ever ready to declare Henry the grandson of Owen Tudor so as to show he had only a very weak claim to the throne. In fact the word Tudor does not appear in any of Shakespeare's plays at all. The real Tudor name may actually have been Tudur in the Welsh language. Henry Tudor referred to himself as Richmond so possibly we should refer to the Tudor period as the Richmond era. However, rightly or wrongly the Tudor name has stuck.

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