If you want to understand the daily life and psychology of the Late Middle Ages, Neville Coghill's famous translation of The Canterbury Tales provides one of the very best means of doing so. Within its pages are to be found a broad range of society - high and low, male and female, rich and poor - who express their innermost beliefs and extravagant fantasies in a series of stories they tell as they make their way to Canterbury cathedral. Politics, religion, commerce, philosophy, love, sex, honor, alchemy and just about everything known at the time is discussed with gusto and sincerity by these lively pilgrims.
From the pious tales of nuns to the bald ribaldry of common tradesmen, the full panoply of Medieval man is on display here. And it is done with a genius unmatched in any work of its time.Chaucer, who was active in the second half of the 14th century, lived in a dynamic and epoch-changing period. He was a participant in the Hundred Years War and knew the great King Edward VII personally. He was an eyewitness to events of the time and his wry wit was put to brilliant use in service to his poetry, among the best ever written by an Englishman.
©1951 Neville Coghill (P)2010 Audio Connoisseur
"Lovely timbre - some shocking mispronunciations!"
Mr Griffin's voice is a mellifluous baritone and easy on the ear. However, he appears to be an American assuming a very odd English accent.
This includes some rather irritating vowel sounds, e.g. 'off' as 'orf' 'dog' as 'dawwwg' - akin to Loyd Grossman's idiosyncratic Boston accent, which I suspect is odd to both the American and English ear. Very wearing after a while.
It presume he is not attempting a Middle English accent as this is a translation!
Most disconcerting is his apparent lack of research into the correct pronunciation of English words. He falls into the trap many Americans (of the 'Lye-ses-ter Square' variety) do of pronouncing some English words as they are written, rather than how an Englishman - especially a Londoner - would pronounce them. e.g. Michaelmas (he pronounces 'Michael' as in the name, not 'Micklemas' as it should be; Southwark should be 'Suthak'; 'Derby' should be 'Darby' etc.
Also, he sometimes seems not to quite to understand the actual meaning of some phrases and sentences, rather relying on his beautiful voice instead of taking time to understand his material.
In retrospect, I would have preferred to have had these wonderful tales read to me by a good English actor - or at least someone who had taken the trouble to do adequate research.
There is no question that Mr Griffin has a fine voice - but I consider this particular reading to be a little slapdash.
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