Mysteries Behind the Manuscripts

In Chapter one of Opening Up Middle English Manuscripts, the author goes into detail about the different variations that have been made of the Canterbury Tales. Many things stood out to me about this. For instance, the fact that not a lot is known about the original compilation of the tales and why Chaucer did not finish his tales. I thought it was really interesting to see a side by side comparison of the HG and the EL manuscripts and how the scribes decided to order the tales. Many of the tales stay in the same place in both manuscripts, but then some of the tales such as “Man of Law’s Tale” are in completely different places. Did the different scribes find different meaning in this tale? And if so, why did they choose to put it where they did?

Another major mystery that goes along with the Canterbury Tales is the mysterious ending of the tales. The author of OEMUM goes into detail about how each scribe handled the ending of “The Cook’s Tale”. The two manuscripts that the author looked into, HG and EL, both did not try to cover up the ending up the cook’s tale by adding information on Gamelyn, but some of the other manuscripts that were written in this time period did. I thought this was incredible that some scribes actually decided to change the work of Chaucer by adding a complete new ending to the story. Some of the scribes supposedly did this in order to make the story more finished and, supposedly, better. In my opinion, I think leaving Chaucer’s original work is much more satisfying, even if it is not finished.

I was amazed to read about all of the unknown things that surround the Canterbury Tales. As one of the most iconic works in literary history, you would think that they would know much more about it. It was very interesting to me to read about all of the different theories surrounding the manuscripts and all of the scribes. The fact that something with such little information on it is so iconic, even centuries later, just makes the Canterbury Tales even more intriguing to me!

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