Canterbury Rap

Chaucer's tales become rap



A rap artist has translated some of the best known works of poet Geoffrey Chaucer into hip-hop to make them appeal to schoolchildren.  Canadian Baba Brinkman wants modern teenagers to warm to the 14th-century Canterbury Tales.  He is to tour English schools with his versions of the Pardoner's Tale, Miller's Tale and Wife of Bath's Tale.  Some of Chaucer's original

bawdier language had to be "toned down" for his young audience.  Baba told the BBC News website: "All the themes of rap music are there in the tales: jealousy, anger, greed, lust.  The Miller's Tale in particular contains a lot of references to genitalia and body humour. Some of it had to be censored to make it suitable for children."  Baba had the idea of converting Chaucer into rap when he was doing a masters' degree on the poet in the late 1990s.  He said: "I tried to keep the rap versions as close as possible to the original, so I went through the tales line-by-line.  It was a painstaking process to convert Chaucer into a rhyme scheme that young people would like."

I read some of the Canterbury Tales for my English Literature A-level in 1991-93, and we read the original Middle English version.  The first time you see Middle English it looks like a foreign language, and Chaucer wasn't concerned with consistency of spelling.

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