In Chaucer’s most ambitious poem, The Canterbury Tales (c. 1387), a group of pilgrims assembles in an inn just outside London and agree to entertain each other on the way to Canterbury by telling stories. The pilgrims come from all ranks of society, from the crusading Knight and burly Miller to the worldly Monk and lusty Wife of Bath. Their tales are as various as the tellers, including romance, bawdy comedy, beast fable, learned debate, parable, and Eastern adventure. The Wife of Bath is a favourite amongst many for her insight into the role of women in the Late Middle Ages, and her suggestions of sexual promiscuity. Here is an extract.
Many of our readers will have first acquainted themselves with an Oxford World’s Classic as a child. In these videos, Peter Hunt, who was responsible for setting up the first course in children’s literature in the UK, reintroduces us to The Secret Garden, The Wind in the Willows, and Treasure Island.
We’re celebrating World Theatre Day with an excerpt from Gaston Leroux’s masterpiece The Phantom of the Opera. A mysterious Phantom haunts the depths of the Paris Opera House where he has fallen passionately in love with the beautiful singer Christine Daaé. Under his guidance her singing rises to new heights and she is triumphantly acclaimed. […]
Read the second installment of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s Selected Tales: The Water of Life. What happens to the scheming elder princes and their sea-water goblet next? And will the youngest prince live happily ever after with his beautiful princess?
We’ve picked one of our favourite stories from the Oxford World’s Classics edition of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s Selected Tales: The Water of Life. Read on for part one, and come back for the final twist in the tale tomorrow!
Dickens dissects the characteristics of familiar types of person such as ‘The Bashful Young Gentleman’, ‘The Literary Young Lady’, and ‘The Couple who Coddle themselves’.
On this day in 1922, James Joyce’s Ulysses was first published in its entirety, although the publication history of the book is nearly as complex as the novel itself. Here, we’ve picked one of our favourite extracts from the Oxford World’s Classics edition.
Tibullus was one of a group of poets known as the Latin elegists, whose number included Ovid and Propertius. Living in the age of Augustus, his poems reflect Augustan ideals, but they are above all notable for their emphasis on the personal, and for their subject-matter, love.
The first time I read My Antonia, I hated it. That was to be expected: It was required reading in my sophomore English course at Omaha Central High. This was during the Sixties. In the Age of Aquarius, no one was supposed to like assigned reading. That’s why it had to be assigned. I next confronted My Antonia in college. Like Jim Burden, Willa Cather’s narrator, I had left Nebraska to go to east to continue my education.
The most famous of all vampire stories, Dracula is a mirror of its age, its underlying themes of race, religion, science, superstition, and sexuality never far from the surface. In the video below Roger Luckhurst, editor of the Oxford World’s Classics edition of Dracula, talks about why we’re still enthralled by the original novel.
Pride and Prejudice has delighted generations of readers with its unforgettable cast of characters, carefully choreographed plot, and a hugely entertaining view of the world and its absurdities. With the arrival of eligible young men in their neighbourhood, the lives of Mr and Mrs Bennet and their five daughters are turned inside out and upside down.
By Peter Brown
If Prince William and Catherine Middleton took to heart the wedding sermon delivered in Westminster Abbey by Richard Chartres, bishop of London, then Chaucer is on the royal reading list. The good bishop quoted two lines from the Franklin’s Tale to emphasize that successful relationships should be based on ‘space and freedom’ rather than coercion: ‘Whan maistrie [mastery] comth, the god of Love anon | Beteth his wynges, and farewell, he is gon’.
By Louis René Beres
In Plato’s Republic, a canonic centerpiece of all Western thought, we first read of the “philosopher king,” a visionary leader who would impressively combine deep learning with effective governance. Today, almost 2400 years later, such leadership is nowhere to be found, either in Washington, or in any other major world capital.
Plato’s Republic is the central work of the Western world’s most famous philosopher. Essentially an inquiry into morality, Republic also contains crucial arguments and insights into many other areas of philosophy. In these videos Robin Waterfield, editor of the Oxford World’s Classics edition of Republic, explains why we should read it, and what makes Plato so interesting.
By Peter Hunt
Captain Frederick Marryat, an experienced Naval Officer, was a pioneering writer of sea-and-island adventure stories, such as Peter Simple (1834) and Mr Midshipman Easy (1836). One day his children asked him to write a sequel to The Swiss Family Robinson, Johann Wyss’s extravagant embroidering of the Robinson Crusoe story, which had found its circuitous way into English via William Godwin’s translation of a French version in 1816. Marryat was not amused.
By Helen Small
Pathological lying, the philosopher Sissela Bok tells us, ‘is to all the rest of lying what kleptomania is to stealing’. In its most extreme form, the liar (or ‘pseudologue’) ‘tells involved stories about life circumstances, both present and past’.