Greed, gluttony and wrath? It’s the Canterbury Tales board game

Posted on May 24, 2011

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Major excitement for me – and for The Guardian’s Alison Flood, who seems to have had the same sort of madcap English Literature teacher at GCSE who managed to make the blood, boils and bedsores of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales come to life with a healthy dose of high-camp Middle English accents.

Jeremy Thomas was my favourite English teacher, and he’s someone who I’ll never forget because of his quixotic nature. It involved him reading Chaucer’s poetry to us in a plummy Middle English accent which truly accentuated the timbre of turns of phrase like “ywimpled well” (something that my girlfriend, on the rare occasion that she wears bandanas, shares with the Wife of Bath. Luckily she’s not gap-toothed like the Wife, though sadly for her I think that discounts her from being a looker in the 14th century. Plus she’s rather unladylike on a horse: she rides properly, rather than on side-saddle.

In The Road to Canterbury, you play a medieval pardoner who sells certificates delivering sinners from the eternal penalties brought on by these Seven Deadly Sins. You make your money by peddling these counterfeit pardons to Pilgrims travelling the road to Canterbury. Perhaps you can persuade the Knight that his pride must be forgiven? Surely the Friar’s greed will net you a few coins? The Miller’s wrath and the Monk’s gluttony are on full public display and demand pardoning! The Wife of Bath regales herself in luxury, the Man-of-Law languishes in idleness, and that Prioress has envy written all over her broad forehead.

So reads the product description on the makers’ website (by the way, if you’re reading, I’m willing to review the game with a few board game nuts if you’d like to hand over a copy to me). It looks like Monopoly meets literature, which seems fantastic and something that I want to play.

In fact, the game seems to counteract the problem that I had with Chaucer at university: I personally was full of vim at the prospect of learning more, but those around me weren’t, and that’s because the teaching of it was so bland. It’s with something approaching jealousy that I look towards Alf Seegert’s students at the University of Utah, whose professor decided that he didn’t only want to teach the Canterbury Tales, but came up with The Road to Canterbury to help. It’s already raised nearly $15,000 to help it get made on a community-funding project, and I think that there’s enough crossover between board game freaks and Chaucer nerds (with a significant proportion of that strange Venn diagram making up the readership of this blog) to make sure that the game sells plenty when it is released.

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