The Canterbury Tales is an extensive piece of literature. Despite the fact that it was unfinished, Chaucer’s tale includes a large cast of characters, each with a different story to tell. Their stories feature a variety of places across the world. My goal was to create a map of all the locations that are mentioned in the Canterbury Tales and write a brief description about why the location is mentioned and in which pilgrim’s tale it is featured. I also want to look at the map and see what observations I can make about some of the locations in the tales and the man who wrote them.
I collected my data by uploading the Canterbury Tales text into Recogito and and downloading the spreadsheet that was generated. However, before that, I had to clean up some incorrect data. Recogito placed several locations incorrectly and I had to change them or delete them. Then, I added the location descriptions into the spreadsheets and then proceeded to upload it to CARTO and created the map below. Please note that the locations on the map might not be all of the places in the Tales. These are only the locations that Recogito could detect. So, there might be more locations that Recogito did not recognize.
By simply looking at the map above, we can make some general observations about the data that was collected. We can see that the majority of locations that are mentioned in Chaucer’s work are in Europe and the near east, with a handful of locations in Asia and North Africa. We can observe that the countries with the most mentioned locations are Britain, France and Italy. Britain, of course, is the main setting of the story and where Chaucer is from. So, it should not be surprising to us that a large number of the locations mentioned in story would be from Chaucer’s home nation. Chaucer has also been to France to serve in the English army during the Hundred Years War. He was also interested in French literature and wrote his own translation of the Roman de la Rose. This could explain why French locations are featured heavily in the Canterbury Tales. Chaucer also lived in Italy for a while and is said to have been inspired by famous Italian poets, especially Dante Alighieri, Giovanni Boccaccio and Francis Petrarch. That could explain why so many of the places he wrote about are parts of Italy. By looking at those three examples, we can argue that most of Chaucer’s work (like most authors) was inspired by his own experiences and biases.
In addition to the location map, I created the map below to help us visualize the frequency that each location was mentioned. The amount of times the each location is mentioned is represented by the colors on the hexes. With the lightest color being the lowest amount and the darkest color being the highest amount. There were multiple locations that were mentioned only once. Rome, the location that most frequently appeared in the text, was mentioned 28 times and then Athens and Thebes were next in line. The tales in which these places were featured (The Man of Law’s Tale and The Knight’s Tale) were quite long. So, that would explain why they were mentioned so much.