As the wife of a music teacher, I find myself surrounded by a cacophony of musical inspiration each day. Inevitably, this music works its way into my English lessons, as it did this week in the case of The Canterbury Tales. This year my senior British Literature class took about five days to read through the Prologue, and after the first day of reading, I was already sensing some yawns and drooping heads. I decided to break up the monotony with a daily "Canterbury Playlist" for the remainder of the week. At the beginning of each class period, I played a song that reminded me of one of the Canterbury characters, and I picked a lucky student to guess which one. We had a good laugh and tried another song until we had reviewed each of the characters from the previous day. Then I had my students send me links to YouTube songs that reminded them of various Canterbury characters. This is the most fun I have had with Chaucer's prologue in the four years I have taught this unit!
Here are the songs I chose for the different characters (I only played about 30 seconds of each):
Knight – “Battle Scars” Lupe Fiasco
The knight bravely fought in many battles. Obviously, this song is talking about figurative scars, but it reminds me of the knight's courage regardless!
Squire – “I Get Around” Beach Boys OR “I Feel Pretty” West Side Story
I played "I Get Around" for my students since they seemed particularly amused by the Squire's exploits with the ladies, but next time I might play "I Feel Pretty." This guy was dressed like a meadow, for goodness' sake!
Yeoman – “I’m Still a Guy” Brad Paisley
Any pilgrim wearing camouflage deserves this song played in his honor. My students caught on to this one right away!
Prioress – “Mr. Lonely” Bobby Vinton
Because The Canterbury Tales was written in a time when older siblings had to marry before the younger could enter matrimony, unattractive elder sisters were often given to the convent so their younger siblings could marry. The Prioress is described as a very large woman with a forehead the width of an outstretched hand, making this scenario extremely plausible. The poor, lonely, nun. :(
Monk – “My Way” Frank Sinatra
The Monk is known for breaking all the rules. He does everything "his way." Clever, right?
Friar – “I’m Gonna Marry for Money” Trace Adkins
This one is more of a stretch, but the Friar is Mr. Charming in any situation that could get him a dime. He sweet talks and gives gifts in order to beg for money. "Marry for Money" follows the same theme.
Wife of Bath – “I Do” Colbie Caillat
I recommend starting this song right at the chorus. The multiple I dos fit right in with our chatty, gap-toothed wedding addict.
Pardoner – “You Lie” Band Perry
Here's another song I start playing right at the chorus. The Pardoner is such a slimy liar, and this song puts a humorous twist on the lies. A few of my students suggested "White Liar," sung by Miranda Lambert, and I might actually choose that one next time!
Miller – “Mean” Taylor Swift
All the Miller will ever be is mean. And mean. And mean. And mean. And . . .
Summoner – “Bad Boys” Bob Marley
This one cracks me up. Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do when the Summoner comes for you?
Parson – “My Story” Big Daddy Weave
The parson is one character in the Prologue who devotes his life to following Christ's example and practicing what he preaches. This is where we first see reformation thinking in The Canterbury Tales. I chose a song about a man who follows Christ for this reason.
Oxford Cleric – “Quiet” Demi Lovato
I'm not a huge fan of this song, but the chorus mentions silence and being quiet, which is one of the qualities I was hoping my students would remember about the Oxford Cleric. Hey, I'll take any chance to remind teenagers that every word counts. Now, if only I could find a song that had that message specifically! Leave a comment with any suggestions!
Man of Law – “I’m in a Hurry and Don’t Know Why” Florida Georgia Line Feat. Alabama
The lawyer always appears busier than he is. When we talked about this character, I showed my students a Seinfeld clip in which George demonstrates the secret to looking busy: "I just look annoyed!" This song is all about being too busy without good reason, and it is one of the song choices that I am most tickled with.
Merchant – “Thrift Shop” Pentatonix
First, make sure to play the Pentatonix version of this song to avoid any expletives. Other than that minor concern, I love this song for the Merchant! My students guessed this one right away, as the Merchant's secret debt seemed to meet their fancy.
Plow Man – “I’m a Hard-workin’ Man” Brooks & Dunn
Our poor pooper-scooper is best represented with this blue-color song by Brooks & Dunn. Actually, I'll take any excuse to listen to some good old-fashioned Brooks & Dunn. I'm still in denial that they have split up!
Manciple – “Smarter” Eisley
This is another song I wouldn't mind replacing if anybody out there has a good suggestion, but I love that it focuses on the singer being smarter than people think. This seemed to fit the illiterate-but-secretly-intelligent Manciple perfectly.
Skipper – “Calypso” John Denver
Replace the name "Calypso" with "Maudelayne," and you have a poetic description of the Skipper's life at sea. I used to play this song on repeat as a kid. It just makes me so happy!
Franklin – “Party Rock Anthem”
Everything about the Franklin screams PARTY! Just don't be surprised if the entire class starts busting a move when this song comes on. :)
Doctor – “Stars” Switchfoot
My students are usually surprised to learn that the doctor treats his patients based on the positioning of the stars, rather than their symptoms. This song immediately popped into my mind!
Reeve – “One Piece at a Time” Johnny Cash
I know the Reeve isn't the only thief among the Canterbury crowd, but because he steals from his work stealthily, just as the singer steals from his job at the car factory sneakily, I thought this was a spot-on match.
Cook – “Apples and Bananas” Barney and Friends
Since none of us wants to listen to a song about chicken cooked with the pus from a knee ulcer, I am a big fan of this more innocent take on a cook's life. Apples and bananas all the way! And opples and bononos! (Did anybody else sing this as a small child?)
Host – “Be Our Guest” Beauty and the Beast
Need I say more?
I would love to hear any suggestions you may have for an updated playlist, as I plan to play this game a few more times with my students before we continue with our unit. For more Canterbury Shenanigans, feel free to check out my Canterbury Tales Speed Dating Printables in my TpT store!
I look forward to hearing your spectacular ideas!
Creative English Classroom