Literature Studies: Chaucer – A Retelling of a Knight’s Tale?


The first tale I chose to focus on was the Knight’s Tale because it is the tale from which Shakespeare took his inspiration for ‘The Two Kinsmen’ and ‘A Midsummer night’s Dream’.  We will be studying Shakespeare for a whole year and ‘A Midsummer Night’s dream is my very favourite play of his, and probably the first we will study in any detail.  It could make a nice comparison study if the children enjoy it enough.

During their two weeks off the children made their way through the Chaucer resources I had kindly provided for them!  They read from the picture books and cartoon books, as well as watching an animated version of The Knight’s Tale:

I also read a fairly detailed summary of the tale, after which I popped on Hegeland’s A Knight’s Tale:

I wanted them to write a casual, comparison piece on the two tales.   This was to be their first activity linked to Chaucer and it was a bit of a tongue in cheek one.  A Knight’s Tale may be very similarly named to The Knight’s Tale but there the similarities end.  Or do they?  I wondered what the children might make of this.

I saw an opportunity for a quick feudal system revision, so we went back over our work on feudalism and brought up my photos of their diorama.  I got them to place the characters they remembered from both the book and the film into their correct level.  I might just get a tiny bit excited when something we have learnt in the past crops up in our present day studies!  Here is our modified diorama:

dsc_0315feudal system

Not only was this helpful revision, it was also useful to show some of the parallels between the original story and the film.

Next we re-read one of our books together (shown middle in the picture below), stopping and chatting along the way when we saw something that might compare with the film.  Ribbet collage chaucer
Then I drew out a Venn diagram on our white board, labelled it and asked for suggestions of similarities and differences.  Ways such as these help my children (my son in particular) order his thoughts and enable them to write a much clearer essay.  Depending on the type of essay we use key word diagrams, spider diagrams, mind maps or Venn diagrams.  Here is our completed diagram comparing the film A Knight’s Tale and Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale:

DSC_0161knights tale

Together they wrote a piece comparing the two in a critique about the film.  I asked them to pretend they were a man from the middle ages and so he needed to have a medieval perspective on it.  It was typed up using Old English type and completed by the addition of a black and white picture:

DSC_0164knights tales

DSC_0165knights tale

DSC_0166knights tale

At the end of the six weeks this will be photocopied and pasted onto our home-made newspaper we are making to contain all of our Chaucer work.


  1. I enjoy how you study literature, and this is a great activity to do, especially as the children get to watch a video!!

  2. I love the way you’ve linked all the different activities into a cohesive whole. Looking forward to the next instalment!

    1. Thanks Hwee! It was a bit of a silly exercise really, but it got us all into the spirit as well as helping the children to focus on more scheduled school which, due to two weeks unschooling and taking last week off because of illness, they haven’t done for three weeks!

  3. Wow, I wish you’d been my teacher when we were covering Chaucer at school 😉 on the topic of Shakespeare, I love Midsummer Nights dream too although Nibsy is quite keen on Macbeth.

    1. LOL! I was sold on Midsummer Night’s Dream when we went to see a very informal, sitting on bales of hay play in America. It was acted verbatim and yet because it was so relaxed and well acted even Gary (who I had dragged there) said he understood and he still remembers it fondly!

  4. Midsummer Night’s Dream is my favorite too. Jeff and I saw it on our honeymoon at the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Globe and it was wonderful to see.

    After watching “A Knight’s Tale” at the movie theaters with me, Tara imposed a moratorium on watching “historically inspired” movies with me because I kept yelling at the screen when they were so horribly out of time. I may have passed that trait on to my children.

    1. LOL! I tend to take a different slant on historical films, especially this one! I rather enjoyed the obvious modern day additions! It’s all a bit of fun!! (I do understand what you mean though and the children and I have some very interesting conversations on the differences between history and its portrayal in films)

  5. I am watching with much interest to see how I can adjust your plans to meet our high school needs next term. I just love it that you are ahead of us. You are my springboard for ideas….and I surely need the help.

    Your writing ideas are just fantastic. Next year, we will do much more with literary writing. I am excited about it.

    We love Shakespeare. I wasn’t exposed to Shakespeare at my Christian high school, so when I took Shakespeare in college I felt lost. I have determined that my children will know Shakespeare well before leaving home.

    It sounds like your term is going well. You are doing such a wonderful job of educating your children. Thanks for taking the time to share with all of us. Have a lovely day, Claire.

    1. I wish I shared your confidence in my ability to educate my children….believe me, it’s not all laughter and light at chez-moi!

    1. Thank you! I wanted to ask, what is your name? I’d like to mention your posts on Wibbly Wobbly on Saturday and I can’t call you storyad! (unless, of course you would like me to, in which case I would be happy to?)

  6. I didn’t know A Midsummer Night’s Dream was inspired by Chaucer – how interesting. C and I watched the movie last week. A bit weird (for me) seeing “Ally McBeal” as Hermia, but she was very entertaining! I know nothing about Chaucer at all apart from my school friends who did English A Level moaned about him a lot, so I am – as ever – enjoying being educated by you. Thanks! 🙂

    1. I think at school they have to decipher the original, which must be slow going at best and boring at worst. I tell you, these children’s versions are great! (even for the adults) As you can tell, I’m no literature snob….my headmistress would turn in her grave!

  7. Claire,

    A few years ago, I read a children’s book of Chaucer to my older girls. We really enjoyed it. After reading your post, I have decided to get the book down off the shelf and offer to read it to my younger girls. I’m sure they’d love it. I didn’t know about the animated Chaucer video. Thank you for sharing!

  8. This is fun – the Chaucer newspaper edition is going to be fantastic! I love how much you open up the world of literature to your kids.

  9. Pingback: Finishing Strong ~ Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years #21

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