Pilgrim’s Prize (Pt.12): The Squire’s Tale (Chaucer Journal)

This time around, the story is a different change of pace; though The Squire’s Tale features just as much heteronormativity as the other tales, it is one doused in some fantasy elements. These fantasy elements cause the tale to take on some storybook-like qualities and allows one to forget that it is more of the same old.

Enter, the king of a castle which had waged war on Russia. One day, this red knight comes to visit him and bestow upon him fantastical gifts, such as a bronze horse which can transport him anywhere in the world, an awesome sword with magical healing and wounding properties, as well as a ring which can make the wearer understand any language, animal or man. Neato.

Well, hijinks ensue and love happens. The Queen finds a wounded bird, the king is swept away by the horse, and stories of love intertwine with the encroaching barbarian threat as the once mighty kingdom becomes leaderless in a perilous time. Narratively, the tale is complex and allows for morality to intermix with the ebb and flow of the narrative naturally. It is a tale where each character’s divergent paths and conflicts lead to the natural conclusion.

So, how does a modern tale-teller represent such a story? Spoken word free-verse, of course.

It is a unique thing, here; the tale-teller, Johnny Shepard, drops free-verses in a three-part series of videos. Because the tale he’s adapting is so long, this makes sense. Furthermore, it matches well the three-pronged story of Chaucer’s original following the princess/Queen, King, and brothers. Narratively, then, Johnny adheres to a narratological structure with ease. This is good.

About the medium, I am mixed. Free-verse spoken word is highly unexpected. It doesn’t match in any way the nature of The Squire’s Tale. But, I do want to say that it would match the idea of the story being expressible in multiple ways; after all, the queen in the story has a ring which allows her to understand all languages, and is not free-verse akin to a language insofar as communication goes?

Maybe, maybe not. But Johnny’s videos have an aesthetic to their own. At the start of each video, there is a selection of popular music playing as the camera swoons over books on Chaucer; incent smoke provides an intriguing mystique as the wisps of smoke waft over the books and props while creating an impressionistic imprint when Johnny waves his hands and body during the freestyle. Taken together with a range which comforts but also rhymes with ease, and Johnny introduces us to a well put together video combining artistry and academic exploration.

I give this rendition a 7.5/10. Different and unique is what I am about.

Link:  http://www.pilgrimliterary.com/blog/2015/8/30/jonny-shepherd-speaks-free


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