When April, with her showers sweet,
The drought of March has pierced to the roots...
|A poster for sale of Chaucer reading|
King Richard was a great supporter of poetry, and public readings were not uncommon. In a world without television, radio, movie theaters, or even plays, public entertainment came from song, dance, or the written word. Readings at court of new poetry were a popular affair.
Monasteries favored public reading as well. The Rule of St. Benedict mandated readings during meals, both to discourage idle chatter and to educate monks. Hearing a text read was supposed to be as educational as reading it yourself: the listener was "reading" with his ears and experiencing the same words, and therefore "knew" what was read as well as the person whose eyes were actually on the page. At universities like Oxford and Cambridge, students attended lectures that could last for hours, but they were not supposed to take notes. Listening and thinking was supposed to be sufficient for learning. When books became inexpensive to print and "everyone" could have a copy of the text to study and read, I think this "active listening" skill gradually lost importance.
*I think Chaucer wanted to "beat" Boccaccio's Decameron, with its ten people each telling a new tale each day for ten days.