Geoffrey Chaucer

Geoffrey Chaucer

Overview
Geoffrey Chaucer known as the Father of English literature
English literature
English literature is the literature written in the English language, including literature composed in English by writers not necessarily from England; for example, Robert Burns was Scottish, James Joyce was Irish, Joseph Conrad was Polish, Dylan Thomas was Welsh, Edgar Allan Poe was American, J....

, is widely considered the greatest English poet
Poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

 of the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 and was the first poet to have been buried in Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

. While he achieved fame during his lifetime as an author
Author
An author is broadly defined as "the person who originates or gives existence to anything" and that authorship determines responsibility for what is created. Narrowly defined, an author is the originator of any written work.-Legal significance:...

, philosopher, alchemist
Alchemist
An alchemist is a person who practices alchemy. Alchemist may also refer to:-People and groups:*The Alchemist , a hip hop music producer and rapper*Alchemist , an Australian progressive metal band...

 and astronomer
Astronomer
An astronomer is a scientist who studies celestial bodies such as planets, stars and galaxies.Historically, astronomy was more concerned with the classification and description of phenomena in the sky, while astrophysics attempted to explain these phenomena and the differences between them using...

, composing a scientific treatise on the astrolabe for his ten year-old son Lewis, Chaucer also maintained an active career in the civil service as a bureaucrat
Bureaucracy
A bureaucracy is an organization of non-elected officials of a governmental or organization who implement the rules, laws, and functions of their institution, and are occasionally characterized by officialism and red tape.-Weberian bureaucracy:...

, courtier
Noble court
The court of a monarch, or at some periods an important nobleman, is a term for the extended household and all those who regularly attended on the ruler or central figure...

 and diplomat
Diplomat
A diplomat is a person appointed by a state to conduct diplomacy with another state or international organization. The main functions of diplomats revolve around the representation and protection of the interests and nationals of the sending state, as well as the promotion of information and...

.
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Quotations

The lyf so short, the craft so longe to lerne.Th’ assay so hard, so sharp the conquerynge,The dredful joye, alwey that slit so yerne;Al this mene I be love.

Parlement of Foules|Parlement of Foules, l. 1-4

For out of olde feldes, as men seith,Cometh al this new corn fro yeer to yere;And out of olde bokes, in good feith,Cometh al this newe science that men lere.

Parlement of Foules, l. 22-25

Soun is noght but air ybroken,And every speche that is spoken,Loud or privee, foul or fair,In his substaunce is but air;For as flaumbe is but lighted smoke,Right so soun is air ybroke.

The House of Fame|The House of Fame, bk. 2, l. 257-62

For I am shave as neigh as any frere.But yit I praye unto youre curteisye:Beeth hevy again, or elles moot I die.

The Complaint of Chaucer to His Purse, l. 19–21

Ye knowe eek, that in forme of speche is chaungeWithinne a thousand yeer, and wordes thoThat hadden prys, now wonder nyce and straungeUs thinketh hem; and yet they spake hem so,And spedde as wel in love as men now do;Eek for to winne love in sondry ages,In sondry londes, sondry ben usages.

Book 2, l. 22-28

For which he wex a litel red for shame,Whan he the peple upon him herde cryen,That to beholde it was a noble game,How sobreliche he caste doun his yen.Criseyda gan al his chere aspyen,And let so softe it in her herte sinkeThat to herself she seyde, “Who yaf me drinke?”

Book 2, l. 645-651

Or as an ook comth of a litel spir,So thorugh this lettre, which that she hym sente,Encressen gan desir, of which he brente.

Book 2, l. 1335-37

It is nought good a slepyng hound to wake.

Book 3, l. 764

For of fortunes sharp adversiteeThe worst kynde of infortune is this,A man to han ben in prosperitee,And it remembren, whan it passed is.

Book 3, l. 1625-1628

Oon ere it herde, at tothir out it wente.

Book 4, l. 434
Encyclopedia
Geoffrey Chaucer known as the Father of English literature
English literature
English literature is the literature written in the English language, including literature composed in English by writers not necessarily from England; for example, Robert Burns was Scottish, James Joyce was Irish, Joseph Conrad was Polish, Dylan Thomas was Welsh, Edgar Allan Poe was American, J....

, is widely considered the greatest English poet
Poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

 of the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 and was the first poet to have been buried in Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

. While he achieved fame during his lifetime as an author
Author
An author is broadly defined as "the person who originates or gives existence to anything" and that authorship determines responsibility for what is created. Narrowly defined, an author is the originator of any written work.-Legal significance:...

, philosopher, alchemist
Alchemist
An alchemist is a person who practices alchemy. Alchemist may also refer to:-People and groups:*The Alchemist , a hip hop music producer and rapper*Alchemist , an Australian progressive metal band...

 and astronomer
Astronomer
An astronomer is a scientist who studies celestial bodies such as planets, stars and galaxies.Historically, astronomy was more concerned with the classification and description of phenomena in the sky, while astrophysics attempted to explain these phenomena and the differences between them using...

, composing a scientific treatise on the astrolabe for his ten year-old son Lewis, Chaucer also maintained an active career in the civil service as a bureaucrat
Bureaucracy
A bureaucracy is an organization of non-elected officials of a governmental or organization who implement the rules, laws, and functions of their institution, and are occasionally characterized by officialism and red tape.-Weberian bureaucracy:...

, courtier
Noble court
The court of a monarch, or at some periods an important nobleman, is a term for the extended household and all those who regularly attended on the ruler or central figure...

 and diplomat
Diplomat
A diplomat is a person appointed by a state to conduct diplomacy with another state or international organization. The main functions of diplomats revolve around the representation and protection of the interests and nationals of the sending state, as well as the promotion of information and...

. Among his many works, which include The Book of the Duchess
The Book of the Duchess
The Book of the Duchess, also known as The Deth of Blaunche, Encyclopædia Britannica, 1910. Accessed March 11, 2008. is the earliest of Chaucer’s major poems, preceded only by his short poem, "An ABC," and possibly by his translation of The Romaunt of the Rose...

, the House of Fame, the Legend of Good Women and Troilus and Criseyde
Troilus and Criseyde
Troilus and Criseyde is a poem by Geoffrey Chaucer which re-tells in Middle English the tragic story of the lovers Troilus and Criseyde set against a backdrop of war in the Siege of Troy. It was composed using rime royale and probably completed during the mid 1380s. Many Chaucer scholars regard it...

, he is best loved today for The Canterbury Tales
The Canterbury Tales
The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer at the end of the 14th century. The tales are told as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together on a journey from Southwark to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at...

. Chaucer is a crucial figure in developing the legitimacy of the vernacular
Vernacular
A vernacular is the native language or native dialect of a specific population, as opposed to a language of wider communication that is not native to the population, such as a national language or lingua franca.- Etymology :The term is not a recent one...

, Middle English
Middle English
Middle English is the stage in the history of the English language during the High and Late Middle Ages, or roughly during the four centuries between the late 11th and the late 15th century....

, at a time when the dominant literary languages in England were French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 and Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

.

Life



Geoffrey Chaucer was born in London sometime around 1343, though the precise date and location of his birth remain unknown. His father and grandfather were both London vintner
Vintner
A vintner is a wine merchant. You pronounce it like this In some modern use, in particular in American English, the term is alsoused as a synonym for winemaker....

s; several previous generations had been merchants in Ipswich
Ipswich
Ipswich is a large town and a non-metropolitan district. It is the county town of Suffolk, England. Ipswich is located on the estuary of the River Orwell...

. (His family name derives from the French chausseur, meaning "shoemaker".) In 1324 John Chaucer, Geoffrey's father, was kidnapped by an aunt in the hope of marrying the twelve-year-old boy to her daughter in an attempt to keep property in Ipswich. The aunt was imprisoned and the £250 fine levied suggests that the family was financially secure—bourgeois, if not elite. John Chaucer married Agnes Copton, who, in 1349, inherited properties including 24 shops in London from her uncle, Hamo de Copton, who is described in a will dated April 3, 1354 and listed in the City Hustings Roll as "moneyer
Moneyer
A moneyer is someone who physically creates money. Moneyers have a long tradition, dating back at least to ancient Greece. They became most prominent in the Roman Republic, continuing into the empire.-Roman Republican moneyers:...

"; he was said to be moneyer at the Tower of London
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

. In the City Hustings Roll 110, 5, Ric II, dated June 1380, Geoffrey Chaucer refers to himself as me Galfridum Chaucer, filium Johannis Chaucer, Vinetarii, Londonie' .

While records concerning the lives of his contemporary poets, William Langland
William Langland
William Langland is the conjectured author of the 14th-century English dream-vision Piers Plowman.- Life :The attribution of Piers to Langland rests principally on the evidence of a manuscript held at Trinity College, Dublin...

 and the Pearl Poet
Pearl Poet
The "Pearl Poet", or the "Gawain Poet", is the name given to the author of Pearl, an alliterative poem written in 14th-century Middle English. Its author appears also to have written the poems Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Patience, and Cleanness; some scholars suggest the author may also have...

 are practically non-existent, since Chaucer was a public servant, his official life is very well documented, with nearly five hundred written items testifying to his career. The first of the "Chaucer Life Records" appears in 1357, in the household accounts of Elizabeth de Burgh
Elizabeth de Burgh, 4th Countess of Ulster
Elizabeth de Burgh, Duchess of Clarence, suo jure 4th Countess of Ulster and 5th Baroness of Connaught was a Norman-Irish noblewoman who married Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence.- Family :...

, the Countess of Ulster
Earl of Ulster
The title of Earl of Ulster has been created several times in the Peerage of Ireland and Peerage of the United Kingdom. Currently, the title is a subsidiary title of the Duke of Gloucester, and is used as a courtesy title by the Duke's son, Alexander Windsor, Earl of Ulster...

, when he became the noblewoman's page through his father's connections. She was married to Lionel, Duke of Clarence
Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence
Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence, jure uxoris 4th Earl of Ulster and 5th Baron of Connaught, KG was the third son, but the second son to survive infancy, of Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault...

, the second surviving son of the king, Edward III
Edward III of England
Edward III was King of England from 1327 until his death and is noted for his military success. Restoring royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father, Edward II, Edward III went on to transform the Kingdom of England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe...

, and the position brought the teenage Chaucer into the close court circle, where he was to remain for the rest of his life. He also worked as a courtier, a diplomat, and a civil servant, as well as working for the king, collecting and inventorying scrap metal.

In 1359, in the early stages of the Hundred Years' War
Hundred Years' War
The Hundred Years' War was a series of separate wars waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet, also known as the House of Anjou, for the French throne, which had become vacant upon the extinction of the senior Capetian line of French kings...

, Edward III
Edward III of England
Edward III was King of England from 1327 until his death and is noted for his military success. Restoring royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father, Edward II, Edward III went on to transform the Kingdom of England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe...

 invaded France and Chaucer travelled with Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence
Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence
Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence, jure uxoris 4th Earl of Ulster and 5th Baron of Connaught, KG was the third son, but the second son to survive infancy, of Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault...

, Elizabeth's husband, as part of the English army
History of the British Army
The history of the British Army spans over three and a half centuries and numerous European wars, colonial wars and world wars. From the early 19th century until 1914, the United Kingdom was the greatest economic and imperial power in the world, and although this dominance was principally achieved...

. In 1360, he was captured during the siege of Rheims. Edward paid £16 for his ransom, a considerable sum, and Chaucer was released.

After this, Chaucer's life is uncertain, but he seems to have travelled in France, Spain, and Flanders
Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

, possibly as a messenger and perhaps even going on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela is the capital of the autonomous community of Galicia, Spain.The city's Cathedral is the destination today, as it has been throughout history, of the important 9th century medieval pilgrimage route, the Way of St. James...

. Around 1366, Chaucer married Philippa (de) Roet
Philippa (de) Roet
Philippa Roet - also known as Philippa Pan or Philippa Chaucer - was the sister of Katherine Swynford and the wife of Geoffrey Chaucer.-Early life:...

. She was a lady-in-waiting to Edward III's queen, Philippa of Hainault
Philippa of Hainault
Philippa of Hainault, or, Philippe de Hainaut was the Queen consort of King Edward III of England. Edward, Duke of Guyenne, her future husband, promised in 1326 to marry her within the following two years...

, and a sister of Katherine Swynford
Katherine Swynford
Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster , née Roet , was the daughter of Sir Payne Roet , originally a Flemish herald from County of Hainaut, later...

, who later (ca. 1396) became the third wife of John of Gaunt. It is uncertain how many children Chaucer and Philippa had, but three or four are most commonly cited. His son, Thomas Chaucer
Thomas Chaucer
Thomas Chaucer was the Speaker of the English House of Commons and son of Geoffrey Chaucer and Philippa Roet.-Life:...

, had an illustrious career, as chief butler
Chief Butler of England
The Chief Butler of England is an office of Grand Sergeanty associated with the feudal Manor of Kenninghall in Norfolk. The office requires service to be provided to the Monarch at the Coronation, in this case the service of Pincera Regis, or Chief Butler at the Coronation banquet.The manor of...

 to four kings, envoy to France, and Speaker of the House of Commons
Speaker of the British House of Commons
The Speaker of the House of Commons is the presiding officer of the House of Commons, the United Kingdom's lower chamber of Parliament. The current Speaker is John Bercow, who was elected on 22 June 2009, following the resignation of Michael Martin...

. Thomas' daughter, Alice, married the Duke of Suffolk
William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk
William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk, KG , nicknamed Jack Napes , was an important English soldier and commander in the Hundred Years' War, and later Lord Chamberlain of England.He also appears prominently in William Shakespeare's Henry VI, part 1 and Henry VI, part 2 and other...

. Thomas' great-grandson (Geoffrey's great-great-grandson), John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, was the heir to the throne designated by Richard III
Richard III of England
Richard III was King of England for two years, from 1483 until his death in 1485 during the Battle of Bosworth Field. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty...

 before he was deposed. Geoffrey's other children probably included Elizabeth Chaucy, a nun at Barking Abbey
Barking Abbey
The ruined remains of Barking Abbey are situated in Barking in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham in east London, England, and now form a public open space.- History :...

. Agnes, an attendant at Henry IV
Henry IV of England
Henry IV was King of England and Lord of Ireland . He was the ninth King of England of the House of Plantagenet and also asserted his grandfather's claim to the title King of France. He was born at Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire, hence his other name, Henry Bolingbroke...

's coronation; and another son, Lewis Chaucer.

Chaucer probably studied law in the Inner Temple
Inner Temple
The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, commonly known as Inner Temple, is one of the four Inns of Court in London. To be called to the Bar and practise as a barrister in England and Wales, an individual must belong to one of these Inns...

 (an Inn of Court) at this time. He became a member of the royal court of Edward III as a varlet de chambre, yeoman
Yeoman
Yeoman refers chiefly to a free man owning his own farm, especially from the Elizabethan era to the 17th century. Work requiring a great deal of effort or labor, such as would be done by a yeoman farmer, came to be described as "yeoman's work"...

, or esquire
Esquire
Esquire is a term of West European origin . Depending on the country, the term has different meanings...

 on 20 June 1367, a position which could entail a wide variety of tasks. His wife also received a pension for court employment. He travelled abroad many times, at least some of them in his role as a valet. In 1368, he may have attended the wedding of Lionel of Antwerp
Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence
Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence, jure uxoris 4th Earl of Ulster and 5th Baron of Connaught, KG was the third son, but the second son to survive infancy, of Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault...

 to Violante Visconti
Violante Visconti
Violante Visconti was the second of three children of Galeazzo II Visconti, Lord of Milan and Pavia, and Bianca of Savoy. Her father gave to her the provinces of Alba, Mondovì, Kenites, Cherasco and Demonte as an inheritance...

, daughter of Galeazzo II Visconti
Galeazzo II Visconti
-External links:*...

, in Milan
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

. Two other literary stars of the era were in attendance: Jean Froissart
Jean Froissart
Jean Froissart , often referred to in English as John Froissart, was one of the most important chroniclers of medieval France. For centuries, Froissart's Chronicles have been recognized as the chief expression of the chivalric revival of the 14th century Kingdom of England and France...

 and Petrarch
Petrarch
Francesco Petrarca , known in English as Petrarch, was an Italian scholar, poet and one of the earliest humanists. Petrarch is often called the "Father of Humanism"...

. Around this time, Chaucer is believed to have written The Book of the Duchess
The Book of the Duchess
The Book of the Duchess, also known as The Deth of Blaunche, Encyclopædia Britannica, 1910. Accessed March 11, 2008. is the earliest of Chaucer’s major poems, preceded only by his short poem, "An ABC," and possibly by his translation of The Romaunt of the Rose...

in honour of Blanche of Lancaster
Blanche of Lancaster
Blanche of Lancaster, Duchess of Lancaster was an English noblewoman and heiress, daughter of England's wealthiest and most powerful peer, Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster...

, the late wife of John of Gaunt, who died in 1369.

Chaucer travelled to Picardy
Picardy
This article is about the historical French province. For other uses, see Picardy .Picardy is a historical province of France, in the north of France...

 the next year as part of a military expedition, and visited Genoa
Genoa
Genoa |Ligurian]] Zena ; Latin and, archaically, English Genua) is a city and an important seaport in northern Italy, the capital of the Province of Genoa and of the region of Liguria....

 and Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

 in 1373. Numerous scholars such as Skeat, Boitani, and Rowland suggested that, on this Italian trip, he came into contact with Petrarch or Boccaccio
Chaucer coming in contact with Petrarch or Boccaccio
Contact between Geoffrey Chaucer and Petrarch or Boccaccio has been proposed by scholars for centuries. More recent scholarship tends to discount these earlier speculations because of lack of evidence...

. They introduced him to medieval
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 Italian poetry
Italian poetry
-Important Italian poets:* Giacomo da Lentini a 13th Century poet who is believed to have invented the sonnet.* Guido Cavalcanti Tuscan poet, and a key figure in the Dolce Stil Novo movement....

, the forms and stories of which he would use later. The purposes of a voyage in 1377 are mysterious, as details within the historical record conflict. Later documents suggest it was a mission, along with Jean Froissart, to arrange a marriage between the future King Richard II
Richard II of England
Richard II was King of England, a member of the House of Plantagenet and the last of its main-line kings. He ruled from 1377 until he was deposed in 1399. Richard was a son of Edward, the Black Prince, and was born during the reign of his grandfather, Edward III...

 and a French princess, thereby ending the Hundred Years War. If this was the purpose of their trip, they seem to have been unsuccessful, as no wedding occurred.

In 1378, Richard II sent Chaucer as an envoy (secret dispatch) to the Visconti and to Sir John Hawkwood
John Hawkwood
Sir John Hawkwood was an English mercenary or condottiero who was active in 14th century Italy. The French chronicler Jean Froissart knew him as Jean Haccoude and Italians as Giovanni Acuto...

, English condottiere (mercenary leader) in Milan
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

. It has been speculated that it was Hawkwood on whom Chaucer based his character the Knight in the Canterbury Tales, for a description matches that of a fourteenth-century condottiere.


A possible indication that his career as a writer was appreciated came when Edward III
Edward III of England
Edward III was King of England from 1327 until his death and is noted for his military success. Restoring royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father, Edward II, Edward III went on to transform the Kingdom of England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe...

 granted Chaucer "a gallon of wine daily for the rest of his life" for some unspecified task. This was an unusual grant, but given on a day of celebration, St George's Day
St George's Day
St George's Day is celebrated by the several nations, kingdoms, countries, and cities of which Saint George is the patron saint. St George's Day is celebrated on 23 April, the traditionally accepted date of Saint George's death in AD 303...

, 1374, when artistic endeavours were traditionally rewarded, it is assumed to have been another early poetic work. It is not known which, if any, of Chaucer's extant works prompted the reward, but the suggestion of him as poet to a king places him as a precursor to later poets laureate. Chaucer continued to collect the liquid stipend until Richard II came to power, after which it was converted to a monetary grant on 18 April 1378.

Chaucer obtained the very substantial job of Comptroller
Comptroller
A comptroller is a management level position responsible for supervising the quality of accounting and financial reporting of an organization.In British government, the Comptroller General or Comptroller and Auditor General is in most countries the external auditor of the budget execution of the...

 of the Customs for the port of London, which he began on 8 June 1374. He must have been suited for the role as he continued in it for twelve years, a long time in such a post at that time. His life goes undocumented for much of the next ten years, but it is believed that he wrote (or began) most of his famous works during this period. He was mentioned in law papers of 4 May 1380, involved in the raptus of Cecilia Chaumpaigne. What raptus means is unclear, but the incident seems to have been resolved quickly and did not leave a stain on Chaucer's reputation. It is not known if Chaucer was in the city of London at the time of the Peasants' Revolt
Peasants' Revolt
The Peasants' Revolt, Wat Tyler's Rebellion, or the Great Rising of 1381 was one of a number of popular revolts in late medieval Europe and is a major event in the history of England. Tyler's Rebellion was not only the most extreme and widespread insurrection in English history but also the...

, but if he was, he would have seen its leaders pass almost directly under his apartment window at Aldgate
Aldgate
Aldgate was the eastern most gateway through London Wall leading from the City of London to Whitechapel and the east end of London. Aldgate gives its name to a ward of the City...

.

While still working as comptroller, Chaucer appears to have moved to Kent
Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

, being appointed as one of the commissioners of peace for Kent, at a time when French invasion was a possibility. He is thought to have started work on The Canterbury Tales
The Canterbury Tales
The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer at the end of the 14th century. The tales are told as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together on a journey from Southwark to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at...

in the early 1380s. He also became a Member of Parliament
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 for Kent in 1386. There is no further reference after this date to Philippa, Chaucer's wife, and she is presumed to have died in 1387. He survived the political upheavals caused by the Lords Appellant
Lords Appellant
The Lords Appellant were a group of nobles in the reign of King Richard II who sought to impeach some five of the King's favourites in order to restrain what was seen as tyrannical and capricious rule. The word appellant simply means '[one who is] appealing [in a legal sense]'...

s, despite the fact that Chaucer knew some of the men executed over the affair quite well.

On 12 July 1389, Chaucer was appointed the clerk of the king's works, a sort of foreman
Construction foreman
A construction foreman is the worker or tradesman who is in charge of a construction crew. While traditionally this role has been assumed by a senior male worker, the title in the modern sense is gender non-specific in intent...

 organising most of the king's building projects. No major works were begun during his tenure, but he did conduct repairs on Westminster Palace, St. George's Chapel, Windsor, continue building the wharf at the Tower of London
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

, and build the stands for a tournament held in 1390. It may have been a difficult job, but it paid well: two shilling
Shilling
The shilling is a unit of currency used in some current and former British Commonwealth countries. The word shilling comes from scilling, an accounting term that dates back to Anglo-Saxon times where it was deemed to be the value of a cow in Kent or a sheep elsewhere. The word is thought to derive...

s a day, more than three times his salary as a comptroller. Chaucer was also appointed keeper of the lodge at the King’s park in Feckenham
Feckenham Forest
Feckenham Forest was a royal forest, centred around the town of Feckenham, covering large parts of west Worcestershire and Warwickshire. As such, it was not entirely wooded, nor entirely the property of the King. Rather, the King had legal rights over game, wood and grazing within the forest, and...

, which was a largely honorary appointment.

In September 1390, records say that he was robbed, and possibly injured, while conducting the business, and it was shortly after, on 17 June 1391, that he stopped working in this capacity. Almost immediately, on 22 June, he began as deputy forester in the royal forest
Royal forest
A royal forest is an area of land with different meanings in England, Wales and Scotland; the term forest does not mean forest as it is understood today, as an area of densely wooded land...

 of North Petherton
North Petherton
North Petherton is a small town and civil parish in Somerset, England, situated on the edge of the eastern foothills of the Quantocks, and close to the edge of the Somerset Levels.The town has a population of 5,189...

, Somerset
Somerset
The ceremonial and non-metropolitan county of Somerset in South West England borders Bristol and Gloucestershire to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east, and Devon to the south-west. It is partly bounded to the north and west by the Bristol Channel and the estuary of the...

. This was no sinecure
Sinecure
A sinecure means an office that requires or involves little or no responsibility, labour, or active service...

, with maintenance an important part of the job, although there were many opportunities to derive profit. He was granted an annual pension of twenty pounds by Richard II in 1394. It is believed that Chaucer stopped work on the Canterbury Tales sometime towards the end of this decade.

Not long after the overthrow of his patron, Richard II, in 1399, Chaucer's name fades from the historical record. The last few records of his life show his pension renewed by the new king, and his taking of a lease on a residence within the close of Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

 on 24 December 1399. Although Henry IV
Henry IV of England
Henry IV was King of England and Lord of Ireland . He was the ninth King of England of the House of Plantagenet and also asserted his grandfather's claim to the title King of France. He was born at Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire, hence his other name, Henry Bolingbroke...

 renewed the grants assigned to Chaucer by Richard, Chaucer's own The Complaint of Chaucer to his Purse hints that the grants might not have been paid. The last mention of Chaucer is on 5 June 1400, when some monies owed to him were paid.

He is believed to have died of unknown causes on 25 October 1400, but there is no firm evidence for this date, as it comes from the engraving on his tomb, erected more than one hundred years after his death. There is some speculation—most recently in Terry Jones
Terry Jones
Terence Graham Parry Jones is a Welsh comedian, screenwriter, actor, film director, children's author, popular historian, political commentator, and TV documentary host. He is best known as a member of the Monty Python comedy team....

' book Who Murdered Chaucer? : A Medieval Mystery
Who Murdered Chaucer? : A Medieval Mystery
Who Murdered Chaucer? A Medieval Mystery is a book published in 2003 and 2005 by Terry Jones, formerly of Monty Python's Flying Circus.-Editions:*London: Methuen, 2003 *New York: Thomas Dunne, 2004...

—that he was murdered by enemies of Richard II or even on the orders of his successor Henry IV, but the case is entirely circumstantial. Chaucer was buried in Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

 in London, as was his right owing to his status as a tenant of the Abbey's close. In 1556, his remains were transferred to a more ornate tomb, making Chaucer the first writer interred in the area now known as Poets' Corner
Poets' Corner
Poets' Corner is the name traditionally given to a section of the South Transept of Westminster Abbey because of the number of poets, playwrights, and writers buried and commemorated there. The most recent additions were a memorial floor stone unveiled in 2009 for the founders of the Royal Ballet...

.

Works


Chaucer's first major work, The Book of the Duchess
The Book of the Duchess
The Book of the Duchess, also known as The Deth of Blaunche, Encyclopædia Britannica, 1910. Accessed March 11, 2008. is the earliest of Chaucer’s major poems, preceded only by his short poem, "An ABC," and possibly by his translation of The Romaunt of the Rose...

, was an elegy for Blanche of Lancaster
Blanche of Lancaster
Blanche of Lancaster, Duchess of Lancaster was an English noblewoman and heiress, daughter of England's wealthiest and most powerful peer, Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster...

 (who died in 1369). It is possible that this work was commissioned by her husband John of Gaunt, as he granted Chaucer a £10 annuity on 13 June 1374. This would seem to place the writing of The Book of the Duchess between the years 1369 and 1374. Two other early works by Chaucer were Anelida and Arcite
Anelida and Arcite
Anelida and Arcite is a 357 line poem by Geoffrey Chaucer. It tells the story of Anelida, queen of Armenia and her wooing by false Arcite from Thebes, Greece.Although short, it is a poem with a complex structure, with an invocation and then the main story...

and The House of Fame
The House of Fame
The House of Fame is a poem by Geoffrey Chaucer, probably written between 1379 and 1380, making it one of his earlier works.-Overview:The House of Fame is over 2,000 lines long in three books and takes the form of a dream vision composed in octosyllabic couplets. Upon falling asleep the poet finds...

. Chaucer wrote many of his major works in a prolific period when he held the job of customs comptroller for London (1374 to 1386). His Parlement of Foules
Parlement of Foules
The "Parlement of Foules" is a poem by Geoffrey Chaucer made up of approximately 700 lines. The poem is in the form of a dream vision in rhyme royal stanza and is interesting in that it is the first reference to the idea that St...

, The Legend of Good Women
The Legend of Good Women
The Legend of Good Women is a poem in the form of a dream vision by Geoffrey Chaucer.The poem is the third longest of Chaucer’s works, after The Canterbury Tales and Troilus and Criseyde and is possibly the first significant work in English to use the iambic pentameter or decasyllabic couplets...

and Troilus and Criseyde
Troilus and Criseyde
Troilus and Criseyde is a poem by Geoffrey Chaucer which re-tells in Middle English the tragic story of the lovers Troilus and Criseyde set against a backdrop of war in the Siege of Troy. It was composed using rime royale and probably completed during the mid 1380s. Many Chaucer scholars regard it...

all date from this time. Also it is believed that he started work on The Canterbury Tales
The Canterbury Tales
The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer at the end of the 14th century. The tales are told as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together on a journey from Southwark to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at...

in the early 1380s. Chaucer is best known as the writer of The Canterbury Tales
The Canterbury Tales
The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer at the end of the 14th century. The tales are told as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together on a journey from Southwark to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at...

, which is a collection of stories told by fictional pilgrims on the road to the cathedral at Canterbury
Canterbury
Canterbury is a historic English cathedral city, which lies at the heart of the City of Canterbury, a district of Kent in South East England. It lies on the River Stour....

; these tales would help to shape English literature.

The Canterbury Tales
The Canterbury Tales
The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer at the end of the 14th century. The tales are told as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together on a journey from Southwark to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at...

contrasts with other literature of the period in the naturalism of its narrative, the variety of stories the pilgrims tell and the varied characters who are engaged in the pilgrimage. Many of the stories narrated by the pilgrims seem to fit their individual characters and social standing, although some of the stories seem ill-fitting to their narrators, perhaps as a result of the incomplete state of the work. Chaucer drew on real life for his cast of pilgrims: the innkeeper shares the name of a contemporary keeper of an inn in Southwark, and real-life identities for the Wife of Bath, the Merchant, the Man of Law and the Student have been suggested. The many jobs that Chaucer held in medieval society—page, soldier, messenger, valet, bureaucrat, foreman and administrator—probably exposed him to many of the types of people he depicted in the Tales. He was able to shape their speech and satirise their manners in what was to become popular literature among people of the same types.

Chaucer's works are sometimes grouped into first a French period, then an Italian period and finally an English period, with Chaucer being influenced by those countries' literatures in turn. Certainly Troilus and Criseyde
Troilus and Criseyde
Troilus and Criseyde is a poem by Geoffrey Chaucer which re-tells in Middle English the tragic story of the lovers Troilus and Criseyde set against a backdrop of war in the Siege of Troy. It was composed using rime royale and probably completed during the mid 1380s. Many Chaucer scholars regard it...

is a middle period work with its reliance on the forms of Italian poetry, little known in England at the time, but to which Chaucer was probably exposed during his frequent trips abroad on court business. In addition, its use of a classical
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

 subject and its elaborate, courtly language sets it apart as one of his most complete and well-formed works. In Troilus and Criseyde Chaucer draws heavily on his source, Boccaccio
Giovanni Boccaccio
Giovanni Boccaccio was an Italian author and poet, a friend, student, and correspondent of Petrarch, an important Renaissance humanist and the author of a number of notable works including the Decameron, On Famous Women, and his poetry in the Italian vernacular...

, and on the late Latin philosopher Boethius
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius, commonly called Boethius was a philosopher of the early 6th century. He was born in Rome to an ancient and important family which included emperors Petronius Maximus and Olybrius and many consuls. His father, Flavius Manlius Boethius, was consul in 487 after...

. However, it is The Canterbury Tales, wherein he focuses on English subjects, with bawdy jokes and respected figures often being undercut with humour, that has cemented his reputation.

Chaucer also translated
Translation
Translation is the communication of the meaning of a source-language text by means of an equivalent target-language text. Whereas interpreting undoubtedly antedates writing, translation began only after the appearance of written literature; there exist partial translations of the Sumerian Epic of...

 such important works as Boethius'
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius, commonly called Boethius was a philosopher of the early 6th century. He was born in Rome to an ancient and important family which included emperors Petronius Maximus and Olybrius and many consuls. His father, Flavius Manlius Boethius, was consul in 487 after...

 Consolation of Philosophy and The Romance of the Rose by Guillaume de Lorris
Guillaume de Lorris
Guillaume de Lorris was a French scholar and poet from Lorris. He was the author of the first section of the Roman de la Rose. Little is known about him, other than that he wrote the earlier section of the poem around 1230, and that the work was completed forty years later by Jean de Meun.-...

 (extended by Jean de Meun). However, while many scholars maintain that Chaucer did indeed translate part of the text of Roman de la Rose
Roman de la Rose
The Roman de la rose, , is a medieval French poem styled as an allegorical dream vision. It is a notable instance of courtly literature. The work's stated purpose is to both entertain and to teach others about the Art of Love. At various times in the poem, the "Rose" of the title is seen as the...

as The Romaunt of the Rose
The Romaunt of the Rose
The Romaunt of the Rose is a partial translation into Middle English of the French allegory, the Roman de la Rose. In Geoffrey Chaucer's The Legend of Good Women he confirms that he has translated at least part of the poem but the extant work is of dubious authenticity...

, others claim that this has been effectively disproved. Many of his other works were very loose translations of, or simply based on, works from continental Europe. It is in this role that Chaucer receives some of his earliest critical praise. Eustache Deschamps
Eustache Deschamps
Eustache Deschamps was a medieval French poet, also known as Eustache Morel . Born at Vertus, in Champagne, he received lessons in versification from Guillaume de Machaut and later studied law at Orleans University. He then traveled through Europe as a diplomatic messenger for Charles V...

 wrote a ballade on the great translator and called himself a "nettle in Chaucer's garden of poetry". In 1385 Thomas Usk
Thomas Usk
Thomas Usk was appointed the under-sheriff of London by Richard II in 1387.- Author of The Testament of Love :Born in London, he is the author of The Testament of Love, which was once thought to be by Geoffrey Chaucer.- Appeal :...

 made glowing mention of Chaucer, and John Gower
John Gower
John Gower was an English poet, a contemporary of William Langland and a personal friend of Geoffrey Chaucer. He is remembered primarily for three major works, the Mirroir de l'Omme, Vox Clamantis, and Confessio Amantis, three long poems written in French, Latin, and English respectively, which...

, Chaucer's main poetic rival of the time, also lauded him. This reference was later edited out of Gower's Confessio Amantis and it has been suggested by some that this was because of ill feeling between them, but it is likely due simply to stylistic concerns.

One other significant work of Chaucer's is his Treatise on the Astrolabe
Treatise on the Astrolabe
A Treatise on the Astrolabe is a medieval essay on the astrolabe by Geoffrey Chaucer. It begins:or, in a more modern English spelling,According to the introduction, the work was to have five parts:#A description of the astrolabe...

, possibly for his own son, that describes the form and use of that instrument
Astrolabe
An astrolabe is an elaborate inclinometer, historically used by astronomers, navigators, and astrologers. Its many uses include locating and predicting the positions of the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars, determining local time given local latitude and longitude, surveying, triangulation, and to...

 in detail and is sometimes cited as the first example of technical writing
Technical writing
Technical writing, a form of technical communication, is a style of writing used in fields as diverse as computer hardware and software, engineering, chemistry, the aerospace industry, robotics, finance, consumer electronics, and biotechnology....

 in the English language. Although much of the text may have come from other sources, the treatise indicates that Chaucer was versed in science in addition to his literary talents. Another scientific work discovered in 1952, Equatorie of the Planetis, has similar language and handwriting compared to some considered to be Chaucer's and it continues many of the ideas from the Astrolabe. Furthermore, it contains an example of early European encryption
Encryption
In cryptography, encryption is the process of transforming information using an algorithm to make it unreadable to anyone except those possessing special knowledge, usually referred to as a key. The result of the process is encrypted information...

. The attribution of this work to Chaucer is still uncertain.

Linguistic



Chaucer wrote in continental accentual-syllabic meter
Meter (poetry)
In poetry, metre is the basic rhythmic structure of a verse or lines in verse. Many traditional verse forms prescribe a specific verse metre, or a certain set of metres alternating in a particular order. The study of metres and forms of versification is known as prosody...

, a style which had developed since around the twelfth century as an alternative to the alliterative
Alliterative verse
In prosody, alliterative verse is a form of verse that uses alliteration as the principal structuring device to unify lines of poetry, as opposed to other devices such as rhyme. The most commonly studied traditions of alliterative verse are those found in the oldest literature of many Germanic...

 Anglo-Saxon metre. Chaucer is known for metrical innovation, inventing the rhyme royal
Rhyme royal
Rhyme royal is a rhyming stanza form that was introduced into English poetry by Geoffrey Chaucer.-Form:The rhyme royal stanza consists of seven lines, usually in iambic pentameter. The rhyme scheme is a-b-a-b-b-c-c. In practice, the stanza can be constructed either as a terza rima and two couplets...

, and he was one of the first English poets to use the five-stress line, a decasyllabic cousin to the iambic pentameter
Iambic pentameter
Iambic pentameter is a commonly used metrical line in traditional verse and verse drama. The term describes the particular rhythm that the words establish in that line. That rhythm is measured in small groups of syllables; these small groups of syllables are called "feet"...

, in his work, with only a few anonymous short works using it before him. The arrangement of these five-stress lines into rhyming couplet
Couplet
A couplet is a pair of lines of meter in poetry. It usually consists of two lines that rhyme and have the same meter.While traditionally couplets rhyme, not all do. A poem may use white space to mark out couplets if they do not rhyme. Couplets with a meter of iambic pentameter are called heroic...

s, first seen in his The Legend of Good Women
The Legend of Good Women
The Legend of Good Women is a poem in the form of a dream vision by Geoffrey Chaucer.The poem is the third longest of Chaucer’s works, after The Canterbury Tales and Troilus and Criseyde and is possibly the first significant work in English to use the iambic pentameter or decasyllabic couplets...

, was used in much of his later work and became one of the standard poetic forms in English. His early influence as a satirist is also important, with the common humorous device, the funny accent of a regional dialect
Dialect
The term dialect is used in two distinct ways, even by linguists. One usage refers to a variety of a language that is a characteristic of a particular group of the language's speakers. The term is applied most often to regional speech patterns, but a dialect may also be defined by other factors,...

, apparently making its first appearance in The Reeve's Tale
The Reeve's Tale
"The Reeve's Tale" is the third story told in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. The reeve, named Oswald in the text, is the manager of a large estate who reaped incredible profits for his master and himself. He is described in the Tales as skinny and bad-tempered. The Reeve had once been...

.

The poetry of Chaucer, along with other writers of the era, is credited with helping to standardise the London Dialect of the Middle English
Middle English
Middle English is the stage in the history of the English language during the High and Late Middle Ages, or roughly during the four centuries between the late 11th and the late 15th century....

 language from a combination of the Kentish and Midlands dialects. This is probably overstated; the influence of the court, chancery
Lord Chancellor
The Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, or Lord Chancellor, is a senior and important functionary in the government of the United Kingdom. He is the second highest ranking of the Great Officers of State, ranking only after the Lord High Steward. The Lord Chancellor is appointed by the Sovereign...

 and bureaucracy—of which Chaucer was a part—remains a more probable influence on the development of Standard English
Standard English
Standard English refers to whatever form of the English language is accepted as a national norm in an Anglophone country...

. Modern English
Modern English
Modern English is the form of the English language spoken since the Great Vowel Shift in England, completed in roughly 1550.Despite some differences in vocabulary, texts from the early 17th century, such as the works of William Shakespeare and the King James Bible, are considered to be in Modern...

 is somewhat distanced from the language of Chaucer's poems owing to the effect of the Great Vowel Shift
Great Vowel Shift
The Great Vowel Shift was a major change in the pronunciation of the English language that took place in England between 1350 and 1500.The Great Vowel Shift was first studied by Otto Jespersen , a Danish linguist and Anglicist, who coined the term....

 some time after his death. This change in the pronunciation
Pronunciation
Pronunciation refers to the way a word or a language is spoken, or the manner in which someone utters a word. If one is said to have "correct pronunciation", then it refers to both within a particular dialect....

 of English, still not fully understood, makes the reading of Chaucer difficult for the modern audience. The status of the final -e in Chaucer's verse is uncertain: it seems likely that during the period of Chaucer's writing the final -e was dropping out of colloquial English and that its use was somewhat irregular. Chaucer's versification suggests that the final -e is sometimes to be vocalised, and sometimes to be silent; however, this remains a point on which there is disagreement. When it is vocalised, most scholars pronounce it as a schwa
Schwa
In linguistics, specifically phonetics and phonology, schwa can mean the following:*An unstressed and toneless neutral vowel sound in some languages, often but not necessarily a mid-central vowel...

. Apart from the irregular spelling, much of the vocabulary is recognisable to the modern reader. Chaucer is also recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary
The Oxford English Dictionary , published by the Oxford University Press, is the self-styled premier dictionary of the English language. Two fully bound print editions of the OED have been published under its current name, in 1928 and 1989. The first edition was published in twelve volumes , and...

 as the first author to use many common English words in his writings. These words were probably frequently used in the language at the time but Chaucer, with his ear for common speech, is the earliest manuscript source. Acceptable, alkali, altercation, amble, angrily, annex, annoyance, approaching, arbitration, armless, army, arrogant, arsenic, arc, artillery and aspect are just some of the many English words first attested in Chaucer
English words first attested in Chaucer
English words first attested in Chaucer are a set of about two thousand English words that Geoffrey Chaucer is credited as being the first use found today in existing manuscripts. This does not mean that he was the person to introduce these words into English, but that the earliest extant uses of...

.

Literary


Widespread knowledge of Chaucer's works is attested by the many poets who imitated or responded to his writing. John Lydgate
John Lydgate
John Lydgate of Bury was a monk and poet, born in Lidgate, Suffolk, England.Lydgate is at once a greater and a lesser poet than John Gower. He is a greater poet because of his greater range and force; he has a much more powerful machine at his command. The sheer bulk of Lydgate's poetic output is...

 was one of the earliest poets to write continuations of Chaucer's unfinished Tales while Robert Henryson
Robert Henryson
Robert Henryson was a poet who flourished in Scotland in the period c. 1460–1500. Counted among the Scots makars, he lived in the royal burgh of Dunfermline and is a distinctive voice in the Northern Renaissance at a time when the culture was on a cusp between medieval and renaissance sensibilities...

's Testament of Cresseid completes the story of Cressida
Cressida
Cressida is a character who appears in many Medieval and Renaissance retellings of the story of the Trojan War. She is a Trojan woman, the daughter of Calchas a priestly defector to the Greeks...

 left unfinished in his Troilus and Criseyde. Many of the manuscripts of Chaucer's works contain material from these poets and later appreciations by the romantic era poets were shaped by their failure to distinguish the later "additions" from original Chaucer. Seventeenth and eighteenth century writers, such as John Dryden
John Dryden
John Dryden was an influential English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who dominated the literary life of Restoration England to such a point that the period came to be known in literary circles as the Age of Dryden.Walter Scott called him "Glorious John." He was made Poet...

, admired Chaucer for his stories, but not for his rhythm and rhyme, as few critics could then read Middle English and the text had been butchered by printers, leaving a somewhat unadmirable mess. It was not until the late 19th century that the official Chaucerian canon, accepted today, was decided upon, largely as a result of Walter William Skeat
Walter William Skeat
Walter William Skeat , English philologist, was born in London on the 21st of November 1835, and educated at King's College School , Highgate School, and Christ's College, Cambridge, of which he became a fellow in July 1860. His grandsons include the noted palaeographer T. C...

's work. One hundred and fifty years after his death, The Canterbury Tales was selected by William Caxton
William Caxton
William Caxton was an English merchant, diplomat, writer and printer. As far as is known, he was the first English person to work as a printer and the first to introduce a printing press into England...

 to be one of the first books to be printed in England.

English


Chaucer is sometimes considered the source of the English vernacular tradition and the "father" of modern English literature. His achievement for the language can be seen as part of a general historical trend towards the creation of a vernacular literature
Vernacular literature
Vernacular literature is literature written in the vernacular—the speech of the "common people".In the European tradition, this effectively means literature not written in Latin...

, after the example of Dante
DANTE
Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe is a not-for-profit organisation that plans, builds and operates the international networks that interconnect the various national research and education networks in Europe and surrounding regions...

, in many parts of Europe. A parallel trend in Chaucer's own lifetime was underway in Scotland through the work of his slightly earlier contemporary, John Barbour, and was likely to have been even more general, as is evidenced by the example of the Pearl Poet
Pearl Poet
The "Pearl Poet", or the "Gawain Poet", is the name given to the author of Pearl, an alliterative poem written in 14th-century Middle English. Its author appears also to have written the poems Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Patience, and Cleanness; some scholars suggest the author may also have...

 in the north of England.

Although Chaucer's language is much closer to modern English than the text of Beowulf
Beowulf
Beowulf , but modern scholars agree in naming it after the hero whose life is its subject." of an Old English heroic epic poem consisting of 3182 alliterative long lines, set in Scandinavia, commonly cited as one of the most important works of Anglo-Saxon literature.It survives in a single...

, it differs enough that most publications modernise his idiom. Following is a sample from the prologue of "The Summoner's Tale" that compares Chaucer's text to a modern translation:
Original Text Wikipedia Translation
This frere bosteth that he knoweth helle, This friar boasts that he knows hell,
And God it woot, that it is litel wonder; And God knows that it is little wonder;
Freres and feendes been but lyte asonder. Friars and fiends are seldom far apart.
For, pardee, ye han ofte tyme herd telle For, by God, you have ofttimes heard tell
How that a frere ravyshed was to helle How a friar was taken to hell
In spirit ones by a visioun; In spirit, once by a vision;
And as an angel ladde hym up and doun, And as an angel led him up and down,
To shewen hym the peynes that the were, To show him the pains that were there,
In al the place saugh he nat a frere; In all the place he saw not a friar;
Of oother folk he saugh ynowe in wo. Of other folk he saw enough in woe.
Unto this angel spak the frere tho: Unto this angel spoke the friar thus:
Now, sire, quod he, han freres swich a grace "Now sir", said he, "Have friars such a grace
That noon of hem shal come to this place? That none of them come to this place?"
Yis, quod this aungel, many a millioun! "Yes", said the angel, "many a million!"
And unto sathanas he ladde hym doun. And unto Satan the angel led him down.
--And now hath sathanas,--seith he,--a tayl "And now Satan has", he said, "a tail,
Brodder than of a carryk is the sayl. Broader than a galleon's sail.
Hold up thy tayl, thou sathanas!--quod he; Hold up your tail, Satan!" said he.
--shewe forth thyn ers, and lat the frere se "Show forth your arse, and let the friar see
Where is the nest of freres in this place!-- Where the nest of friars is in this place!"
And er that half a furlong wey of space, And before half a furlong of space,
Right so as bees out swarmen from an hyve, Just as bees swarm out from a hive,
Out of the develes ers ther gonne dryve Out of the devil's arse there were driven
Twenty thousand freres on a route, Twenty thousand friars on a rout,
And thurghout helle swarmed al aboute, And throughout hell swarmed all about,
And comen agayn as faste as they may gon, And came again as fast as they could go,
And in his ers they crepten everychon. And every one crept into his arse.
He clapte his tayl agayn and lay ful stille. He shut his tail again and lay very still.

Early criticism


The poet Thomas Hoccleve, who may have met Chaucer and considered him his role model, hailed Chaucer as "the firste fyndere of our fair langage." John Lydgate
John Lydgate
John Lydgate of Bury was a monk and poet, born in Lidgate, Suffolk, England.Lydgate is at once a greater and a lesser poet than John Gower. He is a greater poet because of his greater range and force; he has a much more powerful machine at his command. The sheer bulk of Lydgate's poetic output is...

 referred to Chaucer within his own text The Fall of Princes as the "lodesterre ... off our language". Around two centuries later, Sir Philip Sidney
Philip Sidney
Sir Philip Sidney was an English poet, courtier and soldier, and is remembered as one of the most prominent figures of the Elizabethan Age...

 greatly praised Troilus and Criseyde in his own Defence of Poesie.

Manuscripts and audience


The large number of surviving manuscripts of Chaucer's works is testimony to the enduring interest in his poetry prior to the arrival of the printing press. There are 83 surviving manuscripts of the Canterbury Tales (in whole or part) alone, along with sixteen of Troilus and Criseyde, including the personal copy of Henry IV
Henry IV of England
Henry IV was King of England and Lord of Ireland . He was the ninth King of England of the House of Plantagenet and also asserted his grandfather's claim to the title King of France. He was born at Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire, hence his other name, Henry Bolingbroke...

. Given the ravages of time, it is likely that these surviving manuscripts represent hundreds since lost. Chaucer's original audience was a courtly one, and would have included women as well as men of the upper social classes. Yet even before his death in 1400, Chaucer's audience had begun to include members of the rising literate, middle and merchant classes, which included many Lollard sympathizers who may well have been inclined to read Chaucer as one of their own, particularly in his satirical writings about friars, priests, and other church officials. In 1464, John Baron, a tenant farmer in Agmondesham, was brought before John Chadworth
John Chadworth
John Chadworth was Provost of King's College, Cambridge from 1447 until his election as Bishop of Lincoln. He was elected bishop about 11 February 1451 and consecrated on 18 June 1452. He died on 23 November 1471.-References:...

, the Bishop of Lincoln, on charges he was a Lollard heretic; he confessed to owning a "boke of the Tales of Caunterburie" among other suspect volumes.

Printed editions



William Caxton
William Caxton
William Caxton was an English merchant, diplomat, writer and printer. As far as is known, he was the first English person to work as a printer and the first to introduce a printing press into England...

, the first English printer, was responsible for the first two folio editions of The Canterbury Tales which were published in 1478 and 1483. Caxton's second printing, by his own account, came about because a customer complained that the printed text differed from a manuscript he knew; Caxton obligingly used the man's manuscript as his source. Both Caxton editions carry the equivalent of manuscript authority. Caxton's edition was reprinted by his successor, Wynkyn de Worde
Wynkyn de Worde
Wynkyn de Worde was a printer and publisher in London known for his work with William Caxton, and is recognized as the first to popularize the products of the printing press in England....

, but this edition has no independent authority.

Richard Pynson
Richard Pynson
Richard Pynson was one of the first printers of English books. The 500 books he printed were influential in the standardisation of the English language...

, the King's Printer under Henry VIII for about twenty years, was the first to collect and sell something that resembled an edition of the collected works of Chaucer, introducing in the process five previously printed texts that we now know are not Chaucer's. (The collection is actually three separately printed texts, or collections of texts, bound together as one volume.) There is a likely connection between Pynson's product and William Thynne's a mere six years later. Thynne had a successful career from the 1520s until his death in 1546, when he was one of the masters of the royal household. His editions of Chaucers Works in 1532 and 1542 were the first major contributions to the existence of a widely recognised Chaucerian canon. Thynne represents his edition as a book sponsored by and supportive of the king who is praised in the preface by Sir Brian Tuke. Thynne's canon brought the number of apocryphal works associated with Chaucer to a total of 28, even if that was not his intention. As with Pynson, once included in the Works, pseudepigraphic
Pseudepigraphy
Pseudepigrapha are falsely attributed works, texts whose claimed authorship is unfounded; a work, simply, "whose real author attributed it to a figure of the past." The word "pseudepigrapha" is the plural of "pseudepigraphon" ; the Anglicized forms...

 texts stayed within it, regardless of their first editor's intentions.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Chaucer was printed more than any other English author, and he was the first author to have his works collected in comprehensive single-volume editions in which a Chaucer canon began to cohere. Some scholars contend that sixteenth-century editions of Chaucer's Works set the precedent for all other English authors in terms of presentation, prestige and success in print. These editions certainly established Chaucer's reputation, but they also began the complicated process of reconstructing and frequently inventing Chaucer's biography and the canonical list of works which were attributed to him.

Probably the most significant aspect of the growing apocrypha is that, beginning with Thynne's editions, it began to include medieval texts that made Chaucer appear as a proto-Protestant Lollard, primarily the Testament of Love and The Plowman's Tale
The Plowman's Tale
There are actually two pseudo-Chaucerian texts called The Plowman's Tale. In the mid-15th century a rhyme royal Plowman's Tale was added to the text of The Canterbury Tales in the Christ Church MS. This tale is actually an orthodox Roman Catholic, possibly anti-Lollard version of a Marian miracle...

. As "Chaucerian" works that were not considered apocryphal until the late nineteenth century, these medieval texts enjoyed a new life, with English Protestants carrying on the earlier Lollard project of appropriating existing texts and authors who seemed sympathetic—or malleable enough to be construed as sympathetic—to their cause. The official Chaucer of the early printed volumes of his Works was construed as a proto-Protestant as the same was done, concurrently, with William Langland
William Langland
William Langland is the conjectured author of the 14th-century English dream-vision Piers Plowman.- Life :The attribution of Piers to Langland rests principally on the evidence of a manuscript held at Trinity College, Dublin...

 and Piers Plowman
Piers Plowman
Piers Plowman or Visio Willelmi de Petro Plowman is the title of a Middle English allegorical narrative poem by William Langland. It is written in unrhymed alliterative verse divided into sections called "passus"...

. The famous Plowman's Tale did not enter Thynne's Works until the second, 1542, edition. Its entry was surely facilitated by Thynne's inclusion of Thomas Usk
Thomas Usk
Thomas Usk was appointed the under-sheriff of London by Richard II in 1387.- Author of The Testament of Love :Born in London, he is the author of The Testament of Love, which was once thought to be by Geoffrey Chaucer.- Appeal :...

's Testament of Love in the first edition. The Testament of Love imitates, borrows from, and thus resembles Usk's contemporary, Chaucer. (Testament of Love also appears to borrow from Piers Plowman.) Since the Testament of Love mentions its author's part in a failed plot (book 1, chapter 6), his imprisonment, and (perhaps) a recantation of (possibly Lollard) heresy, all this was associated with Chaucer. (Usk himself was executed as a traitor in 1388.) Interestingly, John Foxe
John Foxe
John Foxe was an English historian and martyrologist, the author of what is popularly known as Foxe's Book of Martyrs, , an account of Christian martyrs throughout Western history but emphasizing the sufferings of English Protestants and proto-Protestants from the fourteenth century through the...

 took this recantation of heresy as a defence of the true faith, calling Chaucer a "right Wiclevian" and (erroneously) identifying him as a schoolmate and close friend of John Wycliffe
John Wycliffe
John Wycliffe was an English Scholastic philosopher, theologian, lay preacher, translator, reformer and university teacher who was known as an early dissident in the Roman Catholic Church during the 14th century. His followers were known as Lollards, a somewhat rebellious movement, which preached...

 at Merton College, Oxford
Merton College, Oxford
Merton College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. Its foundation can be traced back to the 1260s when Walter de Merton, chancellor to Henry III and later to Edward I, first drew up statutes for an independent academic community and established endowments to...

. (Thomas Speght is careful to highlight these facts in his editions and his "Life of Chaucer.") No other sources for the Testament of Love exist—there is only Thynne's construction of whatever manuscript sources he had.

John Stow
John Stow
John Stow was an English historian and antiquarian.-Early life:The son of Thomas Stow, a tallow-chandler, he was born about 1525 in London, in the parish of St Michael, Cornhill. His father's whole rent for his house and garden was only 6s. 6d. a year, and Stow in his youth fetched milk every...

 (1525–1605) was an antiquarian and also a chronicler.
His edition of Chaucer's Works in 1561 brought the apocrypha to more than 50 titles. More were added in the seventeenth century, and they remained as late as 1810, well after Thomas Tyrwhitt
Thomas Tyrwhitt
Thomas Tyrwhitt was an English classical scholar and critic.-Life:He was born in London, where he also died. He was educated at Eton and Queen's College, Oxford . In 1756 he was appointed under-secretary at war, in 1762 clerk of the House of Commons...

 pared the canon down in his 1775 edition. The compilation and printing of Chaucer's works was, from its beginning, a political enterprise, since it was intended to establish an English national identity and history that grounded and authorised the Tudor monarchy and church. What was added to Chaucer often helped represent him favourably to Protestant England.

In his 1598 edition of the Works, Speght (probably taking cues from Foxe) made good use of Usk's account of his political intrigue and imprisonment in the Testament of Love to assemble a largely fictional "Life of Our Learned English Poet, Geffrey Chaucer." Speght's "Life" presents readers with an erstwhile radical in troubled times much like their own, a proto-Protestant who eventually came around the king's views on religion. Speght states that "In the second year of Richard the second, the King tooke Geffrey Chaucer and his lands into his protection. The occasion wherof no doubt was some daunger and trouble whereinto he was fallen by favouring some rash attempt of the common people." Under the discussion of Chaucer's friends, namely John of Gaunt, Speght further explains:
Yet it seemeth that [Chaucer] was in some trouble in the daies of King Richard the second, as it may appeare in the Testament of Loue: where hee doth greatly complaine of his owne rashnesse in following the multitude, and of their hatred of him for bewraying their purpose. And in that complaint which he maketh to his empty purse, I do find a written copy, which I had of Iohn Stow (whose library hath helped many writers) wherein ten times more is adjoined, then is in print. Where he maketh great lamentation for his wrongfull imprisonment, wishing death to end his daies: which in my iudgement doth greatly accord with that in the Testament of Love. Moreover we find it thus in Record.


Later, in "The Argument
Argument (literature)
An argument in literature is a brief summary, often in prose, of a poem or section of a poem or other work. It is often appended to the beginning of each chapter, book, or canto...

" to the Testament of Love, Speght adds:
Chaucer did compile this booke as a comfort to himselfe after great griefs conceiued for some rash attempts of the commons, with whome he had ioyned, and thereby was in feare to loose the fauour of his best friends.


Speght is also the source of the famous tale of Chaucer being fined for beating a Franciscan
Franciscan
Most Franciscans are members of Roman Catholic religious orders founded by Saint Francis of Assisi. Besides Roman Catholic communities, there are also Old Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, ecumenical and Non-denominational Franciscan communities....

 friar
Friar
A friar is a member of one of the mendicant orders.-Friars and monks:...

 in Fleet Street
Fleet Street
Fleet Street is a street in central London, United Kingdom, named after the River Fleet, a stream that now flows underground. It was the home of the British press until the 1980s...

, as well as a fictitious coat of arms
Coat of arms
A coat of arms is a unique heraldic design on a shield or escutcheon or on a surcoat or tabard used to cover and protect armour and to identify the wearer. Thus the term is often stated as "coat-armour", because it was anciently displayed on the front of a coat of cloth...

 and family tree
Family tree
A family tree, or pedigree chart, is a chart representing family relationships in a conventional tree structure. The more detailed family trees used in medicine, genealogy, and social work are known as genograms.-Family tree representations:...

. Ironically—and perhaps consciously so—an introductory, apologetic letter in Speght's edition from Francis Beaumont
Francis Beaumont
Francis Beaumont was a dramatist in the English Renaissance theatre, most famous for his collaborations with John Fletcher....

 defends the unseemly, "low", and bawdy bits in Chaucer from an elite, classicist position. Francis Thynne noted some of these inconsistencies in his Animadversions, insisting that Chaucer was not a commoner, and he objected to the friar-beating story. Yet Thynne himself underscores Chaucer's support for popular religious reform, associating Chaucer's views with his father William Thynne's attempts to include The Plowman's Tale and The Pilgrim's Tale in the 1532 and 1542 Works.

The myth of the Protestant Chaucer continues to have a lasting impact on a large body of Chaucerian scholarship. Though it is extremely rare for a modern scholar to suggest Chaucer supported a religious movement that didn't exist until more than a century after his death, the predominance of this thinking for so many centuries left it for granted that Chaucer was at least extremely hostile toward Catholicism. This assumption forms a large part of many critical approaches to Chaucer's works, including neo-Marxism.

Alongside Chaucer's Works, the most impressive literary monument of the period is John Foxe
John Foxe
John Foxe was an English historian and martyrologist, the author of what is popularly known as Foxe's Book of Martyrs, , an account of Christian martyrs throughout Western history but emphasizing the sufferings of English Protestants and proto-Protestants from the fourteenth century through the...

's Acts and Monuments...
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
The Book of Martyrs, by John Foxe, more accurately Acts and Monuments, is an account from a Protestant point of view of Christian church history and martyrology...

. As with the Chaucer editions, it was critically significant to English Protestant identity and included Chaucer in its project. Foxe's Chaucer both derived from and contributed to the printed editions of Chaucer's Works, particularly the pseudepigrapha. Jack Upland was first printed in Foxe's Acts and Monuments, and then it appeared in Speght's edition of Chaucer's Works. Speght's "Life of Chaucer" echoes Foxe's own account, which is itself dependent upon the earlier editions that added the Testament of Love and The Plowman's Tale to their pages. Like Speght's Chaucer, Foxe's Chaucer was also a shrewd (or lucky) political survivor. In his 1563 edition, Foxe "thought it not out of season ... to couple ... some mention of Geoffrey Chaucer" with a discussion of John Colet
John Colet
John Colet was an English churchman and educational pioneer.Colet was an English scholar, Renaissance humanist, theologian, and Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. Colet wanted people to see the scripture as their guide through life. Furthermore, he wanted to restore theology and rejuvenate...

, a possible source for John Skelton
John Skelton
John Skelton, also known as John Shelton , possibly born in Diss, Norfolk, was an English poet.-Education:...

's character Colin Clout.

Probably referring to the 1542 Act for the Advancement of True Religion
Act for the Advancement of True Religion
The Act for the Advancement of True Religion was an Act passed by the Parliament of England on 12 May 1543. It restricted the reading of the Bible to clerics, noblemen, the gentry and richer merchants. Women below gentry rank, servants, apprentices and generally poor people were forbidden to read it...

, Foxe said that he "marvel[s] to consider ... how the bishops, condemning and abolishing all manner of English books and treatises which might bring the people to any light of knowledge, did yet authorise the works of Chaucer to remain still and to be occupied; who, no doubt, saw into religion as much almost as even we do now, and uttereth in his works no less, and seemeth to be a right Wicklevian, or else there never was any. And that, all his works almost, if they be thoroughly advised, will testify (albeit done in mirth, and covertly); and especially the latter end of his third book of the Testament of Love ... Wherein, except a man be altogether blind, he may espy him at the full: although in the same book (as in all others he useth to do), under shadows covertly, as under a visor, he suborneth truth in such sort, as both privily she may profit the godly-minded, and yet not be espied of the crafty adversary. And therefore the bishops, belike, taking his works but for jests and toys, in condemning other books, yet permitted his books to be read."

It is significant, too, that Foxe's discussion of Chaucer leads into his history of "The Reformation of the Church of Christ in the Time of Martin Luther" when "Printing, being opened, incontinently ministered unto the church the instruments and tools of learning and knowledge; which were good books and authors, which before lay hid and unknown. The science of printing being found, immediately followed the grace of God; which stirred up good wits aptly to conceive the light of knowledge and judgment: by which light darkness began to be espied, and ignorance to be detected; truth from error, religion from superstition, to be discerned."

Foxe downplays Chaucer's bawdy and amorous writing, insisting that it all testifies to his piety. Material that is troubling is deemed metaphoric, while the more forthright satire (which Foxe prefers) is taken literally.
John Urry
John Urry (literary editor)
John Urry was a noted literary editor and medieval scholar of Scottish family.-Life:Matriculating from Christ Church, Oxford on June 30, 1682, he was elected to a studentship. He graduated B.A. in 1686...

 produced the first edition of the complete works of Chaucer in a Latin font, published posthumously in 1721. Included were several tales, according to the editors, for the first time printed, a biography of Chaucer, a glossary of old English words, and testimonials of author writers concerning Chaucer dating back to the 16th century. According to A.S.G Edwards, "This was the first collected edition of Chaucer to be printed in roman type. The life of Chaucer prefixed to the volume was the work of the Reverend John Dart, corrected and revised by Timothy Thomas. The glossary appended was also mainly compiled by Thomas. The text of Urry's edition has often been criticised by subsequent editors for its frequent conjectural emendations, mainly to make it conform to his sense of Chaucer's metre. The justice of such criticisms should not obscure his achievement. His is the first edition of Chaucer for nearly a hundred and fifty years to consult any manuscripts and is the first since that of William Thynne in 1534 to seek systematically to assemble a substantial number of manuscripts to establish his text. It is also the first edition to offer descriptions of the manuscripts of Chaucer's works, and the first to print texts of 'Gamelyn' and 'The Tale of Beryn', works ascribed to, but not by, Chaucer."

Modern scholarship


Although Chaucer's works were admired for many years, serious scholarly work on his legacy did not begin until the nineteenth century. Scholars such as Frederick James Furnivall
Frederick James Furnivall
Frederick James Furnivall , one of the co-creators of the Oxford English Dictionary , was an English philologist...

, who founded the Chaucer Society in 1868, pioneered the establishment of diplomatic editions of Chaucer's major texts, along with careful accounts of Chaucer's language and prosody. Walter William Skeat
Walter William Skeat
Walter William Skeat , English philologist, was born in London on the 21st of November 1835, and educated at King's College School , Highgate School, and Christ's College, Cambridge, of which he became a fellow in July 1860. His grandsons include the noted palaeographer T. C...

, who like Furnivall was closely associated with the Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary
The Oxford English Dictionary , published by the Oxford University Press, is the self-styled premier dictionary of the English language. Two fully bound print editions of the OED have been published under its current name, in 1928 and 1989. The first edition was published in twelve volumes , and...

, established the base text of all of Chaucer's works with his edition, published by Oxford University Press. Later editions by John H. Fisher and Larry D. Benson have offered further refinements, along with critical commentary and bibliographies.

With the textual issues largely addressed, if not solved, the questions of Chaucer's themes, structure, and audience were addressed. In 1966, the Chaucer Review was founded, and has maintained its position as the preeminent journal of Chaucer studies.

Popular culture

  • Powell and Pressburger's 1944 film A Canterbury Tale opens with a re-creation of Chaucer's Canterbury pilgrims; the film itself takes place on the road to, and in, wartime Canterbury.
  • The plot of the detective novel Landscape with Dead Dons by Robert Robinson centres on the apparent rediscovery of The Book of the Leoun, and a passage from it (eleven lines of good Chaucerian pastiche) turn out to be the vital murder clue as well as proving that the "rediscovered" poem is an elaborate, clever forgery by the murderer (a Chaucer scholar).
  • In Rudyard Kipling
    Rudyard Kipling
    Joseph Rudyard Kipling was an English poet, short-story writer, and novelist chiefly remembered for his celebration of British imperialism, tales and poems of British soldiers in India, and his tales for children. Kipling received the 1907 Nobel Prize for Literature...

    's story "Dayspring Mishandled", a writer plans an elaborate revenge on a former friend, a Chaucer expert, who has insulted the woman he loves, by fabricating a "mediaeval" manuscript sheet containing an alleged fragment of a lost Canterbury Tale (actually his own composition).
  • Both an asteroid
    2984 Chaucer
    2984 Chaucer is a small main belt asteroid, which was discovered by Edward L. G. Bowell in 1981. It is named after Geoffrey Chaucer, the medieval English poet....

     and a lunar crater
    Chaucer (crater)
    Chaucer is a lunar impact crater that is located to the west of the walled plain Hertzsprung, on the far side of the Moon. It lies to the northwest of the crater Vavilov and east of the Tsander–Kibal'chich crater pair. This is a circular crater with a slightly eroded outer rim...

     have been named for Chaucer.
  • Chaucer was portrayed by Paul Bettany
    Paul Bettany
    Paul Bettany is an English actor. He has appeared in a wide variety of films, including A Knight's Tale, A Beautiful Mind, and The Da Vinci Code...

     in the movie A Knight's Tale.
  • Kafka's Soup
    Kafka's Soup
    Kafka's Soup is a literary pastiche in the form of a cookbook. It contains 14 recipes each written in the style of a famous author from history. As of 2007 it had been translated into 18 languages and published in 27 countries. Excerpts from the book have appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and...

    , a literary pastiche in the form of a cookbook, contains a recipe for onion tart à la Chaucer.

Works


The following major works are in rough chronological order but scholars still debate the dating of most of Chaucer's output and works made up from a collection of stories may have been compiled over a long period.

Major works

  • Translation of Roman de la Rose
    Roman de la Rose
    The Roman de la rose, , is a medieval French poem styled as an allegorical dream vision. It is a notable instance of courtly literature. The work's stated purpose is to both entertain and to teach others about the Art of Love. At various times in the poem, the "Rose" of the title is seen as the...

    , possibly extant as The Romaunt of the Rose
    The Romaunt of the Rose
    The Romaunt of the Rose is a partial translation into Middle English of the French allegory, the Roman de la Rose. In Geoffrey Chaucer's The Legend of Good Women he confirms that he has translated at least part of the poem but the extant work is of dubious authenticity...

  • The Book of the Duchess
    The Book of the Duchess
    The Book of the Duchess, also known as The Deth of Blaunche, Encyclopædia Britannica, 1910. Accessed March 11, 2008. is the earliest of Chaucer’s major poems, preceded only by his short poem, "An ABC," and possibly by his translation of The Romaunt of the Rose...

  • The House of Fame
    The House of Fame
    The House of Fame is a poem by Geoffrey Chaucer, probably written between 1379 and 1380, making it one of his earlier works.-Overview:The House of Fame is over 2,000 lines long in three books and takes the form of a dream vision composed in octosyllabic couplets. Upon falling asleep the poet finds...

  • Anelida and Arcite
    Anelida and Arcite
    Anelida and Arcite is a 357 line poem by Geoffrey Chaucer. It tells the story of Anelida, queen of Armenia and her wooing by false Arcite from Thebes, Greece.Although short, it is a poem with a complex structure, with an invocation and then the main story...

  • Parlement of Foules
    Parlement of Foules
    The "Parlement of Foules" is a poem by Geoffrey Chaucer made up of approximately 700 lines. The poem is in the form of a dream vision in rhyme royal stanza and is interesting in that it is the first reference to the idea that St...

  • Translation of Boethius
    Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius
    Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius, commonly called Boethius was a philosopher of the early 6th century. He was born in Rome to an ancient and important family which included emperors Petronius Maximus and Olybrius and many consuls. His father, Flavius Manlius Boethius, was consul in 487 after...

    ' Consolation of Philosophy
    Consolation of Philosophy
    Consolation of Philosophy is a philosophical work by Boethius, written around the year 524. It has been described as the single most important and influential work in the West on Medieval and early Renaissance Christianity, and is also the last great Western work that can be called Classical.-...

    as Boece
    Boece (Chaucer)
    Boece is Geoffrey Chaucer's translation into Middle English of The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius.The original work, written in Latin, stresses the importance of philosophy to everyday life and was one of the major works of philosophy in the Middle Ages...

  • Troilus and Criseyde
    Troilus and Criseyde
    Troilus and Criseyde is a poem by Geoffrey Chaucer which re-tells in Middle English the tragic story of the lovers Troilus and Criseyde set against a backdrop of war in the Siege of Troy. It was composed using rime royale and probably completed during the mid 1380s. Many Chaucer scholars regard it...

  • The Legend of Good Women
    The Legend of Good Women
    The Legend of Good Women is a poem in the form of a dream vision by Geoffrey Chaucer.The poem is the third longest of Chaucer’s works, after The Canterbury Tales and Troilus and Criseyde and is possibly the first significant work in English to use the iambic pentameter or decasyllabic couplets...

  • The Canterbury Tales
    The Canterbury Tales
    The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer at the end of the 14th century. The tales are told as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together on a journey from Southwark to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at...

  • Treatise on the Astrolabe
    Treatise on the Astrolabe
    A Treatise on the Astrolabe is a medieval essay on the astrolabe by Geoffrey Chaucer. It begins:or, in a more modern English spelling,According to the introduction, the work was to have five parts:#A description of the astrolabe...


Short poems


  • An ABC
  • Chaucers Wordes unto Adam, His Owne Scriveyn
  • The Complaint unto Pity
  • The Complaint of Chaucer to his Purse
  • The Complaint of Mars
  • The Complaint of Venus
  • A Complaint to His Lady
  • The Former Age
  • Fortune
  • Gentilesse
  • Lak of Stedfastnesse
  • Lenvoy de Chaucer a Scogan
  • Lenvoy de Chaucer a Bukton
  • Proverbs
  • Balade to Rosemounde
  • Truth
  • Womanly Noblesse

Poems of dubious authorship

  • Against Women Unconstant
  • A Balade of Complaint
  • Complaynt D'Amours
  • Merciles Beaute
  • The Equatorie of the Planets – A rough translation of a Latin work derived from an Arab work of the same title. It is a description of the construction and use of a planetary equatorium, which was used in calculating planetary orbits and positions (at the time it was believed the sun orbited the Earth). The similar Treatise on the Astrolabe
    Treatise on the Astrolabe
    A Treatise on the Astrolabe is a medieval essay on the astrolabe by Geoffrey Chaucer. It begins:or, in a more modern English spelling,According to the introduction, the work was to have five parts:#A description of the astrolabe...

    , not usually doubted as Chaucer's work, in addition to Chaucer's name as a gloss to the manuscript are the main pieces of evidence for the ascription to Chaucer. However, the evidence Chaucer wrote such a work is questionable, and as such is not included in The Riverside Chaucer. If Chaucer did not compose this work, it was probably written by a contemporary.

Presumedly lost works

  • Of the Wreched Engendrynge of Mankynde, possible translation of Innocent III
    Pope Innocent III
    Pope Innocent III was Pope from 8 January 1198 until his death. His birth name was Lotario dei Conti di Segni, sometimes anglicised to Lothar of Segni....

    's De miseria conditionis humanae
  • Origenes upon the Maudeleyne
  • The Book of the Leoun – The Book of the Leon is mentioned in Chaucer's retraction. It is likely he wrote such a work; one suggestion is that the work was such a bad piece of writing it was lost, but if that had been the case, Chaucer would not have mentioned it. A likely source dictates it was probably a 'redaction of Guillaume de Machaut
    Guillaume de Machaut
    Guillaume de Machaut was a Medieval French poet and composer. He is one of the earliest composers on whom significant biographical information is available....

    's 'Dit dou lyon,' a story about courtly love, a subject about which Chaucer frequently wrote.

Spurious works

  • The Pilgrim's Tale
    The Pilgrim's Tale
    The Pilgrim's Tale is an English anti-monastic poem. It was probably written ca. 1536–38, since it makes references to events in 1534 and 1536 — i.e., the Lincolnshire Rebellion — and borrows from The Plowman's Tale and the 1532 text by William Thynne of Chaucer's Romaunt of the...

     – written in the sixteenth century with many Chaucerian allusions
  • The Plowman's Tale
    The Plowman's Tale
    There are actually two pseudo-Chaucerian texts called The Plowman's Tale. In the mid-15th century a rhyme royal Plowman's Tale was added to the text of The Canterbury Tales in the Christ Church MS. This tale is actually an orthodox Roman Catholic, possibly anti-Lollard version of a Marian miracle...

    or The Complaint of the Ploughman – a Lollard satire
    Satire
    Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

     later appropriated as a Protestant text
  • Pierce the Ploughman's Crede
    Pierce the Ploughman's Crede
    "Pierce the Ploughman's Crede" is a medieval alliterative poem of 855 lines, savagely lampooning the four orders of friars.-Textual History:Surviving in two complete forteenth-century manuscripts and two early printed editions, the Crede can be dated on internal evidence to the short period between...

     – a Lollard satire later appropriated by Protestants
  • The Ploughman's Tale – its body is largely a version of Thomas Hoccleve's "Item de Beata Virgine"
  • "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" – Richard Roos's translation of a poem of the same name by Alain Chartier
    Alain Chartier
    Alain Chartier was a French poet and political writer.He was born at Bayeux, into a family marked by considerable ability. His eldest brother Guillaume became bishop of Paris; and Thomas became notary to the king. Jean Chartier, a monk of St Denis, whose history of Charles VII is printed in vol. III...

  • The Testament of Love – actually by Thomas Usk
    Thomas Usk
    Thomas Usk was appointed the under-sheriff of London by Richard II in 1387.- Author of The Testament of Love :Born in London, he is the author of The Testament of Love, which was once thought to be by Geoffrey Chaucer.- Appeal :...

  • Jack Upland
    Jack Upland
    Jack Upland or Jack up Lande is a polemical, probably Lollard, literary work which can be seen as a "sequel" to Piers Plowman, with Antichrist attacking Christians through corrupt confession...

     – a Lollard satire
  • The Floure and the Leafe
    The Floure and the Leafe
    "The Floure and the Leafe", is an anonymous Middle English allegorical poem in 595 lines of rhyme royal, written around 1470. During the 17th, 18th, and most of the 19th century it was mistakenly believed to be the work of Geoffrey Chaucer, and was generally considered to be one of his finest poems...

     – a 15th century allegory

Derived works

  • God Spede the Plough
    God Spede the Plough
    God Spede the Plough is the name of an early 16th-century manuscript poem which borrows twelve stanzas from Geoffrey Chaucer's Monk's Tale....

     – Borrows twelve stanzas of Chaucer's Monk's Tale

See also


  • John V. Fleming
    John V. Fleming
    John V. Fleming is an American literary critic and the Louis W. Fairchild, '24 Professor of Literature and Comparative Literature, emeritus, at Princeton University.-Career:...

    , eminent Chaucerian, emeritus, at Princeton University
    Princeton University
    Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

  • Medieval literature
    Medieval literature
    Medieval literature is a broad subject, encompassing essentially all written works available in Europe and beyond during the Middle Ages . The literature of this time was composed of religious writings as well as secular works...

  • Middle English literature
    Middle English literature
    The term Middle English literature refers to the literature written in the form of the English language known as Middle English, from the 12th century until the 1470s, when the Chancery Standard, a form of London-based English, became widespread and the printing press regularized the language...

  • Charles Muscatine
    Charles Muscatine
    Charles Muscatine was an academic specialising in medieval literature, particularly Chaucer. He participated in the D-day landing on Omaha Beach and was fired by UC Berkeley for refusing to sign a McCarthyite oath...

    , a Chaucer scholar, deceased, formerly at University of California, Berkeley
    University of California, Berkeley
    The University of California, Berkeley , is a teaching and research university established in 1868 and located in Berkeley, California, USA...

  • Translation

External links




Educational institutions