middle ages Search TheMiddleAges.net

Geoffrey Chaucer

Geoffrey Chaucer (ca. 1343-1400) was an English author, philosopher, diplomat, and poet, and is best known and remembered as the author of The Canterbury Tales. He is sometimes credited with being the first author to demonstrate the artistic legitimacy of the English language.
He was a contemporary of Giovanni Boccaccio and Christine de Pizan. Although born as a son of a vintner, he became a page at the court of Edward III of England. He was in the service of first Elizabeth de Burgh, Countess of Ulster, and then Lionel of Antwerp, son of Edward III. He traveled from England to France, Spain, Flanders, and Italy (Genoa and Florence), where he came into contact with medieval continental poetry.

Around 1366 Chaucer married Philippa (de) Roet, a lady-in-waiting to Edward III's queen, Philippa of Hainault, and a sister of Katherine Swynford, who later (ca. 1396) became the third wife of Chaucer's friend and patron, John of Gaunt.
Chaucer wrote poetry as a diversion from his job as Comptroller of the Customs for the port of London, and also translated such important works as The Romance of the Rose, written in French by Guillaume de Lorris and enlarged years later by Jean de Meun, and Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius' De consolatione philosophiae. He also wrote the Parlement of Foules and the House of Fame. However, he is best known as the writer of Troilus and Criseyde and of The Canterbury Tales, a collection of stories (told by fictional pilgrims on the road to the cathedral at Canterbury) that would help to shape English literature.
Chaucer's Chanticleer and the Fox was based on a story by Marie de France. The image shows an outdoor production of the tale at Ashby-de-la-Zouch castle.
In the history of English literature, he is considered the introducer of continental accentual-syllabic metre as an alternative to the alliterative Anglo-Saxon metre. He also helped to standardise the southern accent (London area) of the Middle English language.
After the overthrow of his patron Richard II, Chaucer vanishes from the historical record. He is believed to have died of unknown causes on October 25, 1400, and there is speculation that he was murdered by enemies of Richard II. He is buried at Westminster Abbey in London. 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.

Common mispellings: Geofrey Chauser


Related Links:

The Middle Ages

The Black Plague

Return to The Middle Ages