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.
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
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
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
The Middle Ages
The Black Plague