ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Who was Geoffrey Chaucer?

Updated on December 2, 2016

Geoffrey Chaucer, English poet. Born probably London, England, about 1344. Died London, probably October 25, 1400.

Chaucer was the first major English poet and had a tremendous influence on the development of English literature. Before his time the English language was regarded by the aristocracy as crude and unsuited to fine literature. By consistently writing in the Middle English dialect of London and southeastern England, Chaucer elevated the language to a position of literary importance and prestige. He introduced into English poetry many of the meters and stanza forms that are still used today. Perhaps most important, however, Chaucer was a storyteller of incomparable skill, and he wrote one of the world's most treasured literary works, the Canterbury Tales.

Like all writers, Chaucer was greatly influenced by the established literary conventions of his age. He wrote in traditional poetic forms and borrowed freely from Latin, French, and Italian poets. His enduring greatness lies in the way in which he enriched and transformed the conventional by means of his own unique poetic gifts. One of his most remarkable talents was his ability to create vivid, clearly drawn characters psychological insight and comic genius is the outstanding characteristic of Chaucerian verse.

Chaucer's Life

Almost nothing is known of Chaucer's early life. He was the son of a wealthy London wine merchant, who apparently had some connections in the English court. By 1357, Chaucer was a page to the Countess of Ulster, a member of the royal family. Two years later he was serving with the English army in France, where he was captured and held prisoner. With the personal aid of the English king, Edward III, he was ransomed and returned to England.

By 1366, Chaucer had married Philippa, an attendant of the queen. He was taken into the king's service and for the rest of his life received appointments, pensions, and gifts from King Edward and from Edward's successor, Richard II. During the last 12 years of his life, Chaucer was apparently in strained financial circumstances. His last appointment was to the post of deputy forester. This brought him some financial security, and he leased a house in the gardens of Westminster Abbey. He died there a few months later and was buried in the abbey.

Major Works

As a young man, Chaucer translated part of the famous medieval French poem the Romance of the Rose. His first long original work, the Book of the Duchess (about 1369), was a graceful elegy on the death of the wife of John of Gaunt, his lifelong friend and sponsor. The poem was strongly influenced by the medieval French poetry then popular in England. It is written in the traditional form of a love vision, or dream allegory, in which the poet represents himself as falling asleep and dreaming the incident related in the main part of the poem. Although conventional in form, the Book of the Duchess is uniquely tender and restrained in tone.

Chaucer's next major works, written after his trips to Italy, show the influence of Italian poetry. The House of Fame (about 1379) and the Parliament of Fowls (about 1382) are also cast in the form of dream allegories. However, they are more realistic than his previous work and are filled with the colloquial wit and lively characterizations that distinguish his best verse.

In Troilus and Criseyde, Chaucer created his best sustained narrative and perhaps his greatest single poem. The story is an adaptation of Boccaccio's 11 Filostrato ("The Man Cast Down by Love"). It concerns the love of Troilus, a Trojan prince, for the beautiful widow Criseyde, and it relates her ultimate unfaithfulness to him. In Chaucer's poem this simple tale is transformed into a subtle and compassionate psychological study of love. The characterization of Criseyde is regarded as one of his most brilliant accomplishments.

Chaucer's last work, the Canterbury Tales (about 1387-1400), is generally considered his masterpiece. It consists of 24 stories supposedly exchanged by pilgrims traveling through the English countryside to the shrine of St. Thomas a Becket at Canterbury. Although the Canterbury Tales was left incomplete at Chaucer's death, it represents his most comprehensive literary work. See also canterbury tales.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Tannu 

      8 years ago

      I really love to read Chaucer.His well-flown verse shows his finesse.And you have presented Chaucer's life and works in a wonderful manner which gives a vivid knowledge about him.I further desire to read more of him.

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 

      8 years ago from Upstate New York

      Terrific bio, anyone who's ever read the Canterbury Tales remembers the Miller's Wife, vividly! Thanks again for a wonderful hub. Until Chaucer came along, English poets use Latin or French for their work, instead of their native tounge. That alone is a huge contribution to literature.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)