July 12, 2012

Geoffrey Chaucer

Geoffrey Chaucer

14th century English poet, philosopher, courtier, civil servant and diplomat.
  • Full Name: Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Also Known as: Father of English Literature
  • Birth: 1343?
  • Death: 1400?
  • Cause of death: ?
  • Place of Death: ?
  • Place of Birth: London, England?
  • Buried at: Westminster Abbey, London
  • Father: John Chaucer
  • Mother: Agnes Copton
  • Siblings: 1 Sister (Katherine Chaucer)?
  • Marriage: 1366?
  • Spouse: Philippa Roet
  • Number of Children: 2 Sons ? (Thomas Chaucer and Lewis Chaucer) & 2 Daughters ? (Elizabeth Chaucer and Agnes Chaucer)
  • Education: ?
  • Known for: elevating the prestige of English as a literary language as well as increasing the range of its poetic vocabulary and metres
  • Criticised for: his lack of seriousness (According to Matthew Arnold)
  • Influences: Guillaume de Lorris (c. 1200 – c. 1240), Jean de Meun (c. 1240 – c. 1305), Dante Alighieri (c. June 1, 1265 – September 14, 1321), Guillaume de Machaut (c. 1300 – April 1377), Giovanni Boccaccio (June 16, 1313 – December 21, 1375), and Jean Froissart (c. 1337 – c. 1405)
  • Influenced: Thomas Hoccleve (c. 1368–1426), John Lydgate (c. 1370 – c. 1451), Sir Thomas Malory (c. 1405 – 14 March 1471), John Skelton (c. 1460 – 21 June 1529), Robert Henryson (c. 1425 - c. 1500), Edmund Spenser (c. 1552 – 13 January 1599), William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616), and John Dryden (9 August 1631 – 1 May 1700)


“What is better than wisdom? Woman. And what is better than a good woman? Nothing. “Tale of Melibeus” (The Canterbury Tales)

Major Themes:

  • Courtly love
  • Romance
  • Sin
  • Social class
  • Corruption of the Church
  • Christianity
  • Patience
  • Decadence
  • Feminism
  • Sex and adultery
  • Male-female marriage
  • Justice and judgement
  • The human pursuit of transitory earthly ideals
  • The dilemma of fate verses free will

Notable Works:

  • The Book of the Duchess (about 1370?)
  • Troilus and Cressida (about 1385?)
  • The Canterbury Tales (about 1386?)
  • The Parliament of Fowls (about 1382?)
  • The Knight's Tale (from the Canterbury Tales) (about 1386?)
  • The House of Fame
  • The Legend of Good Women ( about 1386?)
  • Treatise on the astrolabe
  • Truth (about 1390?)
  • Gentilesse
  • Merciles Beaute
  • Lak of Stedfastnesse
  • Against Women Unconstant

Did You Know?

  • The historians are divided into their opinions about the exact date of Chaucer’s birth.
  • Generally it is assumed that he was born between 1343 and 1446.
  • The historians are in complete darkness about Chaucer’s death. According to one tradition, he died of natural causes, possibly tumor. Still another tradition relates that he was murdered by enemies of Richard II or his successor, Henry IV.
  • Geoffrey Chaucer grew up on Thames Street in London, England.
  • Little is known about his educational background. He probably attended a school attached to a local church named Saint Paul's Cathedral to have some education in Latin and Greek and may have studied law at the Inns of Court.
  • His father and grandfather were both London wine makers; several previous generations had been merchants in Ipswich.
  • Most possibly in 1366 he married a fellow courtier named Phillipa Pan.
  • It is assumed that Chaucer was fluent in several languages, including French, Italian, and Latin.
  • Since Chaucer was the first poet to write authoritatively in English, John Dryden called Chaucer "the father of English poetry," and honoured him as highly as the Greeks honoured Homer and the Romans honoured Virgil.
  • Although he spent most of his life in and around the court, he had to work a succession of jobs— as a page, a soldier, an esquire, a diplomat, a customs controller, justice of the peace, member of Parliament, Clerk of the Works of Westminster, Commissioner of Walls and Ditches, and Deputy Forester of the Royal Forest to support himself.
  • According to legal records, in 1380 Chaucer was accused of the raptus (which could mean either rape or kidnapping) of a woman named Cecilia Chaumpaigne. However, in court she dropped all of the charges and released him of all of his actions in the case of her rape.
  • After his death, he was buried in the South Transept of Westminster Abbey, which was definitely a rare honour for a commoner like him. Since then that very part became known as the Poet's Corner.
  • Chaucer's first published work was The Book of the Duchess, a poem of over 1,300 lines.
  • Although he wrote a number of stories and poems over the course of his lifetime, today his reputation chiefly rests upon The Canterbury Tales.
  • He never finished his masterpiece The Canterbury Tales and even the completed tales were not finally revised. Scholars are uncertain about the order of the tales. As the printing press had yet to be invented when Chaucer wrote his works, The Canterbury Tales has been passed down in several handwritten manuscripts.
  • In The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer's characters are psychologically so complex that the work has also been called by the scholars the first modern novel.
  • Chaucer was the first English writer to write in the language of the people, the vernacular English, rather than Latin or French, the languages used for most literary writings in the 1300s.
  • Chaucer contributed a lot to increase the prestige of English as a literary language and extended the range of its poetic vocabulary and meters.
  • He was the first English poet to use the seven-line stanza in iambic pentameter known as rhyme royal and the couplet later called heroic.
  • For the English Renaissance, Chaucer was the English Homer. Edmund Spenser paid tribute to him as his master and many of the plays of William Shakespeare show thorough assimilation of Chaucer's comic spirit.
  • His family name derives from the French term chausseur, meaning "shoemaker".
  • There’s a crater on the far side of the moon named Chaucer which has been named in honour of Chaucer.


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Tanvir Shameem Tanvir Shameem is not the biggest fan of teaching, but he is doing his best to write on various topics of language and literature just to guide thousands of students and researchers across the globe. You can always find him experimenting with presentation, style and diction. He will contribute as long as time permits. You can find him on:


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