Timelines to Visualize History

A Project by the Department of Medieval English Literature and Historical Linguistics, University of Düsseldorf

Begin End Event Description Keywords Related Events
1343 1400

Geoffrey Chaucer

Geoffrey Chaucer is the most prominent writer of Middle English literature. Chaucer's best know work is The Canterbury Tales, a collection of stories told by a fictitious group of pilgrims on their way from London to the shrine of Thomas Becket in Canterbury. Chaucer is infamous for not adhering to the stereotypical genres of the time, and he often combined features of several genres in many of his Canterbury Tales.

Geoffrey Chaucer was the son of a London wine merchant and is known as the most prominent writer of medieval English literature. He earned his living in the royal service holding various offices, such as Controller of the Customs in London, Clerk of the King's Works, and Deputy Forester; he was sent on diplomatic missions to Italy and France and succeeded in obtaining pensions from Edward III, Edward's son John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, Richard II and Henry IV.

Chaucer's best know work is The Canterbury Tales, a collection of stories told by a fictitious group of pilgrims on their way from London to Canterbury; the pilgrims form a cross-section of late 14th-century English society, among them a knight and his squire, a monk, a prioress and several other representatives of the church, people from the town and from the country, and many others. Chaucer is also a character himself in the Tales.

Similarly, the tales present a good sample of late ME genres and text forms, such as verse romance, saints' legend, fabliau, animal story, exemplum, moral treatise, etc. However, Chaucer usually did not adhere to the rules of the genre; he often added little contradictory elements and combined features of several genres.

Three of Chaucer's earlier works are cast in the form of dream-visions: The Book of the Duchess, a lament on the death of John of Gaunt's first wife; The House of Fame, an enigmatic poem in which a golden eagle carries the dreamer to the court of the Goddess of Fame; and The Parliament of Fowls, a funny poem on the occasion of St Valentine's day when birds choose their mates.

Chaucer is also known as gifted translator; early in his life he translated the first 7,000 lines of the French romance Roman de la Rose and around 1386 he presented a translation of Boethius's De Consolatione Philosophiae. He also wrote A Treatise on the Astrolabe, a work of prose addressed to his son that explains the usage of the astrolabe.
Literature, Middle English Period, Poetry, Prose