Geoffrey Chaucer

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Geoffrey Chaucer (born 1340/44, died 1400) is remembered as the author of The Canterbury Tales, which ranks as one of the greatest epic works of world literature. Chaucer made a crucial contribution to English literature in using English at a time when much court poetry was still written in Anglo-Norman or Latin.

Geoffrey Chaucer was born in London. He was the son of a prosperous wine merchant and deputy to the king's butler, and his wife Agnes. Little is known of his early education, but his works show that he could read French, Latin, and Italian.

In 1359-1360 Chaucer went to France with Edward III's army during the Hundred Years' War. He was captured in the Ardennes and returned to England after the treaty of Brétigny in 1360. There is no certain information of his life from 1361 until c.1366, when he perhaps married Philippa Roet, the sister of John Gaunt's future wife. Philippa died in 1387 and Chaucer enjoyed Gaunt's patronage throughout his life.

Between 1367 and 1378 Chaucer made several journeys abroad on diplomatic and commercial missions. In 1385 he lost his employment and rent-free home, and moved to Kent where he was appointed as justice of the peace. He was also elected to Parliament. This was a period of great creativity for Chaucer, during which he produced most of his best poetry, among others Troilus and Cressida (c. 1385), based on a love story by Boccaccio.

Chaucer took his narrative inspiration for his works from several sources but still remained an entirely individual poet, gradually developing his personal style and techniques. His first narrative poem, The Book of the Duchess, was probably written shortly after the death of Blanche, Duchess of Lancaster, first wife of John Gaunt, in September 1369. His next important work, The House of Fame, was written between 1374 and 1385. Soon afterward Chaucer translated The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius, and wrote the poem The Parliament of Birds.

Chaucer did not begin working on The Canterbury Tales until he was in his early 40s. The book, which was left unfinished when the author died, depicts a pilgrimage by some 30 people, who are going on a spring day in April to the shrine of the martyr, St. Thomas Becket. On the way they amuse themselves by telling stories. Among the band of pilgrims are a knight, a monk, a prioress, a plowman, a miller, a merchant, a clerk, and an oft-widowed wife from Bath. The stories are interlinked with interludes in which the characters talk with each other, revealing much about themselves.

According to tradition, Chaucer died in London on October 25, 1400. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, in the part of the church, which afterwards came to be called Poet's Corner. A monument was erected to him in 1555.

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Recent Forum Posts on Geoffrey Chaucer

Legend of Good Women

What do you think of this text? I personally found it very disappointing. I came into it hoping for something akin to Ovid's Heroides, but the tales felt very reductive and repetitive. In comparison, Ovid's letters are so much more dynamic and emotionally engaging. The (F text) prologue was absolutely beautiful, and it raised my hopes, but the rest of the text did not measure up IMO. Having said that, I did enjoy Chaucer's take on Dido and, to a lesser extent, Ariadne and Philomela. The Thisbe section was so melodramatic that it made me laugh, though I'm not sure whether or not Chaucer intended it to be funny. I can't place the tone. Did Chaucer intend for these tales to be as tediously didactic as they sound or are they supposed to be satirical? And did he leave the poem unfinished because he grew bored with it (as I did)? Thoughts?

Your favorite dream vision?

Personally, mine is the Parliament of Fowles because 1) it's hilarious! I love the birds arguing with each other and the implied parody of Parliament, 2) it's bawdy (loved the bit about Priapus and his "sceptre") :D, 3) it's the most coherent, and 4) it commemorates Valentine's Day! How sweet is that? I also think that it captures Chaucer's deep respect for God's created world, especially in his gorgeous descriptions of the trees and the birds. The garden has a very Edenic, prelapsarian aura to it with Nature, the catalogue of birds according to their rank, and their sensual joy in choosing their mates. The poem also brings up a number of theories about love, and how to choose one's spouse. Though some of the birds are written off as silly, I think all of their suggestions about the nature of love & marriage have validity. Also, it's refreshing to see such sympathy for women in the poem. I really enjoyed the fact that the goddess Nature allows the formal eagle the agency to choose her own mate, and doesn't rush her into it. I think it shows that she not only trusts the formal's judgment, but also respects her intelligence to make a prudent decision for herself. In comparison to Chaucer's other dream visions, PoF's narrator does the least. During both his visions, the dreamer is mostly an observer and does not noticeably change, though the point - supposedly - is to educate him. In both the other dream visions, the dreamer either learns a lesson (HoF) or helps another suffering individual come to a reconciliation (BoD). My professor doesn't agree with me and argues that one of the central themes of PoF is about the dreamer learning to "read" the world correctly, whereas I think the main message is to debate the nature of romantic love. Thoughts? I also love that you can begin to see the influence of Dante on Chaucer in this poem. Granted, it becomes much more explicit in HoF, but I think you can begin to trace those subtle associations here.

The Wife of Bath's Tale Themes

Can someone please help me? I am needing to connect the following themes into Chaucer's The Wife of Bath's Tale?

Chaucer analysis and translation

I just wanted to make sure I got the translation of this text right. If there is a way you'd translate it different than me, please let me know! Original text: Gat-tothed was she, soothly for to seye. Upon an amblere esily she sat, Ywympled wel, and on hir heed an hat As brood as is a bokeler or a targe; A foot-mantel aboute hir hipes large, And on hir feet a paire of spores sharpe. In felaweshipe wel koude she laughe and carpe. Of remedies of love she knew per chaunce, For she koude of that art the olde daunce. This is my translation: Gap-toothed was she, it is the truth I say. Upon a pacing horse easily she sat, Wearing a large wimple, and over all a hat As broad as is a buckler or a targe; An overskirt was tucked around her buttocks large, And her feet spurred sharply under that. In company well could she laugh and chat. The remedies of love she knew, perchance, For of that art she'd learned the old, old dance. I'd also like to know the significance of her riding a horse so easily and the detailed description about her clothing. I am thinking the horse thing is somehow sexual, and the clothing is to make her seem like a gold digger. I think she is described as a manipulative woman. Possibly even heartless because of her "knowing the dance of love". Got any ideas?

Canterbury Tales

So a good portion of my English exam is on The Canterbury Tales. I have read the prologue (the part we read all of) multiple times, as well as the spark notes at least five times. Our teacher gave us a study guide, the questions on the test in the order they will appear. The test will be multiple choice, however, our study guide is not. He will not tell us answers, but tell us whether our answer on the study guide is right or wrong if we ask him. This exam is Tuesday and I have many questions on The Canterbury Tales to complete. It would be wonderful if someone could help me find answers to these. Keep in mind I am not trying to get others to complete my work for me, the study guide isn't for a grade. I just need help figuring out some of the answers because they are not in the book.

Ye Chaucer Pilgrimage Societie

Greetings to all fellow litnetters: St. Luke's suggested the idea of a Chaucer discussion a few weeks back, and given that I am heading into work on a dissertation chapter on Chaucer's House of Fame with the start of the new year, I thought this sounded like a very pleasant suggestion. So here is a new thread created for the purpose of reading and discussing the works of Geoffrey Chaucer and/or the life and times of that illustrious poet. I thought I would first throw this out there and see what kind of response it gets and what people might be interested in looking at first. If we get a group that includes people unfamiliar for the most part with Chaucer, we could start off with a discussion of the Canterbury Tales that might be of interest to a range from those who have never read Chaucer (I teach this stuff, so I can help out people who are interested but who don't know the first thing) to those who have spent much time with him. If the parties interested in this thread are solidly Chaucerian initiates who would like to read some of the less popularly read works (the aforementioned House of Fame for example, or Troilus and Criseyde) that would be fine too. So, for the moment, just put a post in if you would like to spend some time with good old Geoff. C., and indicate what you would most like to get out of such a discussion. I'll then either organize a vote if we have a large and diverse number of interests or just set up a discussion if there seems to be a general consensus to, say, read the Canterbury Tales prologue together (or I'll start up a nice conversation with the one person who replies...whatever the case may be:D). To get us started, here's a link to the Yale Chaucer site, which is one of the best out there and includes texts (the poems can also be found right here on Lit. Net), biographical and historical information, and a guide to Middle English accompanied by audio recordings: This page at the Chaucer Meta Page site also has some good links to online resources that can help with learning and understanding Chaucer's language:


I was interested to see on another thread that many ppl consider Chaucer the greatest english writer after Shakespeare. I am a complete ignoramous when it comes to Chaucer I must admit, but I'd always thought of him as little more than a bawdy storyteller. Milton, Wordsworth, George Eliot, Dickens etc have a seriousness and depth as well as being entertaining. Is the same true of Chaucer? Is he more than a storyteller and historical curiosity?

Please help!!

Thank you so much for helping ahead of time... and i really don't mean to abuse these forums, but I'm desperate for help with The clerks tale. I've been asked to give a physical description of the narrator, the Oxford clerk, and i've been asked to tell why his appearance is important. So far what i have is he is not over weight, and that he where's a cloak, unless I've misunderstood what i read from "the portrait, Prologue and tale of the clerk." I didn't think it would help to look through the actual tale for specifics, just because i have such a hard time understanding Chaucer's writing. Any help or maybe just a point in the right direction is greatly appreciated! another, and last, question asked of me is to tell how the tale reflects the general public perception of English life (love, religion, money, ect.). i think the clerks tale focuses mostly on the love aspect of English life, but i don't really know "English life" so i would feel idiotic saying something that may end up being offensive to the English. Any help is great though, I'm kind of stuck here. thanks again

Chaucer's writing style

hello I'm interested in the different types of writing styles Geoffrey Chaucer has. I have came up with a few different styles but I was wondering if someone can help me with this. I'm writing strictly on writing styles and not a bibliography. Any information or links to useful sites would be great! Thank you


m lukin 4 sum of chaucer's buks bt dono d crrct id ne1 of u cud sgsst smthn wud b gud

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