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Geoffrey Chaucer

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Chaucer: Illustration from Cassell's History of England, circa 1902
Chaucer: Illustration from Cassell's History of England, circa 1902

Chanticleer the rooster from an outdoor production of Chanticleer and the Fox at Ashby-de-la-Zouch castle
Chanticleer the rooster from an outdoor production of Chanticleer and the Fox at Ashby-de-la-Zouch castle

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.


Around 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 of Gaunt.

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 by Guillaume de Lorris (extended by Jean de Meun), and Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy. However, while many scholars maintain that Chaucer did indeed translate part of the text of The Romance of the Rose, others claim that this has been effectively disproved. He also wrote the Parlement of Foules, the House of Fame , and Chanticleer and the Fox, the latter based on a story by Marie de France. 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.

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 vanished 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.

See also

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations by or about Geoffrey Chaucer

Electronic texts freely available from Project Gutenberg:

  • Troilus and Criseyde
  • Canterbury Tales, and Other Poems
  • Chaucer's Official Life by James Root Hulbert
  • Anthology of Middle English Literature

Educational institutions

  • Chaucer Metapage - Project in addition to the 33rd International Congress of Medieval Studies
  • Chaucer Page by Harvard University

Last updated: 02-08-2005 06:42:14
Last updated: 02-24-2005 14:41:11