geoffrey chaucer


  • Richard Pynson, the King’s Printer under Henry VIII for about twenty years, was the first to collect and sell something that resembled an edition of the collected works of
    Chaucer; however, in the process, he introduced five previously printed texts that are now known not to be Chaucer’s.

  • [11] Career[edit] Chaucer as a pilgrim, in the early 15th-century illuminated Ellesmere manuscript of the Canterbury Tales While records concerning the lives of his contemporaries
    William Langland and the Gawain Poet are practically non-existent, since Chaucer was a public servant his official life is very well documented, with nearly five hundred written items testifying to his career.

  • A 19th-century depiction of Chaucer A possible indication that his career as a writer was appreciated came when Edward III granted Chaucer “a gallon of wine daily for the
    rest of his life” for some unspecified task.

  • A parallel trend in Chaucer’s own lifetime was underway in Scotland through the work of his slightly earlier contemporary, John Barbour, and was likely to have been even more
    general, as is evidenced by the example of the Pearl Poet in the north of England.

  • His life goes undocumented for much of the next ten years, but it is believed that he wrote (or began) most of his famous works during this period.

  • [48] The arrangement of these five-stress lines into rhyming couplets, first seen in his The Legend of Good Women, was used in much of his later work and became one of the
    standard poetic forms in English.

  • Fortune states three times in her response to the plaintiff, “And also, you still have your best friend alive” (32, 40, 48); she also refers to his “beste frend” in the envoy
    when appealing to his “noblesse” to help Chaucer to a higher estate.

  • The first of the “Chaucer Life Records” appears in 1357, in the household accounts of Elizabeth de Burgh, the Countess of Ulster, when he became the noblewoman’s page through
    his father’s connections,[12] a common medieval form of apprenticeship for boys into knighthood or prestige appointments.

  • [68] As with Pynson, once included in the Works, pseudepigraphic texts stayed with those works, regardless of their first editor’s intentions.

  • [47] Chaucer is known for metrical innovation, inventing the rhyme royal, and he was one of the first English poets to use the five-stress line, a decasyllabic cousin to the
    iambic pentametre, in his work, with only a few anonymous short works using it before him.

  • Thynne’s canon brought the number of apocryphal works associated with Chaucer to a total of 28, even if that was not his intention.

  • [36] Poem Fortune[edit] Chaucer’s short poem Fortune, believed to have been written in the 1390s, is also thought to refer to Lancaster.

  • This was an unusual grant, but given on a day of celebration, St George’s Day, 1374, when artistic endeavours were traditionally rewarded, it is assumed to have been another
    early poetic work.

  • Chaucer is also recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary as the first author to use many common English words in his writings.

  • They introduced him to medieval Italian poetry, the forms and stories of which he would use later.

  • [2] He was the first writer to be buried in what has since come to be called Poets’ Corner, in Westminster Abbey.

  • As “Chaucerian” works that were not considered apocryphal until the late 19th century, these medieval texts enjoyed a new life, with English Protestants carrying on the earlier
    Lollard project of appropriating existing texts and authors who seemed sympathetic—or malleable enough to be construed as sympathetic—to their cause.

  • There are 83 surviving manuscripts of the Canterbury Tales (in whole or part) alone, along with sixteen of Troilus and Criseyde, including the personal copy of Henry IV.

  • [51] It was not until the late 19th century that the official Chaucerian canon, accepted today, was decided upon, largely as a result of Walter William Skeat’s work.

  • Around this time, Chaucer is believed to have written The Book of the Duchess in honour of Blanche of Lancaster, the late wife of John of Gaunt, who died in 1369 of the plague.

  • This included many Lollard sympathisers who may well have been inclined to read Chaucer as one of their own.

  • Yet even before his death in 1400, Chaucer’s audience had begun to include members of the rising literate, middle and merchant classes.

  • Writers of the 17th and 18th centuries, such as John Dryden, admired Chaucer for his stories, but not for his rhythm and rhyme, as few critics could then read Middle English
    and the text had been butchered by printers, leaving a somewhat unadmirable mess.

  • Roughly seventy-five years after Chaucer’s death, The Canterbury Tales was selected by William Caxton to be one of the first books to be printed in England.

  • Since the Testament of Love mentions its author’s part in a failed plot (book 1, chapter 6), his imprisonment, and (perhaps) a recantation of (possibly Lollard) heresy, all
    this was associated with Chaucer.

  • Opening page of The Knight’s Tale—the first tale from Canterbury Tales—from the Ellesmere Manuscript held in the Huntington Library in San Marino, California In the 16th and
    17th centuries, Chaucer was printed more than any other English author, and he was the first author to have his works collected in comprehensive single-volume editions in which a Chaucer canon began to cohere.

  • Chaucer was born in London most likely in the early 1340s (by some accounts, including his monument, he was born in 1343), though the precise date and location remain unknown.

  • [69] The compilation and printing of Chaucer’s works was, from its beginning, a political enterprise, since it was intended to establish an English national identity and history
    that grounded and authorised the Tudor monarchy and church.

  • Among Chaucer’s many other works are The Book of the Duchess, The House of Fame, The Legend of Good Women, and Troilus and Criseyde.

  • [29] Later life[edit] Tomb of Chaucer in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey, London Chaucer is commemorated by this stained glass window in the north wall of Southwark Cathedral
    In September 1390, records say that Chaucer was robbed and possibly injured while conducting the business, and he stopped working in this capacity on 17 June 1391.

  • Later documents suggest it was a mission, along with Jean Froissart, to arrange a marriage between the future King Richard II and a French princess, thereby ending the Hundred
    Years’ War.

  • He is thought to have started work on The Canterbury Tales in the early 1380s.

  • Chaucer’s original audience was a courtly one, and would have included women as well as men of the upper social classes.

  • [25] While still working as comptroller, Chaucer appears to have moved to Kent, being appointed as one of the commissioners of peace for Kent, at a time when French invasion
    was a possibility.

  • Richard II granted him an annual pension of 20 pounds in 1394 (equivalent to £18,558 in 2021),[31] and Chaucer’s name fades from the historical record not long after Richard’s
    overthrow in 1399.

  • These editions certainly established Chaucer’s reputation, but they also began the complicated process of reconstructing and frequently inventing Chaucer’s biography and the
    canonical list of works which were attributed to him.

  • [60] John Lydgate referred to Chaucer within his own text The Fall of Princes as the “lodesterre (guiding principle) … off our language”.

  • There is a likely connection between Pynson’s product and William Thynne’s a mere six years later.

  • “[64] Manuscripts and audience[edit] The large number of surviving manuscripts of Chaucer’s works is testimony to the enduring interest in his poetry prior to the arrival
    of the printing press.

  • [59] The poet Thomas Hoccleve, who may have met Chaucer and considered him his role model, hailed Chaucer as “the firste fyndere of our fair langage”.

  • It is not known which, if any, of Chaucer’s extant works prompted the reward, but the suggestion of him as poet to a king places him as a precursor to later poets laureate.

  • Two other early works were Anelida and Arcite and The House of Fame.

  • Probably the most significant aspect of the growing apocrypha is that, beginning with Thynne’s editions, it began to include medieval texts that made Chaucer appear as a proto-Protestant
    Lollard, primarily the Testament of Love and The Plowman’s Tale.

  • [10] John Chaucer married Agnes Copton, who inherited properties in 1349, including 24 shops in London from her uncle Hamo de Copton, who is described in a will dated 3 April
    1354 and listed in the City Hustings Roll as “moneyer”, said to be a moneyer at the Tower of London.

  • [55]Valentine’s Day and romance[edit] The first recorded association of Valentine’s Day with romantic love is believed to be in Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls (1382), a dream
    vision portraying a parliament for birds to choose their mates.

  • Some scholars contend that 16th-century editions of Chaucer’s Works set the precedent for all other English authors in terms of presentation, prestige and success in print.

  • Chaucer died of unknown causes on 25 October 1400, although the only evidence for this date comes from the engraving on his tomb which was erected more than 100 years after
    his death.

  • [63] In Charles Dickens’ 1850 novel David Copperfield, the Victorian era author echoed Chaucer’s use of Luke 23:34 from Troilus and Criseyde (Dickens held a copy in his library
    among other works of Chaucer), with G. K. Chesterton writing, “among the great canonical English authors, Chaucer and Dickens have the most in common.

  • [23] He must have been suited for the role as he continued in it for twelve years, a long time in such a post at that time.

  • The status of the final -e in Chaucer’s verse is uncertain: it seems likely that during the period of Chaucer’s writing the final -e was dropping out of colloquial English
    and that its use was somewhat irregular.

  • It is not known if Chaucer was in the City of London at the time of the Peasants’ Revolt, but if he was, he would have seen its leaders pass almost directly under his apartment
    window at Aldgate.

  • [56][57] Honouring the first anniversary of the engagement of fifteen-year-old King Richard II of England to fifteen-year-old Anne of Bohemia: For this was on seynt Volantynys
    day Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make Of euery kynde that men thinke may And that so heuge a noyse gan they make That erthe & eyr & tre & euery lake So ful was that onethe was there space For me to stonde, so ful was al the place.

  • Chaucer’s versification suggests that the final -e is sometimes to be vocalised, and sometimes to be silent; however, this remains a point on which there is disagreement.

  • Thynne’s editions of Chaucer’s Works in 1532 and 1542 were the first major contributions to the existence of a widely recognised Chaucerian canon.

  • He wrote many of his major works in a prolific period when he held the job of customs comptroller for London (1374 to 1386).

  • The three princes are believed to represent the dukes of Lancaster, York, and Gloucester, and a portion of line 76 (“as three of you or tweyne”) is thought to refer to the
    ordinance of 1390 which specified that no royal gift could be authorised without the consent of at least two of the three dukes.

  • [18] According to tradition, Chaucer studied law in the Inner Temple (an Inn of Court) at this time.

  • The countess was married to Lionel, Duke of Clarence, the second surviving son of the king, Edward III, and the position brought the teenage Chaucer into the close court circle,
    where he was to remain for the rest of his life.

  • Possibly funeral helm of his son Thomas Chaucer After this, Chaucer’s life is uncertain, but he seems to have travelled in France, Spain, and Flanders, possibly as a messenger
    and perhaps even going on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

  • Almost two thousand English words are first attested to in Chaucerian manuscripts.

  • It is uncertain how many children Chaucer and Philippa had, but three or four are most commonly cited.

  • [58] Critical reception Early criticism[edit] “The language of England, upon which Chaucer was the first to confer celebrity, has amply justified the foresight which led him
    to disdain all others for its sake, and, in turn, has conferred an enduring celebrity upon him who trusted his reputation to it without reserve.”

  • On 12 July 1389, Chaucer was appointed the clerk of the king’s works, a sort of foreman organising most of the king’s building projects.

  • The narrator makes a fifth reference when he rails at Fortune that she shall not take his friend from him.

  • These words were probably frequently used in the language at the time but Chaucer, with his ear for common speech, is the earliest extant manuscript source.

  • His achievement for the language can be seen as part of a general historical trend towards the creation of a vernacular literature, after the example of Dante, in many parts
    of Europe.

  • Many of the manuscripts of Chaucer’s works contain material from these poets and later appreciations by the Romantic era poets were shaped by their failure to distinguish
    the later “additions” from original Chaucer.

  • His early influence as a satirist is also important, with the common humorous device, the funny accent of a regional dialect, apparently making its first appearance in The
    Reeve’s Tale.

  • [1] He has been called the “father of English literature”, or, alternatively, the “father of English poetry”.

  • This change in the pronunciation of English, still not fully understood, makes the reading of Chaucer difficult for the modern audience.

  • He is seen as crucial in legitimising the literary use of Middle English when the dominant literary languages in England were still Anglo-Norman French and Latin.

  • The last few records of his life show his pension renewed by the new king, and his taking a lease on a residence within the close of Westminster Abbey on 24 December 1399.

  • He survived the political upheavals caused by the Lords Appellants, despite the fact that Chaucer knew some of the men executed over the affair quite well.

  • Geoffrey Chaucer (/ˈtʃɔːsər/; c. 1340s – 25 October 1400) was an English poet, author, and civil servant best known for The Canterbury Tales.


Works Cited

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