Geoffrey Chaucer

(1340-1400)

The English author and courtier ,Geoffrey Chaucer, was one of the greatest poets of the late Middle Ages and has often been called the father of English poetry. His best-known works are The Canterbury Tales and Troilus and Criseyde.

Family

Mother: Agnes Copton Chaucer

Father: John Chaucer

Wife: Philippa de Roet

Children: Thomas & Lewis Chaucer

  • In 1359, Chaucer joined the English army’s invasion of France during the Hundred Years’ War and was taken prisoner; King Edward III of England paid his ransom in 1360.
  • In 1366, Chaucer married Philipa de Roet, who was a lady-in-waiting to Edward III’s wife.
  • In 1367, Chaucer was given a life pension by the king, and began traveling abroad on diplomatic missions.
  • During trips to Italy in 1372 and 1378, he discovered the works of Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch—each of which greatly influenced Chaucer’s own literary endeavors.
Chaucer’s early work is heavily influenced by love poetry of the French tradition, including the Romaunt of the Rose (c. 1370) and Saint Cecilia (c. 1373), later used as the “Second Nun’s Tale” in the Canterbury Tales.
Chaucer was named Controller of Customs on wools, skins, and hides for the port of London in 1374, and continued in this post for twelve years. Around that time, Chaucer’s period of Italian influence began, which includes transitional works such as Anelida and Arcite (c. 1379), Parlement of Foules (c. 1382), and Troilus and Criseyde (c. 1385). Chaucer established residence in Kent, where he was elected a justice of the peace and a member of Parliament in 1386. His wife died the following year.
Now considered the “Father of English literature," Chaucer wrote in the English vernacular while court poetry was still being written in Anglo-Norman or Latin. The decasyllabic couplet Chaucer used for most of the Canterbury Taleslater evolved into the heroic couplet, commonly used for epic and narrative poetry in English. Chaucer is also credited with pioneering the regular use of iambic pentameter.
Chaucer died on October 25, 1400.