Geoffrey Chaucer was an important English poet that lived in the 14th century. He was instrumental in developing the artistic form of the vernacular English language instead of Latin or French.
He is best known for The Canterbury Tales. He is the first poet to be buried at Poets’ Corner within the Westminster Abbey. Chaucer is considered to be the Father of English Poetry.
Geoffrey Chaucer was born in London, England between 1343 and 1344 C.E. His father John was a wine maker and ran the family business. Chaucer’s mother was Agnus Copton who inherited great wealth from her uncle at the time of his death. His family was a member of bourgeois class and was wealthy.
Geoffrey Chaucer attended St. Paul’s Cathedral School. While studying he was influenced by great thinkers and writers like Virgil and Ovid. In 1357 C.E. Chaucer worked as a page for the house of the Countess of Ulster, the wife of the Duke of Clarence. During 1359 C.E. he entered into the English army to fight in the Hundred Years’ War.
He traveled to France with King Edward III but was captured in 1360 C.E. in Reims. He was held for ransom because of his connections to royalty in England. King Edward III paid the ransom to release Chaucer from captivity.
Chaucer would then join the Royal Service for England and traveled for several years as a diplomat. He went of diplomatic assignments to France, Italy, and Spain.
Upon his return in 1366 C.E. he married Philippa Roet who was a lady-in-waiting to King Edward’s III wife. She was the daughter of Sir Payne Roet. Together they had three or four children throughout their marriage.
During this time frame Chaucer was able to forge a friendship with John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster. In 1368 C.E. he was promoted from page to squire a position just below a knight in England.
His writing career began in 1369 C.E. when John of Gaunt needed a memorial poem written for his wife’s funeral. The poem was entitled The Book of the Duchess. He crafted the poem in English.
At the time poems were mainly written in French. The following year he was sent to Italy on a diplomatic mission. Here he read works by other great writers like Dante and Petrarch.
On his return he received a pension from John of Gaunt and was named by King Edward III to be a controller of taxes on textiles entering the Port of London.
He would continue his diplomatic duties for King Edward III until the king’s death. Under King Richard II he was given the title of controller of wine and was allowed to hire an employee.
After losing his appointed job as controller of win in 1386 he moved to Kent, England. He entered Parliament as representative for Kent. Unfortunately in 1387 C.E. Philippa passed away.
In 1389 C.E. he was elevated to his most prestigious position as clerkship for the royal works. He resigned this position in 1391 C.E. and worked as a deputy forester in the royal forest of North Petherton.
Chaucer greatest achievement as a writer was entitled The Canterbury Tales. He devoted much of his spare time from 1387 to 1400 C.E. trying to complete the book. The book was modified several times while he was writing the piece.
The overall theme is based on pilgrims and their pilgrimages to the shrine of St. Thomas Becket. He is also known for writing a tragedy called Troilus and Criseyde which used the Trojan War as a backdrop throughout the book.
Geoffrey Chaucer died in 1400 C.E.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
The Father of English Poetry
King Edward III
The Canterbury Tales