(c1340 - 1400)
Geoffrey Chaucer was born in London, possibly in Thames Street. His father was a vintner.
By 1357 (17) he was a member of the household of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, a son of Edward III, and in 1359 (19) he accompanied the Duke on a military campaign to France, where he was taken prisoner, and subsequently ransomed.
By 1366 (26) he had married Philippa de Roet, whose sister Katharine was for many years the mistress and later the third wife of John of Gaunt, another of the sons of Edward III, and a powerful patron.
The King gave Chaucer an annuity of 20 marks in 1367 (27) as ‘our beloved valet’8, and by the end of 1368 (28) he was an esquire.
First known literary works
At about this time he may have made a translation of The Romance of the Rose from the French, and, shortly afterwards, his first original work appeared, The Book of the Duchess (c1369, 29), produced on the death of Blanche, wife of John of Gaunt.
Travel in Europe
He made further journeys abroad, and was certainly in Italy in 1372-3 (32-3), visiting both Genoa and Florence, where it is possible he met both Petrarch and Boccaccio.
Official employment and further literary works
Back in England in 1374 (34) he was made comptroller of Wools, Skins and Hides for the port of London, and it was around this time that he composed The House of Fame.
Death of Edward III and succession of Richard II
Edward III died in 1377 (37), and was succeeded by his grandson, the ten year old Richard II.
In 1378 (38) Chaucer made a second visit to France and Northern Italy as a member of the embassy to Bernabo Visconti, the ruler of Milan.
Mature literary works
After his return from Italy he wrote The Parliament of Fowls, The Legend of Good Women and Troilus and Creseide, the first of his works to be widely admired. In 1386 (46) he became Member of Parliament for Kent, and in 1389 (49), Clerk of the King’s works. It appears to be during this period that he completed most of the work on the Canterbury Tales.
Death and burial
He moved to a house in the gardens of St Mary’s in Westminster in 1398 (58), where he died in 1400 (60). He was buried in Westminster Abbey. A monument was erected to him in 1556 in the reign of Mary Tudor, beginning the tradition of Poet’s Corner.
Geoffrey Chaucer: Links to poetry on this site
On Women unconstant
Read the Canterbury Tales: original text with interlinear modern translation
A very amusing modern video animated version of the Canterbury Tales by Jonathan Myerson
Beautiful site on Chaucer by Glasgow Unirversity
go to index of poets
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