Geoffrey Chaucer is known as the father of Englsih poetry and is recognized as one of the world’s great poets. His life, work and writing reveal him as one of the most influential writes in Middle Age history. His poems and stories have flourished throughout history and are still recognized today. “Chaucer’s language is barely accessible to readers today and need frequent glossing to be intelligible. Nevertheless, Chaucer stands as a great poet, one of the finest of any era to write in English” (Hussey 152).
“The known details of Chaucer’s life are sketchy at best” (Ross1). He was born in London to a wine merchant named John Chaucer sometime between 1340-1344. “We do not known exactly when he was born. At a trial in 1386 at which he was a witness, he confessed to be then ‘forty years old and more,’ so that it is usual to put his birth about 1453” (Hussey153). Chaucer was born into a middle class family where he received a superb education at one of London’s finest schools and probably studied law (Damrosch 272).
Some of his influences in writing include Dante Alighieri and Boccaccio. The first known record of Chaucer is 1357 when he became a page in the household of Price Lionel. He later served under the army of Edward III in France where he was held for ransom and later released after his ransom was paid. This payment of ransom by Edward III shows just how important he had become to the king’s service at such a young age (Ross1). “Between the ages of about fifteen and twenty-three the mind has a special resilience-what we learn then seems to go deeper and stay longer.
Chaucer spent these years learning the amenities of the noble life and the brutal arts of medieval warfare… “(Howard 41). In 1369, he composed his first important poem, The Book of Duchess, in memory of his patron’s wife who died of the black plague. He began work on The Canterbury Tales, quite possibly his most famous work, about 1387 and wanted each of his pilgrimages to tell four tales. However he was only able to write twenty-three stories before his death. In 1366 Chaucer is believed to have married his wife Philippa after his father’s death and his mother’s remarriage.
“Chaucer made an advantageous marriage, although he may already have been regarded as a coming young man (Hussey154). Geoffrey and his wife may have had up to four children, but the records of his family have little detail and are somewhat mysterious. The records do however show that these four people were relatives of Geoffrey and Philippa, but whether of not they were his children remains a mystery. In 1367, he was awarded the first of many recognitions for his service in the king’s court.
On April 23, 1374, he was granted the promise of a daily pitcher of wine. He was appointed justice of the peace in Kent in 1385, and he later became a Parliament. Throughout the rest of his life he remained in the king’s service. On several he was sent all over as the king’s ambassador (Elements of Literature 1). Chaucer was a fairly important government servant. Although today he is thought of almost entirely for his poetry, back in the Middle Ages, his work was much more important than his writings (Elements of Literature 1).
He had many jobs in the royal service including the comptroller of the customs for the port of London and an esquire to the royal court. He carried on many other governmental duties as well that proves his importance and dedication to the kings. Middle English is a form of English used in England from around the time of Norman conquest until around 1500. The main difference between Middle English and the English we use today is the pronunciation of long vowels. The short vowels are generally the same. The following chart helps understand the pronunciation of long vowels.