CHAPTER 9 Geoffrey Chaucer G. Chaucer was born around 1343

Geoffrey Chaucer
G. Chaucer was born around 1343, was a son of a London wine merchant. He served three kings as an esquire
of the royal court, a customs controller for the port of London, and he took part in important diplomatic mission.
He grew up in close contact with the royal family if the Plantagenets. He was well-informed on the politics of
the day and he supported the religious views of John Wycliffe and Lollardy.
Little is know about the man, the best way to get to know him is through his work where he is a lively presence.
Chaucer is shown as a curios and sociable characters, like the man who meets the 29 pilgrims at the Tabard Inn
in his masterpiece Canterbury Tales.
He died in 1400 and he was buried in Westminster Abbey in the Poets’ Corner.
He is the father of English literature and is the first major secular poet. His language, middle English gradually
became the modern English. During the decade between 1368 and 1378 he went to Italy and became interested
in Dante Petrarch and Boccaccio. By the 1380s Chaucer had earned admiration for his poetry; his works are
usually divided in 3 periods:
French, so called because it includes poems modelled on French romance styles and subjects.
 The Romaunt of the Rose (dealing with medieval courtly love)
Italian, it shows a greater maturity of perception and skill in the manipulation of the metres.
The Parlement of Foules (which belong to the Bird and Beast Fable)
Troylus and Criseyde (long poem adapted from Boccaccio which offers a insight psychological
development in character
English, it is marked by greater realism (Canterbury Tales)
Canterbury Tales
The protagonist of the story are thirty people, all belonging to different social classes including Chaucer
himself. It is spring and they are going on pilgrimage to Thomas Becket’s shrine in Canterbury. They gather
(meet) at the Tabard Inn in London. The host suggest that every pilgrims should tell two story on the outward
journey to Canterbury, and two on the return trip. There will be a prize for the best story as well as a penalty for
anyone who gives up. All the pilgrims agree and set off.
The work is formed by a General Prologue, where the characters are introduced, and twenty four tales. Before
each tales there is a prologue, which introduced the theme of the tales, and sometimes at the end of there is an
epilogue. The inn is linked to worldly pleasures while the destination is holy .Canterbury is the symbol of the
celestial city, the end of life and pilgrims’ journey becomes the allegory of the course of human life.
Chaucer use the iambic pentameters. The most important feature of his work is realism: he writes realistically in
a medieval sense, using conventions of exaggeration , caricature and grotesque. The pilgrimage is also a
metaphor for life from religious sphere. We are all pilgrims on the way to the heavenly city.
The reporting pilgrims is Chaucer that tells us the tales of the other pilgrims. He also tells us what he sees and
what he thinks about them: this created a sort of interplay between real and unreal.
With Canterbury tales, Chaucer wanted to offer a portrait of English society, including representatives of feudal
society, members of the clergy and the middle classes. He exclude the aristocracy and the peasants. This
happened because noblemen didn’t travel with the normal people, but with they own entourage, Instead, the
peasants hadn’t no money for a trip. In the general prologue Chaucer, broking the social hierarchy of
presentation of the time, mixes male and female to underline the new importance women were assuming within
the middle classes.
The new factor in the Canterbury Tales is the individualisation of the characters. Now they are dynamic. Each
pilgrims’ description vary in length, point of view and tone. Chaucer describes tools, clothes and personal
qualities. The names given to the pilgrims in refer to their profession and suggest a society in which work
conditioned the personality
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