Geoffrey Chaucer - Biography and Works

Geoffrey Chaucer marks the first greatest development in the history of English poetry. He also marks the end of the medieval literature and the beginning of the modern English literature (in general) and Renaissance English literature (in particular).

Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400)

Chaucer sowed the seed of the Renaissance also, besides giving the English literature a sure modern turn, but it is unfortunate of the English literature that there would be no more substantial harvest for almost two centuries after him, till Spenser, who made full use of the achievements of the Renaissance to develop the English literature; Shakespeare had to be waited for to develop dramas. Chaucer is the first original genius in the history of the English literature.

Geoffrey Chaucer was born to a middle class family; his father was a distinguished wine merchant in London. As a boy, Chaucer was a studious student. As his works exhibit, he should have learned Latin grammar, rhetoric, logic, classical literature, sand so on, because they were accessible even to the commoners if they could afford. He also had the chance to observe the life and manners of people from different parts of the country who came for business to Thames Street of London where his family lived.

He mixed up with people of all sorts, heard and learnt several languages, and became fluent in French. He was appointed as a page to a duke whom he accompanied in one of the expeditions of the Hundred Years’ War. He was taken prisoner and was released on a ransom (of 16 pounds!). Then he became the personal attendant of the king; he married a maid (Philippa) who was also a relation to the royal family. Chaucer greatly increased the prestige of English as a literary language and extended the range of its poetic vocabulary and meters. He was the first English poet to use the seven-line stanza in iambic pentameter known as rhyme royal and the couplet later called heroic. Nevertheless, Chaucer dominated the works of this 15th century English followers and the so-called Scottish Chaucerian. For the Renaissance, he was the English Homer. Edmund Spencer paid tribute to him as his master; many of the plays of William Shakespeare show the thorough assimilation of Chaucer’s comic spirit. John Dryden, who modernized several of the Canterbury tales, called Chaucer the father of English poetry. Since the founding of the Chaucer Society in England in 1868, which led to the first reliable editions of his works, Chaucer’s reputation has been securely established as the English poet best loved after Shakespeare for his wisdom, humor, and humanity. Chaucer has been rightly called the ‘father’ of English poetry. His chief works are – The Book of the Duchess; The Parliament of Fowls; The House of Fame; Troilus and Criseyde: Legend of Good Women; and The Canterbury Tales.

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Sharma, Kedar N. "Geoffrey Chaucer - Biography and Works." BachelorandMaster, 13 Nov. 2009,