Geoffrey Chaucer

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Geoffrey Chaucer’s exact birthdate is uncertain. He was born some time between 1340 and 1345. He was the first major writer to promote english English as a literary language. He belonged to the middle class, being the son of a well-to-do wholesale wine-merchant, and was also related to the aristocracy through his mother. He received a very good education in which much of teaching was still probably done in french although, by the time he died, english was to become the medium of the istruction in schools. He could speak French knew Latin and after also learnt Italian. Several documents give information about his life because he was a public man as well as a poet.
In 1366 he married Fhilippa de Roet, nothing is know about Chauser’s relationship with his wife, so we cannot say whether his married life ispired the attitude to marriage and women expressed in the “wife of Bath’s” and “tales”.
He travelled a lot and his most important journeys were was to Italy. He visited Genoa and Florence where he acquired Dante’s Divina commedia which is quoted in “The Canterbury tales”. On his second trip to Italy, he went to Milan, at that occasion, he became acquainted with Petrarch’s and Boccaccio’s works, altrough he never mentioned Boccaccio by name. He probably read his works in unsigned manuscripts.
While leading his busy life, Chaucer was also writing poetry. At the time when french and latin were the languages of culture, he decided to write in english. His decision was as revolutionary as Dante’s decision to abandon latin to write in italian vernicular, although when he started to write he had not heard of Dante yet.
In his works Chaucer introduced metrical innovation wich were very important for the development of english poetry. He Introduced the line based on syllables and the use of ryme.
The Canterbury Tales were begun 1387, the year when Chaucer’s wife died, and were still not finished when the poet himself died 13 years later. Chaucers borrowed from Boccaccio’s Decamerun the idea of social event to bring many people toghether and the device for stringing together a collection of story. But The canterbury tales are very different from Decamerun. For example, while the story tellers in the Decamerun all belong to the same social class, those in the tales are a cross section of medieval society. The characters come from various social classes and groups.
The Canterbury Tales is mainly written in verse, although there are parts in prose, and the predominant form is the rhymig couplet. It has come to us in manuscript form, since printing hadn’t been invented yet.
It’s spring and the poet meets 29 pilgrims inthe Tabard Inn in Southwark, a suburb south of London.
They are all going on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Thomas Becket in Canterbury. Thomas Becket was archbishop of Canterbury and was murdered by four knights in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170.
A details description of each pilgrim is given, he started from the upper social figure. They belong to various social classes. There are only three women amoung them.
The Host suggests that each pilgrim sholud tell two stories on the way to Canterbury and two to the way to back to London. The teller of the best tale will have a free dinner on their return. The Host himself will travel with the company as judge of this competiotion.
At first he want to write 120 tales, but the work is uncomplete. It contains only 24 tales, two of them told by poet himself, and 4 stories are incompleted.