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Geoffrey Chaucer and The Canterbury Tales. Mrs. Postin English IV. Geoffrey Chaucer. Born around 1343 in London Son of a middle- class wine merchant Became a page in the royal household when he was a teenager.

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geoffrey chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Born around 1343 in London
  • Son of a middle- class wine merchant
  • Became a page in the royal household when he was a teenager.
    • Mundane jobs BUT- he was exposed to proper speech, manners, and the shortcomings of the upper-class.
geoffrey chaucer1
Geoffrey Chaucer
  • In his twenties, Chaucer was appointed as a court official, and he continued to hold government posts for the rest of his life.
  • Throughout his life Chaucer held posts as:
    • Soldier
    • Courtier (often in company of royalty, wanting favor)
    • Royal emissary to Europe (representative of government)
    • Controller of Customs
    • Justice of the Peace
    • Member of Parliament
geoffrey chaucer2
Geoffrey Chaucer
  • At one point, while Chaucer was at war, he was kidnapped by the French and was ransomed for 16 pounds (about $25)!
    • Side-note: 16 pounds was almost 8x the average yearly wages of a laborer at the time!
  • Chaucer served at the courts of three reigning monarchs.
geoffrey chaucer3
Geoffrey Chaucer

Needless to say… he was a pretty important person!

But why are we studying him?

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Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Because he was the Father of English Poetry!!
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Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Chaucer made the English Language of the time (Middle English) respectable.
  • Most literary works of the time were written in Latin or French.
  • English was considered the language of the “common people.”
  • This is why Geoffrey Chaucer and The Canterbury Tales helped to solidify English as the national language.
the canterbury tales
The Canterbury Tales
  • Through Chaucer’s traveling as a diplomat, he became fluent in Latin, French, and Italian in addition to English.
  • In Italy he was introduced to Giovanni Boccaccio who wrote the Decameron.
    • Chaucer was an admirer of Boccaccio and copied some of his style for his Canterbury Tales… Specifically using a “Frame Story” (story within a story)
the canterbury tales1
The Canterbury Tales
  • Written at the end of the 14thCentury, The Canterbury Tales depicts Medieval life at the time.
  • The Canterbury Tales is a frame story which includes a Prologue and then various addition tales that complete the work.
  • Chaucer first sets up the frame (The Prologue) and then proceeds to tell the story in numerous tales.
the canterbury tales2
The Canterbury Tales
  • The Canterbury Tales were never completed.
  • Chaucer originally wanted to have 120 tales included with The Prologue.
  • At his death, Chaucer had completed 24 tales.
the prologue
The Prologue
  • Chaucer had the idea to bring together 29 characters on a Pilgrimage to St. Thomas Becket’s Shrine.
    • Who remembers the story of St. Thomas Becket?
      • Henry II (fought with him over church’s rights)
      • Religious Differences
      • Murder in the Church (killed by 4 knights; cut off top of head)
      • Martyr- holy blood (Declared by Catholic church 1173)
    • 200th year anniversary of his death happened during Chaucer’s lifetime
the prologue1
The Prologue
  • By placing his characters on a Pilgrimage to Becket’s tomb, Chaucer enables us to see a wide variety of medieval lifestyles and classes.
    • Which we will discuss
  • Chaucer writes The Prologue in Iambic Pentameter
    • Which is what?
      • 10 syllable line stressed then unstressed
    • What other famous British Poet used this?
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The Prologue

The Prologue begins in “ High Style,” describing Spring in a romantic way, then digresses to more realistic and natural verse.