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Geoffrey Chaucer. This chaw-sure is delicious. April Cui, Colleen Dorsey, Ian White. Chaucer’s Forebears. At least four generations of middle-class Connections with court increase John Chaucer - father London vintner (wine maker/merchant) Deputy to king’s butler

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geoffrey chaucer

Geoffrey Chaucer

This chaw-sure is delicious

April Cui, Colleen Dorsey, Ian White

chaucer s forebears
Chaucer’s Forebears
  • At least four generations of middle-class
    • Connections with court increase
  • John Chaucer - father
    • London vintner (wine maker/merchant)
    • Deputy to king’s butler
    • Member of Edward III’s expedition to Antwerp
  • Name Chaucer derives from the French word chaussier, which means a maker of footwear
    • The family made their money from wine and leather




chaucer s early life
Chaucer’s Early life
  • Exact date of birth unknown
    • Customarily given at 1340,

probably 1342/1343

    • In London
  • No info on early education
    • Probably as fluent in French as Middle English
    • Became competent in Latin and Italian
  • 1357 - First recorded appearance
    • As member of a royal household
      • Placed in the household by his father to advance Geoffrey’s career with courtly education
  • 1359 - member of Edward III’s army
    • In France, captured during unsuccessful siege of Reims
    • King contributed to ransom
chaucer s later early life
Chaucer’s Later Early Life
  • 1361-1365 - probably studying law
  • 1366 - begins diplomatic missions to European continent
    • Flanders, France, Italy
    • Encountered Dante, Petrarch, and others
  • 1366 - Chaucer had married
    • Philippa Pan
  • 1367 - annuity for life as yeoman of the king
  • 1369/1370 - first important poem - Book of the Duchess
    • Elegy for duchess of Lancaster
chaucer s later life
Chaucer’s Later Life
  • 1374 - appointed a customs official for port of London
  • Political turmoil
    • Thomas of Woodstock
  • 1385 - became justice of the peace and knight of the shire for Kent
  • 1388 - series of suits against him for debts, sold his royal pension
  • 1389 - clerk of King’s works
    • Richard II
  • 1380s - wrote Troilus and Criseyde
  • 1390s - wrote Canterbury Tales
  • 1400 - died in London
language in england french
Language in England - French
  • By Chaucer’s time, French was the dominant language of the court
  • King Edward III’s court:
    • French culture
    • French poets, e.g. Jean Froissant and Otho de Graunson, Chaucer’s contemporaries
  • Parisian French supplants Norman French in court. Norman French use reduced to provinces
language in england english
Language in England - English
  • However, the aristocracy also used English
    • King Edward I spoke English and liked English poetry
  • Elementary schools taught in English
  • Late 14th century demand for books in English
  • 15th century, London English became dialect of those in power
high style
High Style
  • Also “golden” style
  • Diction overflowed the boundaries of straight English, much borrowing from Latin and French
  • Refers to “rhetoric” - graceful verse as an art form (not persuasion)
  • Basis in popular tradition and actual speech
  • Became standard style of elegant writers
    • Helped establish Chaucer’s London English as the dialect of people of power
high style9
High Style
  • Often uses apostrophe (speaking to a character or an absent/anonymous person). Apostrophe is also applicable to objects or ideas:
    • O brotil joye! O sweete venim queynte! (MerT IV.2061)
  • High style is also marked by rhetorical, detailed character depictions, and cataloguing (lists) as found in The Knight’s Tale’s list of trees.
    • “But how the fire, was made to climb so high; Or what names all the different trees went by. As oak, fir, birch, asp, alder, poplar, holm, Willow, plane, ash, box, chestnut, linden, elm, Laurel, thorn, maple, beech, yew, dogwood tree, Or how they were felled, sha'n't be told by me.”
high style rime royal
High Style - Rime Royal
  • Aka “rhythme royal,”
  • 7 iambic pentameter lines, ababbcc
  • Stanza form Chaucer used in his middle years
    • used in Troilus and Criseyde
    • became standard for elegant verse
  • Chaucer first to use it in English, but source is unknown. Also first to use the heroic couplet

Criseyde, which that wel neigh starf for feere, A

So as she was the ferfulleste wight B

That myghte be, and herde ek with hire ere A

And saugh the sorwful ernest of the knyght, B

And in his preier ek saugh noon unryght, B

And for the harm that myghte ek fallen moore, C

She gan to rewe and dredde hire wonder soore, C

the faibliau
The Faibliau
  • The fabliau is a comical story told in verse that originated in France. It has a simple style, portraying everyday characters. It features plots based on tricks played by the characters, often displaying an unnatural amount of gullibility and sexual appetite.
  • Before Chaucer, fabliaux were only used in French literature. During Chaucer’s time, sophisticated comedic stories were popular, but usually in prose. Chaucer brought the genre into verse while retaining the high style. The Canterbury tales, the Miller’s Tale, Reeve’s Tale, Shipman’s Tale, and Summoner’s Tale are all fabliaux.
lyric poetry
Lyric Poetry
  • Originally, the English lyric (a type of sung poem) was relatively simple, direct, and had diction uninfluenced by the French.
  • Chaucer was certainly familiar with this style. He quotes lyrics in some of his poetry, for example in the Knight’s Tale(CT I.1510-12), which gives us an idea of the style.
  • Chaucer applied the elaborate high style to the English lyric, as he did with a great majority of his writing, notably his later writing. Chaucer’s surviving lyrics, like “Gentilesse”, are almost all written in high style, as are lyrics by many of his followers in English literature.
lyric poetry examples
Before Chaucer - Cuckoo song

Sumer is ycomen in,Loude sing cuckou!Groweth seed and bloweth meed,And springth the wode now.Sing cuckou!Ewe bleteth after lamb,Loweth after calve cow,Bulloc sterteth, bucke verteth,Merye sing cuckou!Cuckou, cuckou,Wel singest thou cuckou:Ne swik thou never now!

Chaucer - Gentilesse

Lyric Poetry - Examples

canterbury tales
Canterbury Tales
  • Most famous work
  • 30 Pilgrims, traveling to shrine of Thomas à Becket
  • Chaucer didn’t complete
    • Not all pilgrims, no return trip
  • Pilgrimage as framing device for collection of stories
    • People of many walks of life
    • Many literary genres
      • Courtly romance, faibliau, allegorical, fable, medieval sermon
  • Combines religious purpose with seclar aspect of spring vacation
    • Pleasures and vices of world
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica 2007 Ultimate Reference Suite
  • The Riverside Chaucer