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Canterbury Tales. By Geoffrey Chaucer. Geoffrey Chaucer. Biography of Geoffrey Chaucer. Born around 1300-1340 Financially secure family but not from nobility – so had no title Sent to St Pauls’ Almonry for education 1357, squire for the royal court of Elizabeth, countess of Ulster

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canterbury tales

Canterbury Tales

By Geoffrey Chaucer

biography of geoffrey chaucer
Biography of Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Born around 1300-1340
  • Financially secure family but not from nobility – so had no title
  • Sent to St Pauls’ Almonry for education
  • 1357, squire for the royal court of Elizabeth, countess of Ulster
    • Making beds, carrying candles, helping gentelmen get dressed
    • As a result, met much of England’s Royalty
biography of geoffrey chaucer1
Biography of Geoffrey Chaucer
  • 1359 joined the army to fight the French in the Hundred Years’ War (1337 – 1453) – was captured and ransomed.
  • Returned as a squire
  • Because he was intelligent and witty, he rose in the ranks of the court
  • 1367, valet for the King Edward II
biography of geoffrey chaucer2
Biography of Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Edward III’s Son, John of Gaunt (the Duke of Lancaster) took over ruling England when Edward III was too senile to rule.
  • John of Gaunt’s third wife was Catherine of Swynford.
  • Catherine of Swynford’s sister was Philippa de Roet
  • Chaucer married Philippa de Roet – which moved him up social standings
biography of geoffrey chaucer3
Biography of Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Chaucer was sent on several diplomatic missions, giving him a rare chance to see Italy and France
  • In Italy, he probably learned about Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio.
  • Two of Chaucer’s works are based on works of Boccaccio’s
    • The Knight’s Tale (the first tale in TCT) is based on Il Teseida
    • Troilus & Criseyde is based on Il Filostrato
the famous frontispiece of the Corpus Christi College manuscript of Troilus and Criseyde.
biography of geoffrey chaucer4
Biography of Geoffrey Chaucer
  • He become more politically influential as he went from Comptroller of taxes on wools, skins and hides at the Port of London in 1347, Comptroller of petty customs in 1382, Justice of the Peace for the County of Kent in 1385, and Knight of the Shire in 1386
biography of geoffrey chaucer5
Biography of Geoffrey Chaucer
  • In Dec 1386, John of Gaunt left for a military expedition to Spain and Duke of Gloucester replaced him.
  • Without his distant relative in charge, Chaucer lost his political influence.
  • During this time of unemployment, Chaucer planned out and started writing The Canterbury Tales
biography of geoffrey chaucer6
Biography of Geoffrey Chaucer
  • When John of Gaunt returned to England in 1389, Chaucer regained his government post, and stopped writing The Canterbury Tales
  • He died on October 25, 1400
  • He was buried in Westminster Abbey and was the first of the writers in the area known as the Poets’ Corner.
canterbury tales1
Canterbury Tales
  • Started in 1387 AD, published (as an incomplete work) in 1400 after his death
  • First book of poetry written in the English Language – before this, poets write in Italian or Latin. This meant poetry was only understandable to the wealthy, educated class.
canterbury tales2
Canterbury Tales
  • Combines and discusses elements of all classes. Unlikely that such a diverse group of pilgrims would ever travel together. There are three “estates”
    • Nobility – small hereditary aristocracy, rule over and defend “body politic”
    • Church – look after “spiritual welfare” of that body
    • Commoners – do the work to provide for its physical needs. (Norton p. 173)
the canterbury tales
The Canterbury Tales
  • Framing Tale –
    • Boccaccio’s Decameron - ten different narrators each tell a tale for ten days.
  • Estates Satire – sets out to expose typical examples of corruption at all levels of society.
the canterbury tales1
The Canterbury Tales
  • Writing in rhyming couplets
  • Writing in Iambic pentameter
    • Each line has unstressed, stressed, unstressed, stressed, unstressed, stressed, unstressed, stressed, unstressed, stressed
  • Any poem written in iambic pentameter AND rhyming couplets is said to be written in heroic couplets
  • Characters:
    • The Narrator: Geoffrey Chaucer, the author, who is never named
    • Harry Bailey: Host of the Tabard. He offers to be their guide and suggests the framing story/ tale competition.
    • The Knight: father of the squire, lord of the Yeoman
    • Prioress: superior of a monastery of nuns; attended by the nun, the monk, the friar and the priest
    • Assortment of different people from all walks of life. We’ll learn more about these as you do your presentations. In what order are they presented?
  • Prologue begins with an announcement of Spring.
  • Just as nature has a predictable course through the seasons, so does to do humans want to end winter’s confinement and travel in the spring.
  • How does this set up the story for us?
  • 29 travelers meet in the Tabard Inn in London.
  • They are traveling to see the shrine of St. Thomas A Becket in Canterbury
prologue romance of the rose
Prologue – Romance of the Rose
  • Some Chaucer critics argue that these opening lines imitated French Romance of the Rose
  • Romance of the Rose is an allegorical dream vision about a young man’s effort to win a lady. (Schwartz, Polytechnic State Univ).
  • Chaucer focused on nature, not on human society, even though people expected to hear about Spring and love.
romance of the rose http www courses fas harvard edu chaucer canttales gp
Romance of the Rose
  • Chaucer translated into English as The Romaunt of the Rose, one of his first surviving works:
  • That it was May thus dremed meIn time of love and jolliteThat al thyng gynneth waxen gayFor there is neither busk nor hayIn May that it nyl shrouded ben,And it with new leves wryen. These greves eke recoveren grene,That dry in wynter ben to sen,And the erthe waxeth proude withalFor swete dewes that on it falle . . .
  • And the birds begin to sing:
  • To make noyse and syngen blytheThan is blisful many sitheThe chelandre and popinjayThen yonge folk entended ayFor to ben gay and amorous