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Posted on August 19th, 2012, by

It cannot be denied that Geoffrey Chaucer was a many-sided personality, an outstanding poet, a philosopher and a diplomat. Though the factual data on some periods of his life is quite insufficient and there are gaps in his biography summary, scholars work at their bridging and forming a full picture of his life and vast literary activity. In the year 1328 John Chaucer was yet unmarried and in ten years or so Geoffrey Chaucer was born in London; some scholars give a definite birth year of the poet which is 1343. According to A. W. Pollard, in 1357 Geoffrey was in service of Elizabeth. He was known to be sent to war in France and imprisoned. Edward III freed Chaucer and granted him with a pension (Pollard). By this time he had already been married to Philippa and wrote poems of unhappy love affairs. The marriage led to benevolent attitude of John of Gaunt towards Chaucer. In 1368 the poet became one of the king’s esquires and as John Gaunt’s wife died Chaucer wrote The Book of the Duchess in her honor (Pollard). In 1370 he went abroad on king’s service. In two years he traveled to Italy and also visited Florence and made acquaintance with Petrarch. In 1374 Chaucer prospered and was appointed Controller of the Custom and Subsidy of Wools, Hides and Woolfells and of the Petty Customs of Wine in the Port of London (Pollard). In the eighties he was again sent abroad to conduct peace negotiations between France and England. His last diplomatic journey was made with the purpose of treating for help in the king’s wars. In the next fifteen years Chaucer was actively engaged in literary work, and still had official employment. In 1386 he was appointed a justice of the peace of Kent. As Chaucer’s good fortune reached its climax his wife Philippa passed away. In the nineties Geoffrey Chaucer worked as a clerk in royal palaces and made a commissioner to maintain the banks of the Thames. Later on he abandoned his office work and dedicated himself to writing and was granted a pension again. Scholars suppose that the poet departed in 1400 and was buried in Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey.

Geoffrey Chaucer is a remarkably talented author who takes his peculiar place in the world literature. His world outlook was molded in the course of time under the influence of French, English and Italian poets. He borrowed some ideas from Italian literature and some of his works possess purely English temper. The Italians books and Petrarch’s sonnets learned him how to experiment with word. Being in service of the crown formed his character and resulted in his triumphant popularity for taking what might be more than an anecdote and lend it body and life and color(Pollard). He had a gift of vivid coloring and sharp humor.

Chaucer was acclaimed for his poetry, he was called a poet of love with his own unique style and named a great translator and noble person. His poetry was not of an age but for all times, that is why it may be truly called a product of silence in the desert of infinity. All his works are interconnected and run through with realism. His nature descriptions are as true as human character sketches. Adolphus William Ward noticed that:

Geoffrey Chaucer’s actual lack of pretentiousness,   self-righteousness, and vulgarity lies at the heart of our response to the comic self-portraits, in which he claims for himself these defects (Ward).

Not in vain was Chaucer uncritically accepted and widely read during more than three centuries (Ward) and even now though the Middle English language is obsolete and the sense not always transparent, Chaucer has a great number of admirers all over the world. His works are at times double-bottomed and require severe thinking in order to catch the essence which Chaucer wished to transmit. Literary critics suppose that Chaucer presented caricatures of himself in various works of art such as The Book of the Duchess, The House of Fame, The Parliament of Fowles, Troilus and Criseyde, Canterbury Tales, etc. Some of his narrators are bookish and comic; depicting them, he realistically mocks the evils of society. Though he could be hardly called a moralist, describing their spiritual and psychological qualities, Chaucer is a great observer of mankind as well as a keen storyteller.

Geoffrey Chaucer’s magnum opus is evidently The Canterbury Tales, which brought him world fame. In 1380s Chaucer created this first selection of short stories in English on a group of pilgrims, who met in the Tabard Inn to think over their trip to Canterbury. One of them resembles Chaucer himself. The pilgrims, gathered in the inn, are suggested by the Inn Host to tell stories in turn to make time pass pleasantly. The Host promises to choose the best storyteller and award him with an elegant dinner. The Knight, the Reeve, the Man of Law, the Wife of Bath, The Fair, the Summoner and others present tell their stories until Chaucer’s refusal. This way the poet describes medieval society features. The secret of Chaucer’s popularity lies in the fact that poetry is life and it is for all times.

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