Chute’s intent in Geoffrey Chaucer of England was to make Chaucer and his work more accessible to the twentieth century reader, especially because Middle English, the language in which Chaucer originally wrote, can be very intimidating. Thematically, Chute focuses upon Chaucer as a humorist and a kindly observer of human nature, a gentle satirist. She also emphasizes his role as a poetic innovator, as the individual who may have invented the iambic pentameter couplet, and certainly as the poet whose choice of English over French or Latin for his poetry was profoundly influential in the acceptance of English as a language suitable for the artistic expression of a culture.
Because Chute’s method was to flesh out the facts of Chaucer’s life with extensive forays into cultural history, the period itself evokes a theme. Chute sees the fourteenth century as strikingly like the twentieth century in many respects, “a thrusting, excitable, anxious century, racked by wars and labor disputes and high taxes and dangerous new ideas.” She emphasizes the resemblances between the Middle Ages and modern times without distorting the essential otherness of that era.
Although this book was originally intended for an adult audience and initially enjoyed its greatest success among adults, Chute is also a children’s author. Her readable style and, possibly, the familiarity of her name to children have increasingly drawn a young adult audience to...
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