Chaucer (ca. 1343–1400) often called the "father" of English poetry because he chose to write in the vernacular, more specifically, the English dialect of southern England and London, was surrounded by writers, both in England and the Continent, whose works bridged the period between medievalism and what became known as...
Chaucer (ca. 1343–1400) often called the "father" of English poetry because he chose to write in the vernacular, more specifically, the English dialect of southern England and London, was surrounded by writers, both in England and the Continent, whose works bridged the period between medievalism and what became known as the Renaissance.
In addition to Dante Alighieri (The Divine Comedy, ca. 1308–21), Giovanni Boccaccio (The Decameron, ca. 1353), and Guillaume de Machaut (Le Remede de Fortune, ca. 1361—greatly admired by Chaucer), all of whom provided Continental inspiration and models for Chaucer's work, Chaucer's contemporaries in England were turning out works of profound importance to the English literary canon and the development of modern English.
The writer known as the Pearl Poet (ca. 1360–1400), whose work included the dream vision poem, Pearl, and the Arthurian romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, was writing in highly-alliterative verse in a West-Midland dialect—in a sense, looking backward from Chaucer—nevertheless provided Chaucer with a familiar genre for his own dream vision poems in Book of the Duchess, House of Fame, and Parliament of Fowls.
At about this time, William Langland (ca. 1332–1400) wrote The Vision of William Concerning Piers the Plowman (ca. 1362–1387), another dream vision, a satiric view of late medieval secular and religious society couched in an allegorical framework that puzzles scholars and readers today because it is, to be quite blunt, sometimes readable and sometimes maddeningly obscure. Langland uses unrhymed alliterative verse, unlike the Pearl Poet, whose alliterative verse has a highly-structured rhyme scheme. Despite its sometimes confusing narrative structure, Piers Plowman is considered one of the most important works of the late fourteenth century.
John Gower (ca. 1330–1408), who was once ranked as equal to Chaucer, is now generally considered to be at least a half-step below Chaucer as a poet, but Chaucer himself referred to Gower as "moral Gower" because some of Gower's works—such as Vox Clamantis ("The Voice of One Crying")—addressed social upheavals within English society (for example, The Peasant's Revolt of 1381). Gower's most well-known work, however, Confessio Amantis (The Confession of a Lover), is both a critical look at English society and religion and a series of tales not unlike some of Chaucer's moral examples in The Canterbury Tales.
As we can see, among Continental and English writers in the fourteenth century, there were several writers whose works clearly influenced Chaucer or provided ideas for subject matter. Models of the dream vision, for example, which Chaucer used extensively throughout his own works, were highly developed by the mid-fourteenth century, perhaps achieving their greatest expression in Chaucer.