Geoffrey Chaucer Biography

Geoffrey Chaucer Biography

Geoffrey Chaucer, now considered English literature royalty, did not have such lofty beginnings. He was born into a family of winemakers and merchants sometime in the 1340s, and although he spent most of his life in and around the court, he had to work a succession of jobs—as a page, a soldier, a diplomat, a justice of the peace, and others—to support himself. Prior to Chaucer’s writings, however, most texts in England were composed in Latin (the language of the church) or French (the language of the nobility). Chaucer decided to write in the language of the people—medieval English—and thus changed the history of literature. He was a prolific author, penning many stories and poems over the course of his lifetime, but he is best known for The Canterbury Tales, a collection of wise, ironic, funny, and bawdy stories that still connect with readers today.

Facts and Trivia

  • In 1357, Chaucer was sent by his family to live in the house of a countess. He stayed in and around the court until he died some thirty-three years later, between the ages of 55 and 60.
  • Was Chaucer murdered? Terry Jones (medieval scholar and former Monty Python member) has recently suggested that he had been. It’s an interesting theory (and perhaps even a probable one), but at this point most scholars seem to consider it just a rumor.
  • Think you’ve held a lot of jobs? Chaucer worked as a page, a soldier, an esquire, a diplomat, a customs controller, justice of the peace, member of Parliament, Clerk of the Works of Westminster, Commissioner of Walls and Ditches, and Deputy Forester of the Royal Forest.
  • Besides The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer is also known for “The Book of the Duchess,” “Troilus and Criseyde,” “The Legend of Good Women,” and numerous other short and long poems.
  • His death sparked a tradition: Chaucer was the first poet to be buried in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey (not even Shakespeare could claim that—he has a monument there but was buried elsewhere).
Additional Content
  • Biography (History of the World: The Middle Ages)
  • Biography (British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)
  • Biography (Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)
  • Biography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)
  • Biography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)
  • Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)
  • Biography

(The entire section is 6212 words.)