For a medieval poet, much is known about Geoffrey Chaucer’s life, his association with the English court, his diplomatic activity on the Continent, and his public appointments. He was born in the early 1340’s, the son of John Chaucer, a London wine merchant. He spent time in the military, serving with the English forces in France, where he was captured in 1359; he was ransomed in 1360. Around 1366, he married Philippa Roet and probably fathered two sons. He served the crown most of his life. Originally (c. 1357), he was connected to the household of Princess Elizabeth, who was married to Prince Lionel, the son of King Edward III. He also served another son of the king, John of Gaunt, the duke of Lancaster, who later married Chaucer’s sister-in-law, Katherine Swynford. Chaucer’s public service survived the death of Edward III and the tumultuous reign and deposition of Richard II. It included numerous diplomatic missions to the Continent, his appointment as controller of customs and subsidy for the port of London (1374-1386), his service as a justice of the peace and member of Parliament for Kent (1386), his demanding duties as clerk of the King’s Works (1389-1391), and, finally, his appointment after 1391 as deputy forester of North Petherton royal forest in Somerset. Chaucer lived in London, Greenwich, and Calais, the French port then controlled by the English. In 1399, he leased a house in the garden of Westminster Abbey. He probably died on October 25, 1400, and was buried in the nearby abbey, the first of a long line of English authors to rest in the Poets’ Corner.
These biographical details provide little evidence of Chaucer’s position as a poet, although in a general way they do cast light on his poetry. Chaucer’s association with courtly circles must have provided both the inspiration for and the occasion...
(The entire section is 752 words.)