Geoffrey Chaucer Other literary forms

Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

In addition to the early allegorical dream visions, the “tragedy” of Troilus and Criseyde, and the“comedy” The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer (CHAW-sur) composed various lyrical poems, wrote a scientific treatise in prose, and translated two immensely influential works from Latin and Old French into Middle English. The shorter works have received little attention from critics. “An ABC,” Chaucer’s earliest poem adapted from the French of Guillaume Deguilleville, and the various ballades, roundels, and envoys are in the French courtly tradition. They also reflect the influence of the Roman philosopher Boethius and often include moral advice and standard sententiae. Somewhat longer are the Anelida and Arcite and the complaints to Pity and of Venus and Mars, which develop the conventions of the languishing lover of romance.

The prose works include the interesting astrological study A Treatise on the Astrolabe (1387-1392), written for “little Lewis my son,” and the Boece (c. 1380), a translation of Boethius’s De consolatione philosophiae (523; The Consolation of Philosophy, late ninth century), which particularly influenced Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde and “The Knight’s Tale.” The prologue to The Legend of Good Women notes that Chaucer also translated Romaunt of the Rose (c. 1370). Certainly the great Old French dream vision, particularly the first part by Guillaume de Lorris, influenced Chaucer’s early dream allegories as well as his portrayal of certain characters and scenes in The Canterbury Tales—the Wife of Bath, for example, and the enclosed garden of “The Merchant’s Tale.” Scholars, however, are uncertain whether the extant Middle English version of Romaunt of the Rose included in standard editions of Chaucer is by the poet.