Important points for English literature Exam on Geoffrey Chaucer.
Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340-1400)
Father of English poetry
First poet of national importance
Genius recognized in all ages including his own
His career is divided into three phases:
French period , Middle period, Italian period, or French period, Italian period, English period
Patron—John of Gaunt
Wrote in East Midland dialect
Chaucer’s Life (c. 1340-1400)
Son of a wealthy London vinter (wine merchant)
Educated at St Paul’s Cathedral School, and later at Inner Temple, where he studied law
In 1357, he became a noblewoman’s page, and moved on to become a courtier, a diplomat, and a civil servant
Chaucer was captured by the French during the Brittany expedition of 1359, but was ransomed by the king
From 1360 to 1366 nothing is known about his life.
Around 1366, Chaucer married Philippa Roet, a lady-in-waiting in the queen’s household. They are thought to have had two children, Thomas and Lewis, and probably a daughter, Elizabeth.
A Treatise on the Astrolabe is dedicated to Lewis.
Philippa’s sister, Katherine Swynford, later became the third wife of John of Gaunt, the king’s fourth son and Chaucer’s patron.
In 1367, King Edward III granted Chaucer a life pension for his services.
Edward III sent him on diplomatic missions to France, Genoa and Florence (c. 1368-1378).
His travels exposed him to the work of authors such as Dante, Boccaccio and Froissart.
In 1374, Chaucer was appointed comptroller of the London customs.
In 1386, he was elected member of parliament for Kent, and he also served as a justice of the peace.
In 1389, he was made clerk of the king’s works, overseeing royal building projects. He held a number of other royal posts, serving both Edward III and his successor Richard II.
Chaucer died in 1400 of unknown causes.
There is a speculation that he might have been murdered.
He was buried at what is called Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.
He was the first poet to be buried in the Abbey. This was because he had been Clerk of Works to the Palace of Westminster.
Geoffrey Chaucer: Works
Early period (up to c. 1370)
Translation of Roman de la Rose
The Book of the Duchess
Middle period (up to c. 1387)
The House of Fame
The Parliament of Fowls
Translation of Consolation of Philosophy
Troilus and Criseyde
The Legend of Good Women
Last period (after 1387)
The Canterbury Tales
The Book of the Duchess (c. 1368-72)
First of Chaucer’s dream visions.
Depicts the sorrow of a bereaved knight (who represents John of Gaunt)
An allegorical lament on the death of Blanche, the wife of John of Gaunt, who died in 1368
Lydgate’s A Complaynt of a Loveres Lyfe is based on it .
Poet unable to sleep because of love-sickness or depression.
Falls asleep while reading Ovid
In his dream, he first follows, then wanders away from, a hunting party
Meets a knight in black who laments the loss of his lady.
Knight describes her beauty and virtue
Tells the dreamer about her death, first metaphorically, then explicitly.
Hunters re-appear, a bell strikes twelve, and the dreamer wakes.
The House of Fame (after 1374)
Unfinished dream allegory in octosyllabic couplets.
Allegorical meanings of this poem not very clear.
Echoes of Ovid, Virgil, Dante
Langland’s The Temple of Glass and Alexander Pope’s The Temple of Fame are based on it.
The poet dreams and finds himself in a glass temple adorned with images of the famous warriors and lovers.
He emerges into a desert and is carried off by a talking eagle (a common guide in dream allegories).
He is dropped next to a tower of ice on which the names of the famous are melting and unreadable.
He enters a castle and sees Fame, a woman of varying heights, with numerous eyes, ears and tongues
He watches people being indiscriminately awarded or refused fame and notoriety and learns of the arbitrary nature of fame
The eagle then guides him into the house of Rumour built of sticks
The dreamer is approached by an imposing figure when the poem ends abruptly.
The book has been described as a parody of Dante’s Divine Comedy .
The Parliament of Fowls (c. late 1370s-early 1380s)
Dream allegory in the seven-lined Chaucerian stanza.
Rhyme scheme ababbcc
Believed to be an allegory on the betrothal of King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia.
The poet falls asleep while reading Cicero’s The Dream of Scipio in which Africanus appears to Scipio in a dream and shows him heaven and the future.
Similarly, the Chaucerian dreamer is led by Africanus to a garden where he visits the temple of Venus
In Venus’s palace, the goddess of Nature oversees the birds choosing their mates on St. Valentine’s Day.
Three male eagles want to choose the same female eagle. Nature asks the female herself to choose a suitor and the female asks leave to wait a year.
Troilus and Criseyde (completed by 1388)
Finished poem in Chaucerian stanza.
Chaucer’s longest single poem.
Modelled on Boccaccio’s Filostrato .
Less cynical and misogynistic than Boccaccio’s version
Resembles courtly romance
The Legend of Good Women
Written in decasyllabic couplets (heroic couplet).
A Prologue and nine tales
Theme: betrayal of good women by wicked men
Stories of Cleopatra, Thisbe, Dido, Hypsipyle & Medea, Lucrece, Ariadne, Philomela, Phyllis, Hypermnestra .
Believed to be a palinode, retracting Chaucer’s earlier depiction of woman as bad in Troilus and Criseyde.
And as for me, though that I konne but lyte,Geoffrey Chaucer, The Legend Of Good Women
On bokes for to rede I me delyte,
And to hem yive I feyth and ful credence,
And in myn herte have hem in reverence
So hertely, that ther is game noon
That fro my bokes maketh me to goon,
But yt be seldom on the holyday,
Save, certeynly, whan that the month of May
Is comen, and that I here the foules synge,
And that the floures gynnen for to sprynge,
Farewel my bok and my devocioun!