Chaucer lived from 1340 to 1400 in between these years the throne of England was shared by three; Edward III, Richard II and Henry V. In it Edward’s mark the highest development of mediaeval civilisation in England. His wife’s name is Phillippia Reot. His patron was John of Gaunt (third son of King Edward III). His body was buried in the West Minister Abbey which is now called as Poet’s Corner. He is popularly known for his usage of Heroic couplet and Rhyme Royal in his works. There are few important social events that happened during his life in which some where reflected in his The Canterbury Tales; Pestilence, The Black Death during 1348,1349,1362,1367 and 1370, famine followed plague, thieves manipulated, the corruption of church, the clergy were ignorant and careless, etc. Mathew Arnold called him, ‘Father of English Poetry’, ‘Morning star of Renaissance’, ‘With him born poetry’.
His works can be divided into three categories:
FRENCH INFLUENCED WORKS:
§ The Book of the Duchess- His first published work, written in 1368 on the death of Blanche, The Duchess of Lancaster and wife of John of Gaunt. It is a dream poem and his use of language defines his capacity to bring together language, situation and emotion together.
§ The Romaunt of the Roser- a lengthy allegorical poem and a love satire written in octosyllabic couplets. Originally based on a French work Le Romaunt de la Rose.
ITALIN INFLUENCED WORKS:
§ Troilus and Criseyde- this work brings together the classical Torjan War story and the consolation of philosophy. This book was originally adapted from Boccaccio’s Decameron. This was written in Ryme Royal dedicating to John Gower which is considered to be the 1st novel in English.
§ The Legend of Good Woman- it is the first work to have heroic couplet in it. It is all about nine women. But the work remains incomplete.
§ Both Troilus and Criseyde and The Legend of a Good Woman have ‘Love’ as its subject.
§ The House of Fame- again a dream poem written between 1374 and 1385. This work was influenced from Dante’s epic The Divine Comedy (a journey to paradise, purgatory and hell). In this book Chaucer himself becomes a character. He is an ingenious poet who visits the Latin poet Ovid’s “House of Fame” to learn about ‘LOVE’.
§ The Canterbury Tales- This poem was indebted to Boccaccio. This work was probably started around 1387 and was uncompleted at his death in 1400. This is a collection of stories shared by a group of pilgrims who were journeying from Southwark (London) to Canterbury the shrine of Thomas Becket (martyrdom of Thomas in 1170) and back again.
o 30 pilgrims.
o 2 stories each while going and 2 stories each while returning.
o Planned 120 stories.
o Only 21 completed tales and 4 unfinished tales were found.
o This text is an inspiration for the Crusades War.
o An ironic gap between how the characters see themselves and how others see them is a new technique in English literature.
o A usage of gentle irony is seen although the characters.
o Chaucer has used low humours to mock religious attitudes.
o Older values were questioned and new values were affirmed.
o The work absorbs literary, historical, social and moral concerns and transcends them all.
o It brings together for the first time- diverse social characters, social levels, attitudes and ways of life.