Geoffrey Chaucer: The Man, The Myth

Essay add: 30-09-2015, 14:58   /   Views: 163
Geoffrey Chaucer, one of English Literature’s best-known writers, has influenced many people through his writing, and also fueled the curiosity of those same people as well. Geoffrey Chaucer was a relatively normal man, except for the minor fact that no one knows a precise date of his birth or the manner of his death. He wrote poetry and short stories as amusement while he passed the time that he spent working for his country. He traveled to many other countries on diplomatic engagements. While traveling he spent a lot of time writing. In this period of time he wrote many famous works, such as The Canterbury Tales. Many of his works, like The Canterbury Tales, were about people that he encountered in his everyday life; there are even poems linked to his marriage. “For example, in The Book of the Duchesse Chaucer speaks of a ‘sicknesse/That I have suffred this eight yeere’ and says his cure is no nearer: there is only one physician who can heal him (Howard, 98).”

Geoffrey Chaucer was born in London, England between 1340 and 1345; an exact date has yet to be determined. His father was a successful wine merchant and was also deputy to the king’s butler. Chaucer’s education level was never revealed, but evidence shows that he could read French, Latin, and Italian. Chaucer did many different types of civil jobs for the monarchy. He did diplomatic customs and served as Clerk of the King’s Works, later he was elected as justice of the peace. In 1359, Chaucer was captured by the Ardennes during the siege of Reims, King Edward III paid Chaucer's ransom of 16 pounds. In 1366, he married Phillipa Roet, daughter of Sir Gilles de Roet. The marriage was arranged by Phillipa's foster mother, ironically named, Queen Phillipa. The two [Chaucer and Phillipa], as it shows in some sketchy records, allegedly had three children, Lewis, Thomas, and Elizabeth. It is for Chaucer's second son that the Treatise on the Astrolabe was written. Chaucer died mysteriously on October 25, 1400; no one knows the exact cause of death, though some speculate that he was murdered. During Richard II’s reign Chaucer supported him completely, but when Henry, Richard’s cousin, and Thomas Arundel overthrew Richard there may have been a problem with Chaucer’s loyalty. “Henry, Richard’s cousin, had no real claim to the throne and no real popular support. But he was influenced by Thomas Arundel, former archbishop of Canterbury, a prelate so tyrannical and conniving he’d been exiled by Richard . . . (Weeks, 2).” Chaucer stayed loyal to Richard making it hard for Henry to rule because Chaucer influenced many. All that followed Richard, or the words of Chaucer, were accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake.
Geoffrey Chaucer’s literary works are among the most popular during his lifetime. He is best known for his short stories and poems. Chaucer wrote in Middle English, a language only used by those deemed uncivilized at that time. He was one of the first writers to develop and use heroic verse, which was a substitute to the Anglo-Saxon meter. He also retold a version of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida. “Many scholars regard this as his best work, even including the better known but incomplete Canterbury Tales (Wikepedia- Troilus, 1).” Chaucer did not write in one set style. The Canterbury Tales is a large circle of stories interlinked with many narrators, while Troilus and Criseyde contradict this style by being a single story with one narrator. Chaucer’s goal was to reach readers of all ages, but he mostly aimed for adults that could understand what he was speaking of. “Chaucer liked and understood women and must have found them easy companions (Howard, 97).” In his poetry, Chaucer seems to sympathize with women. It is possible that the men in Chaucer’s works actually represent Chaucer himself. He wrote mostly to entertain and satirize society. As in The Canterbury Tales Chaucer makes references to people in his lifetime, those around Chaucer had to be careful as not to make an impression for Chaucer’s tales.

One of Geoffrey Chaucer’s best-known works is The Canterbury Tales. He started but never finished because of his tragic death in the middle. Chaucer was very much concerned with aristocracy. Of the Canterbury pilgrims there is one that represents Chaucer. “. . . The franklin, a man heartily concerned with the gentility of his son (Biography, 2)". Chaucer's son had once been one of the richest men in London. Aside from The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer’s version of Troilus and Cressida (Troilus and Criseyde) is considered as one of his best poems. The poem depicts a medieval romance between the Trojan prince and Criseyde, Boccaccio’s love story, and a horrible tragedy. “In the poem, Chaucer shows the mysterious working of fortune, and the sad brevity of earthly joy (World Book, 1).” The Book of the Duchess is about the first wife of John Gaunt, Chaucer’s good friend. It is also one of the beginning works of Chaucer. In the book the narrator is a bit confused. He reads the story of Ceys and Alcione and points out that it is about cures for sleeplessness, yet the poem is actually about comfort.

Geoffrey Chaucer was one of the first English writers. Many thought the English language was uncivilized, as it was custom to write anything official in Latin. “In the history of English literature, he is considered the introducer of continental accentual-syllabic metre as an alternative to the alliterative Anglo-Saxon metre (Wikipedia, 1).” He helped to make the Middle English language popular in the London area. When Chaucer died he was buried in remote area, later being moved to West minister Abbey, which is now called "The Poet's Corner". Chaucer is said to be the first writer buried here. In 1555 a tribute was built to honor him in West minister.
Geoffrey Chaucer was a very talented man. He wrote many famous literary works as well as balanced a family life with a steady full-time diplomatic career. It is still not revealed exactly how his life was lived but you may get a good idea through records kept by other people of that time. Many of Chaucer’s friends and relatives died just as mysteriously as he did, including his wife. Though Chaucer’s life will always be a mystery to us his work will continue influencing many all the while teaching valuable lessons.

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