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Geoffrey Chaucer

(1342 - 1400)

About Geoffrey Chaucer:
Picture of Geoffrey ChaucerGeoffrey Chaucer, an English poet, was born in 1342. Historians are uncertain about his exact date of birth. Geoffrey's well-to-do parents, John Chaucer and Agnes Copton, possessed several buildings in the vintage quarter in London. Not much is known about Geoffrey's school career. He must have had some education in Latin and Greek.
Out of school he went on as a page in the household of the Countess of Ulster. Chaucer rose in royal employment and became a knight of the shire for Kent. As a member of the king's household, Chaucer was sent on diplomatic errands throughout Europe.
From all these activities, he gained the knowledge of society that made it possible to write The Canterbury Tales, his most famous work. Chaucer died in October 1400 and was buried in Westminster Abbey in London. He was the first of those that are gathered in what we now know as the Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey.

Chronology of Geoffrey Chaucer's life and times

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    Librarius maintains a one-stop shop that offers information about Geoffrey Chaucer and his most famous literary work The Canterbury Tales and some of his other works. Librarius' website hosts the full middle-english hypertext of The Canterbury Tales and a modern-english side-by-side translation of all tales.

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About The Canterbury Tales:
Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales, a collection of stories in a frame story, between 1387 and 1400. It is the story of a group of thirty people who travel as pilgrims to Canterbury (England). The pilgrims, who come from all layers of society, tell stories to each other to kill time while they travel to Canterbury.
If we trust the General Prologue, Chaucer intended that each pilgrim should tell two tales on the way to Canterbury and two tales on the way back. He never finished his enormous project and even the completed tales were not finally revised. Scholars are uncertain about the order of the tales. As the printing press had yet to be invented when Chaucer wrote his works, The Canterbury Tales has been passed down in several handwritten manuscripts.

The Canterbury Tales
Main Table of Contents

Selectable tales in middle english with an extensive hypertext glossary.

Modern english side-by-side translation of all tales:

Fragment I (Group A)
General Prologue
The Knight's Tale
The Miller's Tale
The Reeve's Tale
The Cook's Tale
Fragment II (Group B1)
The Man of Law's Tale
Fragment III (Group D)
The Wife of Bath's Tale
The Friar's Tale
The Summoner's Tale
Fragment IV (Group E)
The Clerk's Tale
The Merchant's Tale
Fragment V (Group F)
The Squire's Tale
The Franklin's Tale

Fragment VI (Group C)
The Physician's Tale
The Pardoner's Tale
Fragment VII (Group B2)
The Shipman's Tale
The Prioress's Tale
The Tale of Sir Thopas
The Tale of Melibee
The Monk's Tale
The Nun's Priest's Tale
Fragment VIII (Group G)
The Second Nun's Tale
The Canon's Yeoman's Tale
Fragment IX (Group H)
The Manciple's Tale
Fragment X (Group I)
The Parson's tale
Chaucer's Retraction

About Troilus and Criseyde:
Origin: The story of Troilus and Criseyde was first told, in interwoven episodes, in a long French poem of the mid-twelfth century, the Roman de Troie by Benoît de Sainte-Maure. The historical event underlying this poem was the Trojan war recorded by Homer in his Iliad. Benoît's main sources were classical prose accounts in Latin. Giovanni Boccaccio freely depends on and alters Benoît's material to compose his own poem Il Filostrato in the late 1330s.
Il Filostrato is the source of Geoffrey Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde. Chaucer freely changes and alters his sources so much that his poem is essentially new. Troilus and Criseyde was written between 1381 and 1386.
Story: The story is about the Trojan prince Troilus, son of Priamus who is king of Troy, who falls in love with a lady called Criseyde. With the help of his friend Pandarus, who is Criseyde's uncle, Troilus wins Criseyde's love. A time of love and prosperity follows, which ends when the Greeks capture the Trojan warrior Antenor. Criseyde and Antenor are exchanged hence Troilus and Criseyde are separated. In the Greek camp Criseyde is courted by the Greek warrior and king Diomedes, who advises her to forget the city of Troy and her lover Troilus. After some hesitation, Criseyde falls for Diomedes and betrays Troilus. Troilus becomes acquainted with and subsequently suffers from the loss of his earthly love. After his death, Troilus learns about eternity and eternal love.

Troilus and Criseyde
Table of Contents
Middle-english hypertext with glossary.

About The Book of the Duchess:
The Book of the Duchess is the first of Chaucer's major poems. Scolars are uncertain about the date of composition. Most scolars ascribe the date of composition between 1369 and 1372. Chaucer probably wrote the poem to commemorate the death of Blanche of Lancaster, John of Gaunt's wife. Notes from antiquary John Stowe indicate that the poem was written at John of Gaunt's request.
The poem begins with a sleepless poet who lies in bed reading a book. The poet reads a story about Ceyx and Alcyone and wanders around in his thoughts. Suddenly the poet falls asleep and dreams a wonderful story. He dreams that he wakes up in a beautiful chamber by the sound of hunters and hunting dogs. The poet follows a small hunting dog into the forest and finds a knight dressed in black who mourns about losing a game of chess. The poet asks the knight some questions and realizes at the end of the poem that the knight was talking symbolically instead of literally: the black knight has lost his love and lady. The poet awakes and decides that this wonderful dream should be preserved in rhyme.

The Book of the Duchess
Middle-english hypertext with glossary.

About The Parliament of Fowls:
The Parliament of Fowls is also known as The "Parlement of Foules", "Parliament of Foules," "Parlement of Briddes," "Assembly of Fowls" or "Assemble of Foules". The poem has 699 lines and has the form of a dream vision of the narrator. The poem is one of the first references to the idea that St. Valentine's Day was a special day for lovers. As the printing press had yet to be invented when Chaucer wrote his works, The Parliament of Fowls has been passed down in fourteen manuscripts (not including manuscripts that are considered to be lost). Scholars generally agree that the poem has been composed in 1381-1382.
The plot is about the narrator who dreams that he passes through a beautiful landscape, through the dark temple of Venus to the bright sunlight. Dame Nature sees over a large flock of birds who are gathered to choose their mates. The birds have a parliamentary debate while three male eagles try to seduce a female bird. The debate is full of speeches and insults. At the end, none of the three eagles wins the female eagle. The dream ends welcoming the coming spring.

The Parliament of Fowls
Middle-english hypertext with glossary.

About Work in progress:
Librarius is currently working on publication of some other works of Chaucer.

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