Geoffrey Chaucer-Canterbury Tales

Geoffrey Chaucer , sometimes called „father of English literature“, was the preeminent English poet, and still retains the position as the most significant poet to write in Middle English. Chaucer was born in the early 1340s to a middle-class family. His father, John Chaucer, was a vintner and deputy to the king's butler. His family's financial success came from work in the wine and leather businesses. Little information exists about Chaucer's education, but his writings demonstrate a close familiarity with a number of important books of his contemporaries and of earlier times. Chaucer was likely fluent in several languages, including French, Italian and Latin. Chaucer first appears in public records in 1357 as a member of the house of Elizabeth, Countess of Ulster. This was a conventional arrangement in which sons of middle-class households were placed in royal service so that they may obtain a courtly education. Two years later Chaucer served in the army under Edward II and was captured during an unsuccessful offensive at Reims, although he was later ransomed. Chaucer served under a number of diplomatic missions. Chaucer's first published work was The Book of the Duchess, a poem of over 1,300 lines that is an elegy for the Duchess of Lancaster, which was published in 1370. Chaucer continued with his diplomatic career, traveling to Italy for negotiations to open a Genoa port to Britain as well as military negotiations with Milan. During his missions to Italy, Chaucer encountered the work of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, which were later to have profound influence upon his own writing. Chaucer's next works were Parlement of Foules and Troilus and Criseyde. He translated his literary works to all three languages which was important factor in his development as a writer. Subsequently, he served as Comptroller of Customs in London; Member of Parliament; Justice of the Peace; Clerk of the Works at Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London; and as a sub-forester in one of the king‘s forests. One of his most important contributions to English literature is his development of the resources of the English language for literary purposes. Chaucer himself spoke late Middle English. By using this language instead of the more fashionable French for his poetry, he added tremendously to its prestige and set an example that was followed thereafter.

The Canterbury Tales secured Chaucer's literary reputation. It is his great literary accomplishment, a compendium of stories by pilgrims traveling to the shrine of Thomas a Becket in Canterbury. Chaucer introduces each of these pilgrims in vivid brief sketches in the General Prologue and intersperses the twenty-four tales with short scenes, and also with lively exchanges. Chaucer did not complete the full plan for the tales. In his plan, every pilgrim was to tell two stories on the way to Canterbury, and two stories on the return journey to London. The Canterbury Tales is a lively mix of a variety of genres told by travelers from all aspects of society. Among the genres, are included: courtly romance, fabliau, saint's biography, allegorical tale, beast fable and medieval sermon. Canterbury Tales tells many stories from medieval literature and provides a great variety of comic tales. Geoffrey Chaucer injects many tales of humor into the novel. Chaucer provides the reader with many light-hearted tales as a form of comic relief between many serious tales. The author interpolates humor into many tales, provides comic relief, and shows the reader a different type of humorous genre.Though the Canterbury tales is often referred to as the first collection of short stories in English literature, these stories, unlike the modern short story, are written in poetry rather than in prose. Chaucer‘s style in Canterbury Tales is remarkably flexible; for he had by this time thrown off the stiff conventions of his earlier French an Italian sources. His prose, like his vocabulary is easy and informal.

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