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Pilgrimage and Pilgrims

Making of Middle English

The Canterbury Tales-Introduction

Literary Genres

The Canterbury Tales-General Prologue

External Links

illustration of Geoffrey Chaucer

Greetings, fellow pilgrim!

My name is Geoffrey Chaucer. I lived from around 1343 till 1400. My life was rich and varied. For example, in 1359 I was a member of Edward III’s army that invaded France. Unfortunately, I was captured but happily soon ransomed. That experience was somewhere in my mind when I was writing about Palamon and Arcite in “The Knight’s Tale.” Working in the king’s service was of great value to me. While on a mission to Genoa and Florence around 1372-73, I met the great Italian poets Boccaccio and Petrarch. The year 1376 saw me involved in secret service in Flanders. Then I worked at two embassies in France and Lombardy in 1378. And if I remember correctly, April of 1388 found me making a pilgrimage to Canterbury. All of these experiences were of great value to me in my writing.

Since I held various positions at the King’s court in London, I naturally used a number of languages: French, Latin, and English. Of course, traveling in Europe allowed me to employ my facility with language. Those travels also brought to my attention and delight all kinds of literature and literary styles which I then put to my own use.

Let’s see now! You could divide my writing into about three parts. From 1359-72, I was heavily influenced by French literature. At this time, I used the octosyllabic couplet a great deal. This was when I wrote The Romaunt of the Rose and The Boke of the Duchesse. 1372-86 saw me in my Italian mode. Dante and Boccaccio influenced me at this time. I left off using the octosyllabic couplet and began to use the “heroic style” of seven lines and the heroic couplet. During this time, I wrote Troylus and Criseyde, The Hous of Fame, The Legend of Good Women, and The Parlement of Foules. The heroic couplet was very much my style of choice from 1385 until my death in 1400. During this time, The Canterbury Tales was my main focus. Besides my poetic works, I also wrote prose. For example, I wrote a prose translation of Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy. Most people know my work by the name, Boece. A Treatise on the Astrolabe was another prose work of mine. That was written for my son, Lewis.

As you go through this site, you’ll find information on Middle English. That is the name given to the English of my time. You’ll also be introduced to the idea of pilgrimage, my Canterbury Tales, and to the genres of my age, such as fabliaux, beast fables, and liturgical dramas.

Virtual Medieval Church and Its Writings
University of Saint Thomas–Saint Paul, MN
© 2003 All Rights Reserved
Geoffrey Chaucer