Short Biography of Geoffrey Chaucer
Known as the author of the timeless The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer was one of the greatest poets in the Middle-English Language. Although he was a diplomat and a civil servant, he is remembered most for his renditions of classic tales that tended to deliver a moral message and commentary on society. His works combine humor, love, philosophy, divine intervention, lust, and the eternal follies of mankind.
Chaucer’s father was a London vintner and was a part of an expedition with Edward III to Antwerp (Belgium). While his family was not wealthy, they did have connections that kept them high on the social ladder. In fact, the family did have financial success in the leather and wine markets at home and abroad. In his studies, he would have become fluent in French, Italian, and of course Latin. His works seem to be influenced by other popular canons in literature that he probably read as a child.
Geoffrey Chaucer became a member of the household of Elizabeth, which would have given him an opportunity to receive not only the best education, but also the connections necessary to advance among the elite class of the day. Chaucer was held for ransom when captured in France and thereafter served as a messenger during peace talks. Some believe that Chaucer then went on to study law. Following, he was sent to Spain on diplomatic missions. He then married the wealthy Philippa Pan, who ensured that her husband received annuities to live on. He was made into an esquire and served abroad. During this time, he released his first poem, Book of the Duchess.
For the next decade and a half, Chaucer performed duties abroad for the king and was rewarded handsomely for his efforts. After his service, he retreated to a more private life and released House of Fame, a poem that doesn’t show his great skill, as it was still developing. Over the next ten years, Geoffrey had several ups and downs in his public life. During this time, he wrote The Parlement, which is regarded as his best early work.
Later in his career, he released Troilus and Criseyde, which is regarded with The Canterbury Tales as Chaucer’s finest works. His later, The Legend of Good Women, shows his ability to put a full-length and complex story together with witty and carefully constructed prose, rhyme and meter. The Canterbury Tales describes thirty pilgrims who set off to Canterbury. Each story presents its own tale and is linked together by the host of the “contest” who can tell the best story along the way. It is a memorable classic and has led Chaucer to be called one of the greatest poets to have ever written in the English language.