Chaucer1 Paper

This essay has a total of 1983 words and 8 pages.


Life and Times Of Geoffrey Chaucer
Geoffrey Chaucer, the world’s greatest poet, lived in fourteenth century Europe. Like most
great people he too was influenced by something, French poetry, which I will

Prove. Europe at that time was not rich or poor, happy or sad; it was mixed with wealth
and poverty. Chaucer’s literary works broke away from conformity and set the stage for the
beginning of English literature. Chaucer’s travels through Europe, mostly on the King’s
business, or civil service, shaped his writing, offering his readers of today a brief
glimpse into the world in which he lived. Geoffrey Chaucer lived from approximately 1340
to 1400. Born the son of a London vintner, he remained a Londoner for most of his life,
leaving the city only on the King’s business.

The city of London was Chaucer’s environment for most of his life. Aside from brief visits
into other countries or cities of England, he remained in the city, and it’s affects on
his life were immense. London at the time was very different from the London we know
today. It was a walled city, guarded against invasion, but long enough time had passed
since such a threat had approached that the defenses had loosened. Houses perched upon the
walls, and Chaucer in fact, lived for a time in a house built over Aldgate, (one of the
gates of the city). (“Norton” 76)

London was a city less then three-Quarters of a mile in size: it ran east and west along
the Thames less than one and a half miles, and extended northwards less then half a mile.
Over 20,000 people were packed into this small area; the diversity of the inhabitants was
overwhelming. Londoners ranged from wealthy to impoverished, from small to large,
shoemakers to blacksmith to minstrel to priest. It had stone buildings mingled with tile,
wood, and thatch. While the major streets were fairly wide, small shops and stands often
spread out into the road, effectively narrowing it by up to half its original width.
London Bridge, the only bridge in the city, was home to a multitude of homes and shops,
perched on top of the span to conserve space. Waste was disposed of simply. It was usually
emptied right out the windows or doors, into the alley or street. The slaughtering was
done right in the street as well, with the scraps just tossed into the road. The local
hogs or wild dogs were used as street cleaners. They would just wander around and usually
eat up the scraps, what ever the left was eaten by wild birds. The sewers were also open
and left to run into the Thames.

Most of Chaucer’s life was spent at the open courts of the King of England. Here a
startling change was apparent. The filth of the streets disappeared, to be replaced by the
splendor so often associated with royalty. The royal court was home to many in Chaucer’s
time such as courtiers, pages, knights, nobles, and of course the King and Queen. Chaucer
quickly raised through the ranks of the Kings men, experiencing all aspects of court life.
He was a page, squire, court- bard, counselor and finally courtier to various monarchs.
Many Kings rose and fell in Chaucer’s life time. He began his life in the King’s service
in the reign of Edward III, and performed his service to him for a long time. “He was
captured by the French and ransomed in one of Edward III’s campaigns during the Hundred
Years war”- (1359) (76) which was usually an honor for only noble men. By 1378 Edward III
had died, and Chaucer was the man of Richard II

The country was caught up in a political battle between the nobles of Gloucester and
Lancaster. The actions of these two nobles had Chaucer’s life constantly changing around
him. The only Stable item in Chaucer’s life was religion. The institution of religion, the
church, was quite prominent and visible. Cathedrals dotted the cities of the world, and
even the smallest towns had at least one church. The glory of the Church may even have
outshined the royal court. Cathedrals were brilliant with magnificent carvings, statues of
precious metals murals, holy artifacts, and many other gleaming treasures. Even the
smallest church was well kept and decorated with fine art. The glory of the church, and
the power it put forth over the population, made it a major political power of the time.

Chaucer was born in the early 134O’s. Very little is known about the first stage of his
life. However, two items are fairly certain. It appears that Chaucer was the son of a
London vintner and relatively strong evidence supports that “he attended one of three
grammar schools “St. Paul’s, St., Mary- Lee’s Bow’s or St. Martin- le- Grand’s”. (76)
Aside from this slim bit of information details of Chaucer’s early life are few. The next
reliable bit of information places him at around the age of fourteen, a page in the
household of the wife of Prince Lionel, the second son of Edward III. He held this
position for some time. In 1359 Chaucer went to war technically as a soldier, but acted as
a diplomat.

Chaucer’s first appearance into the king’s business appeared in October of 1360, when he
carried letters from Calais to England during peace negotiations there. For this service
he held the official title of the clerk of the king attached to the person of Prince
Lionel. In this way, Chaucer began his life of service to his king. In 1368, Chaucer was
awarded a royal reward for a long and valued service to his job. His actual duties during
this period were apparently fairly hazy. He served as a sort of jack of all trades. The
only thing we know about Chaucer’s life between 1358-1367 is that he was imprisoned in
France, during the hundred year’s war, and was ransomed in March of 1360, for a rather
large sum. In this time Chaucer also married Philippa Roet, lady in waiting to the Queen.
She had at least two children, Thomas and Lyte Lowys. Between 1368 and 1387, Chaucer
undertook nearly a dozen diplomatic missions to Flanders, France, and Italy. Most were
important; many were so secretive that they were not mentioned in the histories of the
time at all. In 1381, Chaucer was sent to deal with marriage negotiations between Richard
II and the daughter of the French King.

While Chaucer was not on diplomatic missions, he was performing his duties in the position
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