Meaning of CHAUCER, GEOFFREY in English

born c. 1342/43, London?, Eng. died Oct. 25, 1400, London the outstanding English poet before Shakespeare and the first finder of our language. His The Canterbury Tales ranks as one of the greatest poetic works in English. He also contributed importantly in the second half of the 14th century to the management of public affairs as courtier, diplomat, and civil servant. In that career he was trusted and aided by three successive kingsEdward III, Richard II, and Henry IV. But it is his avocationthe writing of poetryfor which he is remembered. Perhaps the chief characteristics of Chaucer's works are their variety in subject matter, genre, tone, style, and in the complexities presented concerning man's pursuit of a sensible existence. Yet his writings also consistently reflect an all-pervasive humour, combined with serious and tolerant consideration of important philosophical questions. From his writings Chaucer emerges as poet of love, both earthly and divine, whose presentations range from lustful cuckoldry to spiritual union with God. Thereby, they regularly lead the reader to speculation about man's relation both to his fellows and to his Maker, while simultaneously providing delightfully entertaining views of the frailties and follies, as well as the nobility, of mankind. born c. 1342, /43, London?, Eng. died Oct. 25, 1400, London the outstanding English poet before Shakespeare whose The Canterbury Tales ranks as one of the greatest poetic works in English. A brief account of the life and works of Geoffrey Chaucer follows; for a full biography, see Chaucer. The prosperity of Chaucer's middle-class family came from wine and leather, his father, John Chaucer, being a vintner. In 1357 Chaucer was in the service of the Countess of Ulster and by 1359 in the army in France with Edward III, who ransomed him after capture at the siege of Reims. Chaucer married Philippa Pan by 1366 and the following year was appointed a court official. Chaucer's first important poem, Book of the Duchesse (1369 or 1370) was an elegy for the Duchess of Lancaster. In the next decade Chaucer traveled in Flanders, France, and Italy on diplomatic missions, was appointed comptroller of the customs, and wrote the love-vision narrative poem Hous of Fame. During the period 138090 he suffered personal and political anxieties but wrote works of a high order, including the love-vision poem Parlement of Foules; a prose translation of Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy; and his first great mature work, the romance Troilus and Criseyde. Chaucer's wife probably died in 1387. During the 1390s he retained his favour at court, forming a close relationship with John of Gaunt's son the Earl of Derby, later Henry IV, and wrote his best-known work, the unfinished The Canterbury Tales. In December 1399 Chaucer leased a house in the garden of Westminster Abbey. He died within a year and was buried in the abbey. By 1387 Chaucer had planned The Canterbury Tales, a uniquely complex and vivid collection of tales. There were to be about 30 pilgrims (including the poet himself) described on a pilgrimage from the Tabard Inn in Southwark, then a suburb of London, to the famous shrine of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, and back again. Each pilgrim was to tell two stories going and two returning. (The collection is incomplete.) After opening lines describing the spring, in which the conventional theme is treated with great freshness, he describes the pilgrims in a series of brilliant brief portraits. In addition to representatives of the knighthood, the clergy, and the farmer, there are a great variety of miscellaneous pilgrims, both ecclesiastical and secular. The characters include a charming prioress, too keen to be thought a lady, a gross and oppressive summoner, and a contemptible, fraudulent pardoner. The great variety of social stations represented allows Chaucer to tell his tales in a variety of narrative styles appropriate to the storytellers, including courtly romance, racy fabliau, beast fable, medieval sermon, alchemical account, allegorical tale, and saint's life. Bound together by the clever framing device, The Canterbury Tales is a complex work, combining humour, tragedy, and acute observation in its rich image of medieval life. Additional reading Complete reference to publications concerning Chaucer and his works is provided by the following: Eleanor P. Hammond, Chaucer: A Bibliographical Manual (1908, reprinted 1933); Dudley D. Griffith, Bibliography of Chaucer, 19081953 (1955); William R. Crawford, Bibliography of Chaucer, 195463 (1967); in the Modern Language Association's MLA International Bibliography of Books and Articles on the Modern Languages and Literatures (annual); and in The Chaucer Review (quarterly), with even wider coverage than in MLA. An excellent selective bibliography is Albert C. Baugh (comp.), Chaucer, 2nd ed. (1977). Information concerning dates of composition of the extant manuscripts and of the first printings of the works can be found in the book by Hammond listed above; and their locations are given in both Hammond and in John E. Wells, A Manual of the Writings in Middle English 10501500 (1967 ). From 1868 to 1926 the Chaucer Society in England published 155 volumes of important Chaucerian texts and commentaries. In the United States the Chaucer Group of the MLA sponsors The Chaucer Review, as well as the Chaucer Library, editions of his sourcebooks as he probably knew them.Editions: The early printed editions of the Works are by Pynson (1526), Thynne (1532, 1542, and 1545?), Stow (1561), Speght (1598, 1602, and 1687), and Urry (1721); those of the Canterbury Tales alone are by Caxton (c. 1478 and c. 1484), Pynson (c. 1492), Wynkyn De Worde (1495? and 1498), Morell (1737), and Tyrwhitt (177578). The most important 19th-century edition is Walter W. Skeat, The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, 7 vol. (189497). Student editions are Fred N. Robinson, The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, 2nd ed. (1957, reissued 1974); Ethelbert T. Donaldson, Chaucer's Poetry: An Anthology for the Modern Reader, 2nd ed. (1975, reissued 1983); and Albert C. Baugh, Chaucer's Major Poetry (1963). Scholarly editions, based on all manuscripts, are John M. Manly and Edith Rickert, The Text of the Canterbury Tales, 8 vol. (1940, reissued 1967); and Robert K. Root, The Book of Troilus and Criseyde (1926). Modern editions of the Tales include A.C. Cawley, The Canterbury Tales (Everyman's Library, 1958, reissued 1975); and Robert A. Pratt, Selections from the Tales of Canterbury, and Short Poems (Riverside Editions, 1966).Modernizations: John S.P. Tatlock and Percy MacKaye, The Complete Poetical Works of Geoffrey Chaucer (1912; reprinted as The Modern Reader's Chaucer, 1966), expurgated, in prose; Theodore Morrison, The Portable Chaucer, rev. ed. (1975, reissued 1978), major selections in verse; Nevill Coghill, The Canterbury Tales (1952), in verse; Robert M. Lumiansky, The Canterbury Tales (1948, reissued 1972), and Troilus and Criseyde (1952), both in prose.Biography and criticism: Alfred A. Kern, The Ancestry of Chaucer (1906, reprinted 1973); James R. Hulbert, Chaucer's Official Life (1912, reprinted 1970); Martin M. Crow and C.C. Olson (eds.), Chaucer Life-Records (1966); S.S. Hussey, Chaucer: An Introduction, 2nd ed. (1981), including the literary and political background of his times; Derek S. Brewer, Chaucer, 3rd ed. rev. (1973), a brief treatment of Chaucer's life and works, and (ed.), Geoffrey Chaucer (1974), an anthology of critical essays that place Chaucer within his literary, political, religious, and philosophical context; Martin B. Ruud, Thomas Chaucer (1926, reprinted 1972); Marion H. Spielmann, The Portraits of Chaucer (1900); George G. Coulton, Chaucer and His England, 8th ed. (1950, reprinted 1968), the 14th-century historical background; Caroline F.E. Spurgeon, Five Hundred Years of Chaucer Criticism and Allusion, 13571900, 7 vol. (191425; 3 vol., 1925, reprinted 1960); W.L. Alderson, A Check-List of Supplements to Spurgeon's Chaucer Allusions, Philological Quarterly, 32:418427 (1953). George L. Kittredge, Chaucer and His Poetry (1915, reissued 1970), essays on aspects of the poetry; Robert K. Root, The Poetry of Chaucer, rev. ed. (1922, reissued 1957), a detailed treatment of the life and works; Walter C. Curry, Chaucer and the Mediaeval Sciences, rev. ed. (1960); John M. Manly, Some New Light on Chaucer (1926, reissued 1959), contemporaries seen as possible models for some of Chaucer's characters; John L. Lowes, Geoffrey Chaucer and the Development of His Genius (1934), essays on Chaucer's poetic career; Percy V.D. Shelly, The Living Chaucer (1940, reissued 1968), a critical assessment of the poetry; Charles Muscatine, Chaucer and the French Tradition (1957, reissued 1965); D.W. Robertson, A Preface to Chaucer (1962), essays on aspects of Chaucer's thought; Beryl Rowland (ed.), Companion to Chaucer Studies, rev. ed. (1979), essays on the life and works; Alfred David, The Strumpet Muse: Art and Morals in Chaucer's Poetry (1977), an exploration of Chaucer's desire to provide moral instruction through his writings; Alice S. Miskimin, The Renaissance Chaucer (1975), a study of the evolution of Chaucer interpretation from his time through the Renaissance; Donald R. Howard, The Idea of the Canterbury Tales (1976), a scholarly study; William F. Bryan and Germaine Dempster (eds.), Sources and Analogues of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (1941, reissued 1958); Muriel A. Bowden, A Commentary on the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, 2nd ed. (1967, reissued 1973); Ralph Baldwin, The Unity of the Canterbury Tales (1955, reprinted 1977); Robert M. Lumiansky, Of Sondry Folk: The Dramatic Principle in The Canterbury Tales (1955, reissued 1980); Sanford B. Meech, Design in Chaucer's Troilus (1959, reissued 1969); Helge Kkeritz, A Guide to Chaucer's Pronunciation (1954, reprinted 1978). R.M. Lumiansky The Editors of the Encyclopdia Britannica Major Works: Longer poems (in probable order of composition) Book of the Duchess; Hous of Fame (unfinished); Parlement of Foules; Troilus and Criseyde; Legend of Good Women; prologue, two versions; The Canterbury Tales; consisting of The Prologue (The General Prologue), The Knight's Tale, The Miller's Tale, The Reeve's Tale, The Cook's Tale, The Man of Law's Tale, The Wife of Bath's Tale, The Friar's Tale, The Summoner's Tale, The Clerk's Tale, The Merchant's Tale, The Squire's Tale, The Franklin's Tale, The Second Nun's Tale, The Canon's Yeoman's Tale, The Physician's Tale, The Pardoner's Tale, The Shipman's Tale, The Prioress's Tale, The Tale of Sir Thopas and The Tale of Melibeus (Chaucer's contributions to the tales told by his fellow-pilgrims, the latter in prose), The Monk's Tale, The Nun's Priest's Tale, The Manciple's Tale, and The Parson's Tale (in prose), and ending with Chaucer's Retractation.Not all the tales are complete; several contain their own prologues. Shorter poems Anelida and Arcite (unfinished); Complaint of Chaucer to his Empty Purse; Lines to Adam Scriven, his scribe; Truth, Fortune, and Gentilesse; and letters in verse to Henry Scogan and to Buxton. Prose The Consolation of Philosophy (Boethius) (trans. from Boethius' De consolatione philosophiae); Treatise on the Astrolabe.

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