Chaucer: What connection used to have his life with literature? BIBLIOGRAPHY
Chaucer was born in London in the early 1340s, the only son in his family. Chaucer’s father, originally a property-owning wine merchant, became tremendously wealthy so he was therefore able to send the young Geoffrey off as a page to the Countess of Ulster, which meant that Geoffrey was not required to follow in his ancestors’ footsteps and become a merchant. Eventually, Chaucer began to serve the countess’s husband, Prince Lionel, son to King Edward III. For most of his life, Chaucer served in the Hundred Years War between England and France, both as a soldier and, since he was fluent in French and Italian and conversant in Latin and other tongues, as a diplomat.
In or around 1378, Chaucer began to develop his vision of an English poetry that would be linguistically accessible to all. Instead, Chaucer wrote in the vernacular, the English that was spoken in and around London in his day.
That the nobles and kings Chaucer served were impressed with Chaucer’s skills as a negotiator is obvious from the many rewards he received for his service.
His experience overseeing imported cloths might be why he frequently describes in exquisite detail the garments and fabric that attire his characters. Chaucer held the position at the customhouse for twelve years, after which he left London for Kent, the county in which Canterbury is located.
The Canterbury Tales documents the various social tensions in the manner of the popular genre of estates satire, the narrator refrains from making overt political statements, and what he does say is in no way thought to represent Chaucer’s own sentiments.
What books did he write before the Canterbury Tales?
Roman de la Rose (1367): written by Guillame de Loris, but translated into English by Chaucer.
The Book of the Duchess (1369): It is an elegy, and he wrote it because the duchess was his wife´s friend.
The House of Fame (1379): It is a comic fantasy, in which the poet is going to be rewarded.
The Parlement of Foules (1382): This is a beast fable
Troilus and Criseye (Mid 1380s): Eternal love story inspired on a story by Boccaccio: Filostrato.
Is a love story that happens during the war of Troy. Is a tragedy.
General plan of Canterbury Tales
The Canterbury Tales is unfinished. It is a collection of 120 stories where everything is connected. Each story is different (love, saint lives, fairy tales, animals, badwy stories...) Canterbury was a shrine of Christianity in Middle English and the story that everyone tells corresponds with their personality.
Social Hierarchy: Class division
The military state: knight, squire and yeoman
The clerical state: prioress, monk and friar
Professionals: merchant, clerk, sergeant of the law, franklin, guildsmen, cook
Good men: parson, ploughman
Stewards: Millers, manciple, reeve (people who works for other people)
Church officers: summoner, pardoner (they take advantage of their position to get money)
The narrator and the author share many features. Chaucer describes with kindness: the knight, the clerk and the ploughman.
General prologue and characters
At the Tabard Inn, a tavern in Southwark, near London, the narrator joins a company of twenty-nine pilgrims. The pilgrims, like the narrator, are traveling to the shrine of the martyr Saint Thomas Becket in Canterbury. The narrator gives a descriptive account of twenty-seven of these pilgrims, including a Knight, Squire, Yeoman, Prioress, Monk, Friar, Merchant, Clerk, Man of Law, Franklin, Haberdasher, Carpenter, Weaver, Dyer, Tapestry-Weaver, Cook, Shipman, Physician, Wife, Parson, Plowman, Miller, Manciple, Reeve, Summoner, Pardoner, and Host. (He does not describe the Second Nun or the Nun’s Priest, although both characters appear later in the book.) The Host, whose name, we find out in the Prologue to the Cook’s Tale, is Harry Bailey, suggests that the group ride together and entertain one another with stories. He decides that each pilgrim will tell two stories on the way to Canterbury and two on the way back. Whomever he judges to be the best storyteller will receive a meal at Bailey’s tavern, courtesy of the other pilgrims. The pilgrims draw lots and determine that the Knight will tell the first tale.
The Miller´s Tale
A tale of bawdy comedy which takes much of its style from the fabliau. The character of the miller is disgusting and even though his personality, Chaucer sends the message that "we have to live with these people". The message of the story is hidden between the words. There is a parallelism between this Tale and the Knight´s one. Both of them are paradox:
He tells the story of an impoverished student named Nicholas, who persuades his landlord’s sexy young wife, Alisoun, to spend the night with him. He convinces his landlord, a carpenter named John, that the second flood is coming, and tricks him into spending the night in a tub hanging from the ceiling of his barn. Absolon, a young parish clerk who is also in love with Alisoun, appears outside the window of the room where Nicholas and Alisoun lie together. When Absolon begs Alisoun for a kiss, she sticks her rear end out the window in the dark and lets him kiss it. Absolon runs and gets a red-hot poker, returns to the window, and asks for another kiss; when Nicholas sticks his bottom out the window and farts, Absolon brands him on the buttocks. Nicholas’s cries for water make the carpenter think that the flood has come, so the carpenter cuts the rope connecting his tub to the ceiling, falls down, and breaks his arm.