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Geoffrey Chaucer.

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Geoffrey Chaucer led a busy official life, as an esquire of the royal court, as the comptroller of the customs for the port of London, as a participant in important diplomatic missions, and in a variety of other official duties. All this is richly recorded in literally hundreds of documents (see Martin Crow and Clair C. Olson, Chaucer Life Records, Austin, Texas (1966) [Widener 12422.598]). But such documents tell us little about Chaucer the man and poet. Nor does Chaucer himself tell us all that much. He is a lively presence in his works, and every reader comes to feel that he knows Chaucer very well. Pilgrimages - Walking barefoot or even riding a horse could be a difficult undertaking, along poorly maintained and dangerous roads. ...read more.


and often with tall tales of the places they had visited. Chaucer's House of Rumor (in The House of Fame) characterizes pilgrims with "wallets stuffed with lies. Tournaments - Great tournaments - such as the tournament at London in 1390 illustrated above -- were great civic and political events. In his capacity of Clerk of the Works, Chaucer had the task of overseeing the construction of lists for tournaments such as this. There are some interesting parallels between the tournament in the Knight's Tale and that depicted above (see the articles cited in the note to KnT 2491-656, p. 839 in the Riverside Chaucer). The tournaments were often accompanied by elaborate spectacles, such as those displayed for the entrance of Queen Isabella into Paris, which inspired the English tournament discussed above. ...read more.


The aristocracy used French but most used English as well. King Edward I knew English and even enjoyed English poetry. However, French continued its cultural dominance: The court of King Edward III was French in culture and cultivated French poetry, with French poets ausch as Jean Froissart and Otho de Graunson, whom Chaucer knew, helping to set the tone. Furthermore the court began speaking Parisian French, an acquired skill, rather than Anglo-Norman, the variety of French used in England, to which earlier nobles had been born. By the time Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales the form of speech brought over by the Normans was still extent only in the provinces, a source of gentle satire in the portrait of the Prioress: And Frenssh she spak ful faire and fetisly, After the scole of Stratford atte Bowe, For Frenssh of Parys was to hire unknowe. (General Prologue, I.124-26) ...read more.

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