Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 16, 2011

Geoffrey Chaucer

April 17, 1397: Geoffrey Chaucer presents the Canterbury Tales for the first time in the court of Richard II. The tales are a group of stories presented by different pilgrims as they make their way from Southward toward Canterbury in Medieval England. The tales are mostly written in verse, but some are in prose.  The story begins with a General Prologue and ends with the Parson’s Tale. The order of the remaining tales are under debate with two methods usually used. There is also debate on whether or not Chaucer ever finished his great work.

There are 83 known manuscripts of the work. Fifty-five of these are considered to have been complete at one time while the remaining 28 are highly fragmentary. The tales vary in many ways. Some errors are given to copyist mistakes while there is also evidence that Chaucer himself edited his work. There is no official complete version of the Tales. All are written in Middle English and a London dialect. No manuscripts in Chaucer’s writing exist today.

Chaucer was born around 1343 and is considered to be England’s greatest poet. He is known as the Father of English literature and wrote not only the Tales, but scientific treatises as well. He was a philosopher, alchemist, and astronomer as well as an author popular in his own time. He wrote in vernacular English in a time when the dominant literary languages in England were French and Latin. Outside his intellectual concerns, he was also a bureaucrat, courtier, and diplomat.

Chaucer’s first major work was The Book of the Duchess written about Blanche of Lancaster, possibly commissioned by her husband, John of Gaunt. He went on to write many more popular pieces and his work is often divided into phases beginning with a French period, then an Italian period, and finally an English period. He not only wrote his own work, but translated some other important pieces into English. He wrote short poems as well as this epic piece. His work was so popular, that many years after his death, satirical pieces based on his Tales were still being published. He died in 1400 at the age of 56 or 57. He is the first poet to have been buried in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey.

“By nature, men love newfangledness.”

“Filth and old age, I’m sure you will agree, are powerful wardens upon chastity.”

“Nowhere so busy a man as he than he, and yet he seemed busier than he was.”

“Love is blind.” – all from Geoffrey Chaucer

Also on this day:
America’s Renaissance Man – In 1790 Benjamin Franklin dies.
FedEx – In 1973, FedEx began operation.

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