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Geoffrey Chaucer (1343–1400)

Author of The Canterbury Tales

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About the Author

Geoffrey Chaucer, one of England's greatest poets, was born in London about 1340, the son of a wine merchant and deputy to the king's butler and his wife Agnes. Not much is known of Chaucer's early life and education, other than he learned to read French, Latin, and Italian. His experiences as a show more civil servant and diplomat are said to have developed his fascination with people and his knowledge of English life. In 1359-1360 Chaucer traveled with King Edward III's army to France during the Hundred Years' War and was captured in Ardennes. He returned to England after the Treaty of Bretigny when the King paid his ransom. In 1366 he married Philippa Roet, one of Queen Philippa's ladies, who gave him two sons and two daughters. Chaucer remained in royal service traveling to Flanders, Italy, and Spain. These travels would all have a great influence on his work. His early writing was influenced by the French tradition of courtly love poetry, and his later work by the Italians, especially Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch. Chaucer wrote in Middle English, the form of English used from 1100 to about 1485. He is given the designation of the first English poet to use rhymed couplets in iambic pentameter and to compose successfully in the vernacular. Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is a collection of humorous, bawdy, and poignant stories told by a group of fictional pilgrims traveling to the shrine of St. Thomas a Becket. It is considered to be among the masterpieces of literature. His works also include The Book of the Duchess, inspired by the death of John Gaunt's first wife; House of Fame, The Parliament of Fowls, and The Legend of Good Women. Troilus and Criseyde, adapted from a love story by Boccaccio, is one of his greatest poems apart from The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer died in London on October 25, 1400. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, in what is now called Poet's Corner. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Illustration from Cassell's History of England - Century Edition - published circa 1902.
Via Wikipedia.


Works by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Canterbury Tales (1380) 22,068 copies
The Riverside Chaucer (1369) 1,946 copies
Troilus and Cressida (1374) 1,894 copies
Chanticleer and the Fox (1958) 1,622 copies
Chaucer's Major Poetry (1963) 251 copies
The Knight's Tale (1966) 139 copies
The Portable Chaucer (1949) 135 copies
The Canterbury Tales (2011) — Original work — 107 copies
The Parliament of Birds (1960) 103 copies
Chaucer Reader (1950) 78 copies
The Miller's Tale (1983) 77 copies
The Legend of Good Women (1386) 54 copies
The Book of the Duchess (1532) 47 copies
The Franklin's Tale (1931) 40 copies
Tales from Chaucer (1947) 28 copies
The House of Fame (2013) 25 copies
Chaucer's dream poetry (1997) 20 copies
Ridder Sox en Koekeloer (1956) 13 copies
The Romaunt of the Rose (1999) 13 copies
Tales from Chaucer (1900) 11 copies
Selected Canterbury Tales (2002) 11 copies
The Prioress' Tale (1987) 9 copies
Chaucer 8 copies
The Merchant's Tale (1970) 8 copies
Anelida and Arcite (1905) 7 copies
The Parson's Tale (1995) 7 copies
The manciple's tale (1984) 6 copies
The Wadsworth Chaucer (1986) 6 copies
A Choice of Chaucer's Verse (1972) — Author — 5 copies
An ABC 5 copies
The Summoner's Tale (1995) 4 copies
The Man of Law's tale (1969) 4 copies
Truth {poem} 2 copies
Concubine (e-book) (2009) 2 copies
December 1 copy
Chaucer´s Works (2018) 1 copy
The College Chaucer (2007) 1 copy
Verona (2013) 1 copy
Persuasion 1 copy
Lyrics And Allegory (1971) 1 copy
Geoffrey Chaucer (1991) 1 copy
Short poems 1 copy
Boece 1 copy
Works V (2016) 1 copy

Associated Works

The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms (2000) — Contributor — 1,268 copies
Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama (1995) — Contributor, some editions — 929 copies
English Poetry, Volume I: From Chaucer to Gray (1910) — Contributor — 544 copies
The Oxford Book of English Verse (1999) — Contributor — 475 copies
From the Tower Window (My Book House) (1932) — Contributor — 267 copies
Medieval English Lyrics: A Critical Anthology (1963) — Contributor — 196 copies
The Faber Book of Beasts (1997) — Contributor — 141 copies
The Oxford Book of Villains (1992) — Contributor — 136 copies
Major British Writers, Volumes I and II (1954) — Contributor — 122 copies
The Standard Book of British and American Verse (1932) — Contributor — 116 copies
Great Stories for Young Readers (1969) — Contributor — 91 copies
The Treasury of English Short Stories (1985) — Contributor — 85 copies
Heroic Fantasy Short Stories (Gothic Fantasy) (2017) — Contributor — 82 copies
The Bedside Book of Famous British Stories (1940) — Contributor — 67 copies
A Book of Narrative Verse (1930) — Contributor — 64 copies
The Faber Book of Gardens (2007) — Contributor — 45 copies
Prose and Poetry for Appreciation (1934) — Contributor, some editions — 44 copies
Selected sonnets, odes, and letters (1966) — Translator, some editions — 39 copies
Spring: A Spiritual Biography of the Season (2006) — Contributor — 34 copies
Floure and the Leafe, the Assembly of Ladies, the Isle of Ladies (1990) — mis-attribution, some editions — 33 copies
The Canterbury Tales [1972 film] (1972) — Original book — 29 copies
Masters of British Literature, Volume A (2007) — Contributor — 21 copies
The Ribald Reader: 2000 Years of Lusty Love and Laughter (1906) — Contributor — 18 copies
Ellery Queen's Poetic Justice (1967) — Contributor, some editions — 18 copies
The Fireside Book of Ghost Stories (1947) — Contributor — 16 copies
Trees: A Celebration (1989) — Contributor — 13 copies
Men and Women: The Poetry of Love (1970) — Contributor — 8 copies
Discussions of the Canterbury Tales (1961) — Author — 6 copies
Chaucer's Translation of Boethius's "De Consolatione Philosphiæ." (0014) — Translator, some editions — 5 copies
Famous Stories of Five Centuries (1934) — Contributor — 4 copies
Die Aussprache des Chaucer- Englischen. (1998) — Contributor — 4 copies
Spøgelseshistorier fra hele verden — Contributor, some editions — 3 copies
Great Poems from Chaucer to Whitman — Contributor — 3 copies
El cuento literario (2008) — Contributor — 2 copies
The Court of Venus (1955) — mis-attribution, some editions — 1 copy


14th century (638) anthology (529) British (369) British literature (528) Canterbury Tales (166) Chaucer (961) classic (1,134) classic literature (213) classics (1,429) England (467) English (405) English literature (941) English poetry (146) fiction (2,809) Folio Society (204) Geoffrey Chaucer (158) hardcover (109) history (205) humor (122) literary criticism (93) literature (2,000) medieval (1,447) medieval literature (695) Middle Ages (474) Middle English (921) non-fiction (135) own (183) paperback (91) Penguin Classics (126) picture book (138) pilgrimage (128) poetry (4,868) read (269) reference (117) short stories (397) stories (92) textbook (104) to-read (984) translation (151) unread (210)

Common Knowledge



OT: Chaucer collection goes online in Fine Press Forum (October 2023)
LE Canterbury Tales in Folio Society Devotees (June 2023)
Kelmscott Chaucer in Fine Press Forum (November 2022)


24. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
edition: Broadview Editions, Second Edition, edited by Robert Boenig & Andrew Taylor (2012)
OPD: 1400
format: 503-page large paperback
acquired: April read: Dec 30, 2023 – Apr 27, 2024, time reading: 62:07, 7.4 mpp
rating: 5
genre/style: Middle English Poetry theme: Chaucer
locations: on the road from London to Canterbury
about the author: Chaucer (~1342 – October 25, 1400) was an English poet and civil servant.

Chaucer is tricky because he’s hard to read and his tales vary so much, they are hard to summarize or classify. There is a Boccaccio element to them, but it’s a very different experience. Like Boccaccio, one thing that stands out is Chaucer’s naughty stories – sex and farts and trickery, money and wealth often playing a central role. The plague also has a role. One of Chaucer's tales is about three youths who hunt for Death because he has killed so many, and tragically find what they’re looking for. But what makes Chaucer most stand out from Boccaccio are the tellers of the tales. In Boccaccio, the ten youths are all of a class and many of them blend together, hard to differentiate. Chaucer’s tale is a social mixture – good and bad, wealthy and common. They are each distinct, wonderfully distinct, so much so that they, the tellers, stand out way more in memory than the tales themselves. These characters come out in the story prologues and there is simply more creativity, more social commentary, more insight into this medieval world than anything the stories themselves can accomplish, no matter how good the stories are. The Merchant’s Tale, my favorite, includes many references and wonderful debate between Hades and Persephone, a battle of the sexes. But it doesn’t touch on the Wife of Bath’s 1000-line prologue on being a wife to five men and all the experiences and judgments and justifications within, it’s not even close. She’s the best, but the Miller comes in early, drunkenly inserting this tale of sex and fart jokes, and bringing the whole level of content down. The Miller says, "I wol now quite the Knightes tale!" The knight has just told a more proper Boccaccio-inspired tale. By "quiting", the Miller means he his giving him some payback, getting back at him. (His tale has thematic consistency, but with common characters, farts and sex.) And the Cook’s tale is so awfully improper that it hasn’t been preserved, or maybe Chaucer only wrote 50 lines. Later, the Cook will throw up and fall off his horse. The Canon’s Yeoman exposes his own canon’s alchemy and trickery, getting fired on the spot before he tells his tale. This is all quite terrific stuff in and of itself, a rowdy uncontrolled mixture of societal levels, and mostly humorous confrontations (notably in a post-plague era of social mobility).

The other thing Chaucer does that Boccaccio doesn’t do in the Decameron, is write in verse. This is special all by itself. If you have read excerpts of Chaucer, there's a fair chance that like me you have been bewildered by it. It’s a weird language, oddly drawn out, then oddly compressed, obscuring the meaning, jamming in a weird accent. It doesn't make for great quotes or easy visits. But if you get deep into it, focus hard on it, something happens. It becomes magical, inimical, and lush in sound and freedom, the random inconsistent spelling as beautiful as the random inconsistent and sometimes heavily obscured phrasing. It also becomes recognizable. The more you read it, the more sense it makes. Although I was never able to scan it. Show me a page of Chaucer, and I’m immediately lost in indecipherable letters. I have to begin to read it and find the flow before it comes to life.

I find it interesting, but not inappropriate, that when Chaucer is discussed, it’s almost always his opening lines that are quoted - Whan that Aprill with hise shoures soote/The droghte of March had perced to the roote/And bathed every veyne in swich liquor/Of which vertu engendered is the flour What’s interesting is that Chaucer really doesn’t write that beautifully anywhere else. His language is generally much tamer and less trying, the rhythm more casual.

Last year I read [Troilus and Criseyde] and was enraptured in the language. There is no question the language there is better than here. And is drawn out, as he stays with long monologues that go pages and pages, the reader lost in the rhythms. This here is just not quite like that. Yes, he gets carried away a lot. But it’s always a little jerky and bumpy. There are monologues, but these are story telling monologues, with quick-ish plots. While I liked staying in the Merchant’s Tale, the writing clearly elevated and interesting, it was not the same. But T&C is both made and limited by its singular story. The Canterbury Tales expands on its cacophony of voices. The stories for me actually fade. But the prologues leave such lush impressions, they are somehow so real, and charming and Discworld-ish, and uncontained. It’s a much more powerful thing in my head.

As many know, I read this every morning beginning with April’s shoures soote on January 1. And, with the exception of the prose tales, the Tale of Melibee and The Pardoner’s Tale, it was always the best part of my day. The same could be said for T&C last year. I’ll miss being lost in this. A really special experience, and special gift to English speakers and the language's history.

… (more)
dchaikin | 168 other reviews | Apr 28, 2024 |
This is THE Chaucer book, it has everything plus helpful comments and annotations. I wish I had the time to read it front to back, but for now I only had the time to read some of the Tales and the Romaunt of the Rose.
adastra | 17 other reviews | Jan 15, 2024 |
Joseph Glaser's translation of Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales is wonderfully readable and entertaining. His translation makes the work easily accessible to modern readers providing a poetic rhythm and rhyme that hints of Chaucer's own poetry.

The Tales themselves range from the devout to the vulgarly humorous. Most delightful are the characters brought to life within the Tales.
M_Clark | 168 other reviews | Dec 29, 2023 |


AP Lit (1)


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Associated Authors

Nevill Coghill Translator, Editor
Vincent F. Hopper Editor and translator, Translator
Barbara Cohen Translator
Malcolm Andrew Critical Commentary, Editor
Charles Moorman Text and Collations
Daniel Ransom Textual Commentary
William Caxton Preface, Illustrator, Contributor
Barbara Cooney Illustrator
Edward Burne-Jones Illustrator
Walter Map Contributor
Barbara Nolan Contributor
Ovid Contributor
Francis Petrarch Contributor
Giovanni Boccaccio Contributor
St. Augustine Contributor
F. R. H. Du Boulay Contributor
St. Jerome Contributor
Macrobius Contributor
Paul Strohm Contributor
John Gower Contributor
Theophrastus Contributor
Pope Gregory X Contributor
Robert Rypon Contributor
Carolyn Dinshaw Contributor
Lee Patterson Contributor
William Langland Contributor
Arthur W. Hoffman Contributor
Jean de Meun Contributor
Marie de France Contributor
Thomas. Wimbledon Contributor
Trina Sebart Hyman Illustrator
Trina Schart Hyman Illustrator
Hermann Rosse Illustrator
Arthur Szyk Illustrator
Donald C. Baker Editor, Introduction
M. B. Parkes Introduction
Robert Hill Adapted by
A.I. Doyle Introduction
T. E. Lawrence Contributor
Peter Tuttle Translator
Louis Untermeyer Introduction
Robert W. Hanning Introduction, Editor
Nick Bantock Illustrator
Ted Stearn Cover designer, Cover artist
Gerard NeCastro Translator
A. J. Barnouw Translator
J.U. Nicolson Translator
Victòria Gual Translator
John Wain Introduction
David Wright Translator
Ernst van Altena Translator
Victor G. Ambrus Illustrator
Robert Latham General editor
Rockwell Kent Illustrator
R. M. Lumiansky Translator
Derek Pearsall Introduction
Melvyn Bragg Foreword
Raffel Burton Translator
Peter Forster Illustrator
Peter Levi Blurber
Mark Allen Editor
William Morris Designer, Illustrator
Eric Gill Illustrator
Edward Gorey Cover designer
Peter Brookes Illustrator
Roy Morgan Cover artist
Greg Irons Illustrator
W. Russell Flint Illustrator
Ann McMillan Translator
Burton Raffel Translator
Warwick Goble Illustrator
J.J. Mak Editor


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