Geoffrey Chaucer's Literary Significance

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What is significant about Chaucer's writing?

He wrote almost exclusively in English

What was Chaucer's occupation?

Professional courtier

Where was Chaucer born into?

A family of wine traders

Who were the writers Chaucer was influenced by?

Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio

What is the subject of The Book of the Duchess?

The death of Blanche, Duchess of Lancaster

What is The House of Fame influenced by?

Italian poetry of Dante

What is Chaucer's role in The House of Fame?

A participant in his own writing

What is being echoed in The House of Fame?

Dante's The Divine Comedy

What is the name of the verse form used by King James I in his Kingis Quair?

Rhyme-royal stanza

What is the source of Chaucer's poem Troilus and Criseyde?

The Italian writer Boccaccio

What is Chaucer's role in his poem Troilus and Criseyde?

As an intermediary, relating, revisiting and refining old stories

What is the significance of Troilus and Criseyde in European literature?

It is considered the first modern novel

What is one of Chaucer's authorial techniques?

Using the reader's ability to recognise and identify with what is being described

What is the theme that becomes more apparent in Chaucer's poetry?

The theme of the joys and pains of love

Who is the poet whose work is quoted in the lines 'If no love is, O God, what fele I so?'


What can be said about Chaucer's poems Troilus and Criseyde and The Legend of Good Women?

They are both about the theme of love

Study Notes

Geoffrey Chaucer

  • Wrote almost exclusively in English, using a wide range of cultural references from throughout Europe
  • Considered the first of the major English writers, and a pivotal figure who encompasses many earlier traditions, genres, and subjects of literature
  • Was a professional courtier, a kind of civil servant, with writing as a sideline

Early Life and Work

  • Born into a family of wine traders, making him a part of the new wealthy city gentleman class
  • Worked in Kent, France, and Italy, where he was influenced by writers like Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio
  • Represented Kent in Parliament from 1386

The Book of the Duchess

  • Chaucer's first work, a dream-poem on the death of Blanche, Duchess of Lancaster, wife of John of Gaunt
  • A poem of consolation, modelled on French examples, showing Chaucer's ability to bring language, situation, and emotion together effectively

The House of Fame

  • A dream-poem, influenced by Dante's Italian style, echoing The Divine Comedy
  • Chaucer becomes a participant in his own writing, visiting the "house of fame" to learn about love
  • Introduces the theme of love, using the new verse form of the rhyme-royal stanza

Troilus and Criseyde

  • Takes the Italian writer Boccaccio as its source, combining classical Trojan war story, Italian poetic version, and philosophical work of Boethius
  • Consciously uses other writers' books, refining old stories and relating them to the audience
  • Considered one of the outstanding poems in European literature of the medieval period, with a strong descriptive capacity for character and scene

Explore Geoffrey Chaucer's impact on English literature, his use of cultural references, and his contributions to the literary world.

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