The known facts of Chaucer's life are fragmentary and are based almost entirely on official records. He was born in London between 1340 and 1344, the son of John Chaucer, a vintner. In 1357 he was a page in the household of Prince Lionel, later duke of Clarence, whom he served for many years. In 1359-60 he was with the army of Edward III in France, where he was captured by the French but ransomed.
By 1366 he had married Philippa Roet, who was probably the sister of John of Gaunt's third wife; she was a lady-in-waiting to Edward III's queen. During the years 1370 to 1378, Chaucer was frequently employed on diplomatic missions to the Continent, visiting Italy in 1372-73 and in 1378. From 1374 on he held a number of official positions, among them comptroller of customs on furs, skins, and hides for the port of London (1374-86) and clerk of the king's works (1389-91). The official date of Chaucer's death is Oct. 25, 1400. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Chaucer's literary activity is often divided into three periods. The first period includes his early work (to 1370), which is based largely on French models, especially the Roman de la Rose and the poems of Guillaume de Machaut. Chaucer's chief works during this time are the Book of the Duchess, an allegorical lament written in 1369 on the death of Blanche, wife of John of Gaunt, and a partial translation of the Roman de la Rose.
Chaucer's second period (up to c.1387) is called his Italian period because during this time his works were modeled primarily on Dante and Boccaccio. Major works of the second period include The House of Fame, recounting the adventures of Aeneas after the fall of Troy; The Parliament of Fowls, which tells of the mating of fowls on St. Valentine's Day and is thought to celebrate the betrothal of Richard II to Anne of Bohemia; and a prose translation of Boethius' De consolatione philosophiae.
Also among the works of this period are the unfinished Legend of Good Women, a poem telling of nine classical heroines, which introduced the heroic couplet (two rhyming lines of iambic pentameter) into English verse; the prose fragment The Treatise on the Astrolabe, written for his son Lewis; and Troilus and Criseyde, based on Boccaccio's Filostrato, one of the great love poems in the English language (see Troilus and Cressida). In Troilus and Criseyde, Chaucer perfected the seven-line stanza later called rhyme royal.
To Chaucer's final period, in which he achieved his fullest artistic power, belongs his masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales (written mostly after 1387). This unfinished poem, about 17,000 lines, is one of the most brilliant works in all literature. The poem introduces a group of pilgrims journeying from London to the shrine of St. Thomas à Becket at Canterbury. To help pass the time they decide to tell stories. Together, the pilgrims represent a wide cross section of 14th-century English life.
The pilgrims' tales include a variety of medieval genres from the humorous fabliau to the serious homily, and they vividly indicate medieval attitudes and customs in such areas as love, marriage, and religion. Through Chaucer's superb powers of characterization the pilgrims—such as the earthy wife of Bath, the gentle knight, the worldly prioress, the evil summoner—come intensely alive. Chaucer was a master storyteller and craftsman, but because of a change in the language after 1400, his metrical technique was not fully appreciated until the 18th cent. Only in Scotland in the 15th and 16th cent. did his imitators understand his versification.
The best editions of Chaucer's works are those of F. N. Robinson (1933) and W. W. Skeat (7 vol., 1894-97); of The Canterbury Tales, that of J. M. Manly and E. Rickert (8 vol., 1940); of Troilus and Criseyde, that of R. K. Root (1926).
See C. Muscatine, Chaucer and the French Tradition (1960); G. G. Coulton, Chaucer and His England (1950, repr. 1963); M. A. Bowden, A Reader's Guide to Geoffrey Chaucer (1964); G. G. Williams, A New View of Chaucer (1965); M. Hussey et al., Introduction to Chaucer (1965); D. W. Robertson, Jr., Chaucer's London (1968); G. L. Kittredge, Chaucer and His Poetry (1915, repr. 1970); I. Robinson, Chaucer's Prosody (1971) and Chaucer and the English Tradition (1972); P. M. Kean, Chaucer and the Making of English Poetry (2 vol., 1972); D. Brewer, ed., Chaucer: The Critical Heritage (2 vol., 1978); B. Rowland, ed., Companion to Chaucer Studies (1979); D. R. Howard, Chaucer: His Life, His Works, His World (1989). Bibliographies for 1908 to 1953 by D. D. Griffith (rev. ed. 1954) and for 1954 to 1963 by W. R. Crawford (1967).
Geoffrey, Archbishop of York (c. 1152 – 12 December 1212) was an illegitimate son of Henry II, King of England. Geoffrey's history is chiefly one of quarrels, with the see of Canterbury, with the chancellor William Longchamp, with his half-brothers Richard and John, and especially with his canons at York.
He was distinguished from his legitimate half-brothers by his consistent attachment and fidelity to his father. His mother was Ykenai, whom Walter Map described as 'a base-born, common harlot who stooped to all uncleanness'. He was probably born before his father married Eleanor of Aquitaine, sometime around 1152.
He was Archdeacon of Lincoln by September of 1171, and probably retained the archdeaconry until he was confirmed as bishop-elect in 1175. He was made Bishop of Lincoln at the age of twenty-one about May of 1173; he at first was refused confirmation by Pope Alexander III, and went to Rome in October of 1174 to secure confirmation, which happened before July of 1175. He was never ordained, however. In 1173 and early 1174 he fought a campaign in northern England that supported his father's attempts to subdue the Scots. The campaign helped in the capture of William the Lion, king of Scots and also helped to compel Hugh du Puiset, Bishop of Durham to pledge fealty to Henry II. It was after this campaign that Henry is said to have told Geoffrey "My other sons are the real bastards. This is the only one who's proved himself legitimate!" He then was confrimed as bishop by Alexander, and was sent to study at Tours. It was during this period that he probably befriended Peter of Blois. He made a number of gifts to the cathedral at Lincoln, including two bells for the bell tower. While he was the bishop-elect at Lincoln, it appears that Adam, Bishop of St Asaph acted as bishop in the diocese of Lincoln.
He resigned the see of Lincoln on 6 January 1182, rather than be ordained as the pope had ordered. He then became his father's chancellor in 1181 and 1182, holding a large number of lucrative benefices in plurality, including Treasurer of York from 1182, the Archdeaconry of Rouen from 1183, and probably the Archdeaconry of East Riding. When Prince Richard and King Philip II of France declared war on Henry in 1187, Henry gave Geoffrey command of a quarter of the army. Geoffrey was with Henry when the king was driven from Le Mans in 1189, and Geoffrey was the one son of Henry II's that was present at the death of the king.
King Richard nominated him archbishop of York in September of 1189, but he was not consecrated until 18 August 1191, at Tours, when he received his pallium. However, on his election, he either resigned or was stripped of his office of chancellor. After Richard took the throne of England, Geoffrey was made to become a full priest, to eliminate a potential rival to the throne. He was consecrated a priest at Southwell on 23 September 1189. In 1191, after being consecrated archbishop, he attempted to go to York, but was met at Dover by agents of the chancellor, William Longchamp, and even though he took refuge in the priory of St. Martin in Dover, was dragged from sanctuary and imprisoned in Dover Castle. Longchamp claimed that Geoffrey had not sworn fealty to Richard, but it was more likely just an excuse to eliminate a rival. He was soon released, and took part in the council at Loddon Bridge between Reading and Windsor which excommunicated Longchamp and led to the deposition of Longchamp from the chancellorship. It was during this time that Geoffrey started his feud with Hugh du Puiset, probably over Geoffrey's authority in Hugh's diocese of Durham. The feud dragged on for years, with many appeals to Rome and the king.
Geoffrey long faced opposition from part of his cathedral chapter, with the opposition led by Henry Marshal, who was dean of York, Burchard du Puiset, who was Hugh du Puiset's nephew and treasurer of York, and Roger of London who was abbot of Selby. The chapter objected to Geoffrey having given a large part of York's treasury towards Richard's ransom, and to some of Geoffrey's appointments in the church of York. Charges of simony, extortion, and neglect of his duties were lodged against Geoffrey, who in return excommunicated the ringleaders more than once, and locked the canons out of church.
In 1194 he went into debt to the crown for the sum of 3000 marks in order to buy the office of Sheriff of Yorkshire. He quarrelled with Richard in 1196 and Richard forbade Geoffrey from administering York. In 1200 he refused to allow the collection of carucage on his property, and was in return forced to submit to the new sheriff of Yorkshire, James de Poterna, who had wasted the lands in revenge. In January of 1201, John then made peace with his half brother. In 1207, Geoffrey led the clergy in their refusal to be taxed by John and was forced to flee the kingdom. He died while still in exile at Grandmont in Normandy on 12 December 1212. He was buried at Notre-Dame de Grandmont.