Geoffrey Chaucer was born in fourteenth-century London and died on October 25, 1400. The writer was an English poet, “the father of English poetry.” Chaucer is one of the founders of the national literature of England, for it was he who introduced many new and specific things into the written language. His work has been called the forerunner of English Renaissance literature. The main work of J. Chaucer is a poetic collection of short stories, The Canterbury Tales, imbued with realism.
Chaucer’s adolescent period is usually called “French,” as French literature during this period had a tremendous wiggle effect on the work. This period also includes a translation of one of the most popular works of the Middle Ages, the Roman de la Rose, which gave him some fame (Abrams and Greenblatt 115). The translation is lost; another English translation of the romance, formerly attributed to Chaucer, was not his. Chaucer’s first work, the timing of which can be ascertained with precision, the poem Book of the Duchess, was written in 1369, on the death of the Duchess Blanche of Lancaster, first wife of John of Gaunt, founder of the Lancastrian dynasty (Abrams and Greenblatt 115). Machaut’s Elegy and Ovid’s Tristia were benchmarks for Chaucer, which he used extensively as models for his own works, making him an outstanding master of description.
In the Italian period, Chaucer wrote his major works before The Canterbury Tales. Despite the influence of the Italian architects, Chaucer demonstrates great independence in this final poem, expressing himself in graphic descriptions and lively, natural dialogue. It is important to note that the writer often analyzes society, giving the work a similar character to create intimacy and relevance. Chaucer describes how an eagle carries him on golden wings to a temple of glory built on an icy rock on which the names of great men are written (Knapp 17). As the rays of the sun dissolve the rock, the letters of the alphabet also disappear, gradually becoming more readable. Crowds of singers, jugs, prophets, and people who honor heroes in various ways dwell in the temple; beautiful music sounds adorned with images of great poets.
The writer uses descriptive sarcasm and satire in describing certain characters who rejoice and boast of their power. Such methods allow the reader to be transported to the news section, in which Chaucer’s unusual traits are noticeable. One of the main features is the intertwining of the writer’s style with paganism and the Renaissance. For example, the medieval features that originated in Chaucer’s earlier works show that he has not yet completely liberated himself from the medieval theory and the mixture of ideas (Spencer 111). If we analyze creativity from the other side, ideas about basic areas such as parenting or warfare are quite innovative for the time.
Chaucer’s Works and Satire
Chaucer’s works are difficult to date precisely. Early works already foreshadow future mastery, but they are also traditional and largely experimental. It should be noted that the French style of writing was largely a source of inspiration for Chaucer because it was relevant to the English culture of high promise. In other words, dream pictures and love poems were among the most popular genres of French literature, which also left a mark on the writer’s work. The classic plot is also characteristic of the works; it consists of several stages, going from falling asleep to waking up. At the same time, each of the stages is paired with allegories and meta forms, which really creates the appropriate atmosphere.
When analyzing the writer’s satire, one cannot ignore the works The Book of the Duchess and House of Glory. These works are timed to certain events and are imbued with French culture. At the same time, in these books, the writer is already ironic about the French style, recognizing its fashion, but at the same time, the excessive traditionalism. Parliament of Flows also follows the traditional French manner, is complete work, and is rich in humor. The description of the dream is consistently realistic, and there is even political satire, with the “noble” birds discussing their chosen women according to the rules of courtesanship and the “bumpkin” birds openly and rudely taunting the gentlemen.
The Canterbury Tales
The book was created spontaneously, its spacious framing easily absorbing all the appropriate epic material from the old. Chaucer found plots in everything around him: a large number of cartoon characters, each of which stands out clearly from the others and is memorable while combining stereotypical traits. Others are then well-known oral itinerant stories: the tales of the miller, the steward, the shipwright, the chaplain, the indulgence salesman, the woman of Bath, the exemplar, the merchant, and the squire.
Chaucer’s own fiction thus leaves him with little more than one “Topaz,” and even that is a parody; that is, it assumes the existence of a close subject in a serious way (Chaucer, 117). Chaucer makes extensive use of the storyline, which must be unwavering and unchanging, for the quality of the realistic scheme depends on it. The quality and painstaking selection of a variety of plots made The Canterbury Tales a work of a great variety of genres (Jost 64). In other words, each part of the work is fundamentally different from the other.
One of the main goals of the writer was to create the most realistic stories, so there was a special emphasis on the psychological and domestic elements. Another effective tool of the writer was the opposite of satire, which showed the absurd untruthfulness of events, thus bringing the reader closer to reality. One good example of this method is the story of the rejuvenated old woman. It is important to note that this method is innovative, which also makes Chaucer’s works unique and advanced. In addition, the writer liked to divide reality into two stages, thereby blurring the lines between real and completely fictional characters. This was done so that the narrator’s hero would be closer to the reader, and there would be reasons to trust such a character.
The writer draws English life from a wide angle, from a large number of angles and angles. Particular attention is paid to the social sphere of English culture, which, with the help of satire, is played mainly through the absurdity and absurdity of some situations. A prime example is a knight and his son or the farmer. These individuals are representatives of the landowners, while some others are members of the clergy. It is this wide range of characters that provides the reader with a complete picture of the English society of the time. A merchant, a shipwright, five guilders with their cook, a wealthy townswoman from Bath, an innkeeper, a housekeeper, a servant of the canon alchemist: people from the city.
A lawyer, a doctor, a student, the poet Chaucer: people of intellectual labor. These are all just the prologue. By adding to these characters, the actors of the stories, the picture of English life and its representatives is quite rich. As a result, Chaucer performs several functions at once, namely mocking the obvious shortcomings of society, showing the English way of life, and introducing new motives into the already well-established French rules of writing. For all this, Chaucer’s jealous attitude to the purity of language must be emphasized; the writer always checked his texts for errors and the beauty of the syllable. The writer was committed to the idea that the written language can surprise and fascinate the reader, and only a flawless use of it can convey the essence of the work appropriately.
To summarize, Chaucer’s role in English literature is indeed great. The writer touched upon a great number of important issues in literature, one of which was humor and satire. Thanks to this, the written English language has acquired new features, a new branch for development. The skill and sophistication of the humor used by the writer, combined with the quality of the language, make the works unusual and very distinctive. It is important to emphasize that most of Chaucer’s works are still benchmarks for writers today due to their versatility and novelty.
Abrams, Meyer, H., and Greenblatt, Stephen. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. W. W. Norton, 2018.
Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales: Seventeen Tales and the General Prologue. W. W. Norton, 2018.
Jost, Jean. Chaucer’s Humor. Critical essays. Taylor & Francis, 2019.
Knapp, James. Immateriality and Early Modern English Literature. Shakespeare, Donne, Herbert. Edinburgh University Press, 2020.
Spencer, Hayden. English Literature. From Renaissance to Seventeenth Century. EDTECH, 2018.