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Geoffrey Chaucer


Title: Slide 1 Author: SISD Last modified by: Cynthia Rausch Created Date: 10/16/2006 2:57:49 PM Document presentation format: On-screen Show (4:3) Company – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Geoffrey Chaucer

Geoffrey Chaucer
The Father of English Poetry
Geoffrey Chaucer was born in London. His name was
of French origin and meant shoemaker. Chaucer was
the son of a prosperous wine merchant and deputy
to the king's butler, and his wife Agnes. Little
is known of his early education, but his works
show that he could read French, Latin, and
Italian. There exists no memoirs of Chaucer, but
Canterbury Tales perhaps gives a sight of the
Chaucer was neither poor nor was he a member of
the landed gentry. Chaucer grew up familiar with
noble folk though he was not one, and he was well
educated in book learning and in aristocratic
values and manners. In 1359, he served on the
Continent in one of the many campaigns of the
Hundred Years War. He was captured and King
Edward III, himself, had a hand in ransoming
Chaucer. Chaucer seemed to receive special
treatment and favors from kings for the rest of
his life. He traveled on several diplomatic
missions for the crown to France, Spain and
Italy. In Italy he was exposed to the great art,
literature, and philosophy beginning to explode
there. His writing shows a great Italian
Chaucers Time
  • In 1349-1350 the Black Plague killed half the
    population. Think about what it would be like for
    half the people you know to die within the next
    twelve months. The plague was unsettling in many
    ways family life was changed for many good and
    services were disrupted religious beliefs were
  • In 1381 there was a terrible Peasants Revolt.
    The poor, starving, desperate peasants staged an
    uprising in which they tried to murder the
    members of the upper class. (Think Robin Hoods
    time. Remember the poor people living in the
    forest and remember the evil sheriff. ) 

Religious Life
  • The church in its upper ranks was beset by
    political maneuvering among the bishops. There
    was a great deal of political maneuvering against
    Roman control. Among other problems, the Pope, in
    Rome, was trying to collect heavier and heavier
    taxes from the faithful in England. As the kings
    gained in power, they began to resist the power
    of the church and to try to keep more of the
    money in their own pot. 
  • In England, the church was full of ignorant
    priests and corrupt officials. Since most people
    were unschooled and could not read, they were
    religiously pretty much at the mercy of their
    religious leaders. If they could not read the
    Bible and other religious works, how could they
    dispute what their leaders told them as truth? 

Frame Story
  • The Canterbury Tales is a long poem made up of a
    general introduction (The Prologue) and a
    series of stories, told in verse by a cross
    section of English men and women.
  • It uses a frame tale, a story that provides a
    vehicle, or frame for telling other stories.
  • The frame is about a pilgrimage, a trip made to a
    holy place for religious reasons or just for fun.

Frame story continued
  • In Chaucers work, 29 pilgrims tell their stories
    as they travel in April from an inn in a London
    suburb (The Tabbard Inn) southeastward for 50
    miles to the cathedral city of Canterbury to
    visit the shrine of Saint Thomas a Becket.
  • Canterbury Cathedral is where Archbishop Thomas a
    Becket was killed by King Henry IIs knights in
    1170, much to the shock of the religious world.

Frame story yet continued
  • When they first meet at the inn, their host
    suggests they tell two stories on the way to
    Canterbury and two on the way back to pass the
  • Thus, the pilgrims stories are framed by the
    narrative of the journey.

Real Characters
  • Chaucers pilgrims are well-rounded characters
    with personalities and pasts. As one critic said,
    Not a whisper, not a wart, is omitted.
  • The pilgrims fall into three dominant groups that
    make up the medieval society in London.

The Feudal Group
  • Knight
  • Squire
  • Yeoman
  • Franklin
  • Plowman
  • Miller
  • Reeve

The Church Group
  • Nun
  • Monk
  • Friar
  • Cleric
  • Parson
  • Summoner
  • Pardoner

The City Group (Trades or Professions)
  • Merchant
  • Sergeant at the Law (Judge)
  • Five Tradesmen
  • Cook
  • Skipper
  • Doctor
  • Wife of Bath
  • Manciple
  • Host (Innkeeper)

More than just a collection of stories
  • It is a pageant of 14th Century life
  • Every class is represented except the highest and
    lowest no nobility and no serfs make the
  • Pilgrims span the whole range of the unofficial
    middle class

Groups represented
  • UPPER CLASS (Knight, Squire, church people)
  • LEARNED PROFESSIONS (Physician, Man of Law)
  • LANDED GENTRY (Franklin)
  • MERCANTILE CLASS (Shipman, Merchant)
  • GUILDSMEN (Haberdasher, Dyer, etc.)
  • LABORER (Plowman)

Chaucers Attitude toward Pilgrims
  • Five ideals, Chaucer treats seriously (Knight,
    Squire, Clerk, Parson, Plowman)
  • Some he pokes fun at (Prioress, Monk, Wife of
  • Some he is quiet about short portraits with no
    personal view coming through (Prioresss
  • Some not very good Chaucer is just a little
    negative (Shipman, Manciple)
  • Hardened sinners, all of them religious officials
    (Friar, Pardoner, Summoner

Methods of Characterization
  • Radix (base or root) trait focus on a central
    characteristic (the Knight is worthy the Yeoman
    is a forester)
  • Touchstone line a line that pinpoints the
    essence of the character (the Knight was a true,
    a perfect gentle-knight the Squire was as
    fresh as is the month of May)
  • Glimpse of the spiritual, interior person through
    physical description outward, physical blemishes
    suggest inner blemishes (the Cook has a running
    sore the Wife of Bath has gap teeth)

More Methods
  • Conscious use of hyperbole, usually used to
    create bias (Man of Law knew all the cases in the
    book the Friar was the best beggar in his order)
  • Disparate details, particularly used on the bad
    guys (mention of the Cooks ulcer interrupts
    discussion of wonderful dishes he can prepare)

The Prologue
  • In The Prologue the narrator introduces us to
    the pilgrims who gather at the Tabard Inn at the
    start of the journey.

The Language of Chaucer
  • He wrote in Middle English, the result of mixing
    the Old English of the Anglo-Saxons with the Old
    French of the Normans.
  • Chaucers decision to write in English was
    remarkable since Middle English was the language
    of the people and considered to be unsuitable for
    literary purposes.
  • Writers of the time chose to write in Latin (the
    language of the church) or French.

Form and Style
  • The Cantrebury Tales is a narrative poem.
  • It is written in Iambic Pentameter (five
    unstressed syllables each followed by a stressed
  • Chauser uses rhyming pairs of lines called heroic
  • The hand of man with such a cunning craft
  • Had decked this garden out in pleach and graft

Form and Style
  • Chaucer also uses a seven line stanza called
    Rhyme Royal in the Clerics Tale..
  • Rhyme Royal AB A BB CC

Finish Your KWL
  • What did you learn?

Journal Entry
  • If Chaucer were writing his tales today, what
    kinds of people might some of his pilgrims be?
    Where might their journey take them?

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