As a Renaissance man of the Middle Ages, not only did Geoffrey Chaucer change the structure English language, but he also spread his influence through his community by his many occupations. Throughout his years as an author, Chaucer became a key component in the creation of Middle English by using his own techniques to develop and affirm the vernacular. The London poet remained known as the most highly regarded English poet of the Middle Ages. Although the exact birth date of Geoffrey Chaucer remains unknown, researchers claim that he entered the world around 1343.1 As a natural born Londoner, his English heritage would provide him the opportunity to progress the English language. Unlike many English children in the fourteenth century, Chaucer would live a particularly privileged life while he developed his love for literature. His political connections allowed him to work closely with royalty, which permitted close relations with the English courts. He began to work with Countess of Ulster, in 1357, by being a page in the royal household.2 This opportunity provided assimilation into the royal English culture, along with housing, food, and other perks that came with being an assistant to nobility. During this time, the Hundred Years’ War remained raging across the Atlantic Ocean. The Lionel of Antwerp and Chaucer both traveled along side the English army into the depths of France.3
1Payne, Robert O. Geoffrey Chaucer. (2nd ed. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1986), 4.
2Bloom, Harold. Geoffrey Chaucer. (New York, NY: Chelsea House, 1985), 16.
3Payne, Robert O. Geoffrey Chaucer. (2nd ed. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1986), 7.
Unfortunately, Chaucer became a captive of the French army during the siege of Rheims, but he was soon released after a ransom of £16 was paid. King Edward III used his own money to bail Chaucer out of the French captivity.4 Soon after that, Chaucer returned to the side of Prince Lionel and continued his loyal service. Although it remains unconfirmed, researchers and scholars believe that Chaucer studied at the Inns of Court, learning about the laws of the Middle Ages. Soon after Chaucer’s captivity, he met a female assistant to Queen Philippa of Hainault. Chaucer and Philippa Roet soon fell in love and married in 1366.5 The records show that they had 4 children together, including their first son, Thomas. After the birth of Thomas, Chaucer became valet to King Edward III, resulting in his joining of the royal court. Under the King’s orders, Chaucer travelled to Picardy, France, where the objective of the mission remains unknown. He met many famous scholars in Picardy, who introduced him to medieval Latin poetry. In another mission to Italy, Chaucer became acquainted with Italian medieval poetry and found inspiration for his most famous work, The Canterbury Tales. This knowledge and exposure he gained from his journeys would partially influence his writings in the years to come. Following his return from these European voyages, Chaucer acquired the position of Comptroller of Customs for the Port of London. He held this profession for twelve years, while continuing to work on various poems. During his time as Comptroller, Chaucer became accused of a crime called “raptus” of Cecilia Chaumpaigne, but these hefty allegations quickly subsided.6 Researchers do not know whether or not he was guilty of the crime purportedly reported, but
4Bloom, Harold. Geoffrey Chaucer. (New York, NY: Chelsea House, 1985), 33.
5Bloom, Harold. Bloom's Major Poets. (New York, NY: Chelsea House, 1999), 27.
6Payne, Robert O. Geoffrey Chaucer. (2nd ed. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1986), 19.
no historical evidence regarding a jail sentence to said crimes remain