The Clever Quill – READ. LEARN. INSPIRE.

An Educated Mind ~ Come Along On My Quest to Finish 1350 Great Works

Chaucer and The Canterbury Tales

Posted by Amanda Jane on May 1, 2015

Geoffrey Chaucer

Today I finished The Canterbury Tales, and to celebrate I ordered from Netflix (my new love) the DVD “Chaucer & The Canterbury Tales” featuring Terry Jones, of Monty Python fame, as the host.

It was a fascinating 120 minutes! Jones was Oxford educated and knows a lot about Chaucer and the history surrounding his life and writings.  In hilarious contrast from the buck-naked portrait in the background, the serious conversation with Terry Jones regarding the history of England during the reign of Edward III and Richard II seemed to bring forth the satirical spirit of The Canterbury Tales themselves.

Geoffrey Chaucer, often called the Father of English Literature, was born circa 1340 AD to a wealthy vintner, who was himself the son of a wealthy vintner, and as such was born into prosperity and had the privilege of an education.  His family resided in Cheapside at the heart of the mercantile thoroughfare.

Not too much is known about his youth other than he probably attended school at nearby St. Paul’s Cathedral School, like boys of his station did.  We know he lived through The Black Death and survived the terrible plague.  Around the age of 12, he was kidnapped by an aunt who tried to force him to marry her daughter, but she was arrested and fined for that.  By 17, he was working as a page for the Countess of Ulster, wife of the 1st Duke of Clarence, Lionel, who was the second son of the current king, Edward III.

Somewhere at the beginning of the 100 Years War, he went to the battle under the service of the Duke of Clarence.  He was captured by the French Army during the siege at Rheims and held for ransom.  Since England had captured King John of France during the Battle of Poitiers, they had the upper hand in getting back their prisoners of war.  King Edward paid the sum of £16 for Chaucer’s release. In 1366 or so, he married Philippa de Roet, a lady in waiting to Queen Philippa, Edward III’s wife.  He is believed to have fathered three or four children with her during their marriage.

During little Richard II’s turbulent reign, even when he was deemed a “royalist” and though he had gotten on the bad side of the Lords Apellant, Chaucer was at the peak of his writing abilities, cranking out The Canterbury Tales and many other great works, including his masterpiece Troilus and Cressida.  He served under King Richard II in many responsible positions, moved to Kent and was  appointed to parliament there.  Even though he was somewhat tied to people of the court who found trouble with the Lords Apellant, he did not.  When Richard II was overthrown and Henry IV was put in power, his annual pension from the King was discontinued, but later reinstated by Henry IV.

Toward the end of his life, he took quarters at Westminster Abbey.  It is not known whether he did this for sanctuary from Archbishop Thomas Arundel and his supporters, or just because he felt like it.  He died in 1400.  Terry Jones believes there might have even been foul play.  Chaucer is buried in Westminster Abbey.  He was the first writer to be buried in the Poet’s Corner section of the Abbey, wherein also rest other greats such as Tennyson, Kipling, Hardy and Dickens.  Even Laurence Olivier is buried there!

I feel I have formed a connection through the centuries to Mr. Chaucer.  It is a poignant reminder of the power of the pen.  The writer’s soul seems to be laid bare on the page.  The inner workings of one’s mind and thought process can touch people in distant places and throughout time to form a bond of unity and likemindedness.

I think I have a new friend.  What do you say, Geoff?  You game? 😀

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