Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Download Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic
MLA

Bibliography

Course Hero. "The Canterbury Tales Study Guide." Course Hero. 25 Aug. 2016. Web. 29 May 2017. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Canterbury-Tales/>.

In text

(Course Hero)

APA

Bibliography

Course Hero. (2016, August 25). The Canterbury Tales Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved May 29, 2017, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Canterbury-Tales/

In text

(Course Hero, 2016)

Chicago

Bibliography

Course Hero. "The Canterbury Tales Study Guide." August 25, 2016. Accessed May 29, 2017. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Canterbury-Tales/.

Footnote

Course Hero, "The Canterbury Tales Study Guide," August 25, 2016, accessed May 29, 2017, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Canterbury-Tales/.

Geoffrey Chaucer | Biography

Share
Share

Geoffrey Chaucer was born in London in the 1340s, though the exact date is not known. As a teenager he worked as a royal page. Later, as a diplomat, he traveled widely throughout Europe as an emissary for the king. These positions gave him the opportunity to meet people from all social classes and many different countries. He also became fluent in several languages, including French and Italian.

The Canterbury Tales, with its diverse cast of characters and countless literary and historical allusions, reflects Chaucer's colorful background. Most of the tales are based, at least in part, on existing stories. But Chaucer broke new ground in The Canterbury Tales. As one of the first authors to write a complex literary work in English, he set a precedent that generations of other authors would follow. He established the use of pentameter, a verse line consisting of five 2-syllable units. After its publication, The Canterbury Tales' pentameter became the stock-in-trade of English verse for the next 500 years—in epic poetry, narrative poems, and the works of William Shakespeare (1564–1616).

Furthermore, Chaucer was able to create distinct characters, all with their own voice and style, giving readers an overview of society across classes and occupations. Although none of Chaucer's original manuscript (written between 1387 and 1400) has survived, medieval scribes had copied various compilations of the work. These manuscripts, often beautifully illustrated, were popular even before the first printed version was published in 1478. By this time scholars agreed on Chaucer's brilliance in weaving together a rich tapestry of characters and genres. The Canterbury Tales is still considered one of the greatest works of English literature, and its popularity as a work that both entertains and teaches has not faded.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about The Canterbury Tales? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!

Download Study Guide
Ask a homework question - tutors are online