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Why Is Chaucer Considered To Be 'the Father Of English Literature?'

1091 words - 5 pages

"The lyf so shortThe craft so longe to lerne"To understand Chaucer's work, we must first understand the conditions of the time he was living in. Chaucer was alive during the 14th Century in England; at that time, England was yet a small country with a meagre population of about 1 million people (who were mostly relatively poor compared to other European countries at that time). Many Normans had come to England in 1066 and as a result of this, French was spoken in the court. Latin was the language of diplomacy, and Saxons had brought in German; however, the vernacular language spoken on the streets was 'Middle-English'. As one can see, the English language was in a period of transition, ...view middle of the document...

Chaucer's first published work was "The Book of the Duchess", a poem of over 1,300 lines for the Duchess of Lancaster, probably commissioned by her husband. Some of his other works Anelida and Arcite, The House of Fame, Parlement of Foules, The Legend of Good Women and Troilus and Criseyde, but his most famous work by far is 'The Canterbury Tales'. It has been said that Chaucer's works can be grouped into 3 different periods- the French period first, then the Italian period, and finally the English period; his style and subject of his works correlate with this hypothesis. The thing which is most surprising, and original, about Chaucer's work is that he wrote in Middle English, which was the language of the common people, and not in French (the language of the court). This made his writing legible to everyone and definitely aided his popularity. Also, except for a few earlier anonymous writers, he was one of the first poets to use the iambic pentameter.The Canterbury Tales is the work that secured his literary reputation. It is a group of individual stories told by a group of pilgrims on their way from Southwark to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. Each of them represents a completely different group of society, and as each tells their tale they adopt their own particular view points and speech mannerisms. Through these tales, Chaucer presents to us an incredible amount of traits and faults of human nature; in this sense, the tales are an observation of worldly vanities. He covers scores of themes, such as mastery, power, generosity, etc. Chaucer himself hides behind his characters, as if excusing himself from whatever they say- in effect, he lets them speak for themselves. The language and rhythm of the work is full of life, dynamic, comedic at times. He is extremely ironic and...

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