Geoffrey Chaucer was born in London sometime between 1340 and 1343 in London,where his father,John Chaucer,did a flourishing business in wine and was also a purveyor to the royal household.Because of his father’s connections with the court, Chaucer at the age of seventeen was appointed as page to the Princess Elizabeth, the wife of Duke of Clarence, the third son of Edward III.Chaucer worked as a courtier during the reigns of Edward III,Richard II and IV.He was honoured several times with royal favours. Frequently he was sent on diplomatic missions to France and Italy,where he came in contact with leading men of letters such as Dante,Petrarch and Boccaccio.In 1379,he was appointed as the controller of customs at the port of London.In 1386, he sat in John of Gaunt was banished, he fell on evil days and suffered the accession of John of Gaunt,s son,Henry IV,things improved for him. Chaucer was granted a royal pension which put him beyond the life of want and worry.But he died the very next year in 1400 and was buried in that part of westminster Abbey which is now as ‘The Poets Corner.’
Chaucer’s work is usually divided into three periods;the period of the French influence,dating roughly from 1355 to 1370, that of the Italian influence from 1370 to 1385, and the English period or the last fifteen years of his life. The important poems written under the French influence are The Romaunt of the Rose and The Book of the Duchess. The works of the Italian period which deserve attention are .The Parliament of Fowls ,The House of Fame,The Legent of good women and Troilus and Criseyde. The English period is the time of Chaucer’s richest development.
Chaucer’s greatest work,The Canterbury Tales, was written under the predominant influencr of his native land.In Prologue to The Canterbury Tales,Chaucer describes how a group of pilgrims pass their time in ‘Tabard inn’ in southwark before undertaking their pilgrimage to the shrine of St Thomas. The pilgrims belong to different walks of life and hail from different places.The Prologue give an extremly vibrant picture of each pilgrim and is remarkable for chaucer’s skill in characterization.