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Geoffrey Chaucer

english tales canterbury century

Chaucer, Geoffrey (c.1340–1400), English poet. His early writing, including an incomplete translation of Le Roman de la Rose, shows strong French influence. In the 1370s, growing familiarity with Boccaccio and Dante influenced The Parliament of Fowls and Troilus and Criseyde, a powerful love poem. His masterpiece was The Canterbury Tales, a 17,000-line poem, in which pilgrims on their way to the shrine of St. Thomas à Becket pass the time by telling stories ranging from the serious to the comedic and ribald. Apart from creating vivid characters, the tales portray contemporary attitudes toward religion, love, and sex. The language of The Canterbury Tales is Middle English, sufficiently different from modern English to require translation to be understood. Changes in the language, particularly the emergence of Early Modern English less than a century after Chaucer's death, vastly reduced the popularity of his work, but since the 18th century, he has come to be regarded as one of the masters of world literature.

See also: Canterbury Tales.

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