Born: c. 1340
Birthplace: London, England
Best known as: The author of The Canterbury Tales
Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales, the poetic collection of stories widely regarded as the beginning of English literature. The stories, by turns bawdy, comical and pious, are told by a group of travelers entertaining themselves while making a pilgrimage to Canterbury, England. Chaucer himself is among the pilgrims in the tales, which he wrote from around 1387 to 1400. The details of Chaucer's own life are not especially clear, but he spent many years in the royal service, as an esquire to King Edward III and later in jobs like controller of customs and clerk of the king's works. He visited Italy on diplomatic missions and was influenced by the works of the writers Dante and Boccaccio. He wrote The House of Fame (1375) and the romantic poem Trilus and Cirseyde (or Troilus and Cressida, 1383) before embarking on The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer was among the first to use English to create a great work of poetry, in an age when courtly languages like Latin and French were typically favored for poetry and stories. Chaucer was buried in Westminster Abbey, becoming the first to occupy what is now called Poet's Corner.
Extra credit: The exact date of Chaucer's death in 1400 is unclear, but tradition holds that the date was 25 October... Chaucer married Philippa Roet, a lady-in-waiting to the queen, in 1366. They had two sons: Thomas (b. 1367) and Lewis (b. 1380).
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