Geoffrey Chaucer: Father Of English Literature

by Amy

Geoffrey Chaucer, often hailed as the Father of English Literature, remains a towering figure in the world of letters centuries after his time. His impact on English language and literature is profound, with his works serving as a cornerstone of medieval literary tradition and laying the foundation for modern English writing. In this comprehensive exploration, we delve into the life, influences, major works, and enduring legacy of this iconic author.

Early Life and Influences

Geoffrey Chaucer was born around 1343 in London, England, into a family of wine merchants. Little is known about his early education, but it is believed that he received formal training in Latin and French, languages that would greatly influence his later literary endeavors. His exposure to the courtly culture of the time and his experiences as a page in the household of Elizabeth de Burgh, Countess of Ulster, provided him with a firsthand view of the aristocratic life and courtly manners that would feature prominently in his works.

Chaucer’s travels and diplomatic missions across Europe exposed him to a wide range of cultures, languages, and literary traditions. His encounters with Italian poetry, particularly the works of Dante Alighieri and Petrarch, left a lasting impression on him and influenced his own writing style. The Italian influence can be seen in his use of iambic pentameter, rhyme royal, and other poetic forms borrowed from Italian literature.

Major Works

1. The Canterbury Tales: Chaucer’s magnum opus, “The Canterbury Tales,” is a collection of stories written in Middle English that showcases his mastery of narrative technique, character development, and social commentary. The framing device of a group of pilgrims telling stories while traveling to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket allowed Chaucer to explore a wide range of themes and genres, from romance and satire to morality and human nature. The diversity of characters, including the Wife of Bath, the Knight, the Miller, and the Pardoner, reflects the social complexity of Chaucer’s time and provides valuable insights into medieval society.

2. Troilus and Criseyde: This tragic love story, based on the characters from Greek mythology, is considered one of Chaucer’s finest works. Set against the backdrop of the Trojan War, “Troilus and Criseyde” explores themes of love, fate, and betrayal with lyrical beauty and emotional depth. Chaucer’s portrayal of the protagonists’ inner turmoil and the complexities of their relationship elevates the poem to a timeless exploration of human emotions.

3. The Parliament of Fowls: Written in the tradition of dream visions, this allegorical poem presents a parliament of birds gathering to choose their mates on Valentine’s Day. Through vivid imagery and allegorical figures, Chaucer delves into themes of love, desire, and the natural order, blending humor with philosophical inquiry.

4. The Legend of Good Women: In this work, Chaucer revisits the lives of legendary women from classical mythology and history, presenting a series of narratives that explore the virtues and pitfalls of female characters. The poem is both a tribute to the power and resilience of women and a critique of societal expectations and gender roles.

Style and Literary Contributions

Chaucer’s writing style is characterized by its versatility, wit, and keen observation of human nature. He pioneered the use of vernacular Middle English in literature, moving away from the predominant Latin and French influences of his time. This decision to write in the language of the common people contributed significantly to the development of English as a literary language and helped democratize access to literature.

His use of irony, satire, and humor allowed him to critique the social, political, and religious institutions of his era while maintaining a level of entertainment and accessibility for his readers. Chaucer’s skillful portrayal of diverse characters from different social classes and backgrounds added depth and realism to his narratives, paving the way for the novelistic tradition that would emerge in later centuries.

Cultural Impact and Legacy

Geoffrey Chaucer’s impact on English literature cannot be overstated. His innovative use of language, narrative techniques, and thematic exploration laid the groundwork for future generations of writers. The richness and depth of his characters, the complexity of his storytelling, and the universal themes he addressed continue to resonate with readers across centuries.

In the Renaissance period, Chaucer’s works were celebrated and studied alongside those of classical authors, solidifying his status as a literary giant. Writers such as William Shakespeare, John Milton, and Alexander Pope drew inspiration from Chaucer’s works, incorporating elements of his style and themes into their own creations.

Throughout the centuries, Chaucer’s influence has persisted, with scholars, critics, and readers alike continuing to analyze and appreciate the depth and complexity of his writings. His legacy extends beyond the literary sphere, encompassing cultural, linguistic, and historical dimensions that make him a central figure in the pantheon of English literary greats.


Geoffrey Chaucer’s enduring legacy as the Father of English Literature is a testament to his timeless contributions to the world of letters. From his innovative use of language and narrative techniques to his exploration of universal themes and human experiences, Chaucer’s works continue to captivate and inspire readers across generations. As we celebrate his legacy, we recognize the profound impact he has had on shaping the English literary tradition and enriching our understanding of the human condition.


Why Chaucer is called father of English literature?

Geoffrey Chaucer is often referred to as the Father of English Literature due to several key reasons:

1. Pioneering Use of English Language: Chaucer was one of the first major English writers to extensively use the English language in his works, particularly Middle English. This was significant at a time when Latin and French were more commonly used in literature among the educated elite. Chaucer’s decision to write in English helped elevate the language and contributed to its development as a literary medium.

2. Versatility and Range: Chaucer’s works span a wide range of genres and themes, showcasing his versatility and mastery as a writer. From epic poems like “The Canterbury Tales” to tragic romances like “Troilus and Criseyde,” Chaucer demonstrated his ability to excel in different styles and subjects, laying the foundation for future English writers to explore diverse literary forms.

3. Realism and Characterization: Chaucer’s characters are often praised for their depth, realism, and complexity. Through vivid descriptions and nuanced portrayals, he brought to life a diverse array of personalities from various social backgrounds, offering insights into medieval society and human nature. This attention to characterization and social commentary influenced later writers and contributed to the development of the novelistic tradition.

4. Literary Influence: Chaucer’s impact on subsequent generations of English writers cannot be overstated. His innovative use of language, narrative techniques, and thematic exploration inspired future literary giants such as William Shakespeare, John Milton, and Geoffrey’s influence continued to shape the course of English literature for centuries, earning him the title of the Father of English Literature.

What is the writing style of Chaucer?

Geoffrey Chaucer’s writing style is characterized by its versatility, wit, and keen observation of human nature. Some key elements of his writing style include:

1. Use of Middle English: Chaucer wrote in Middle English, a period of the English language that was evolving from Old English towards Early Modern English. His use of Middle English vernacular helped make literature more accessible to a wider audience, as it was the language spoken by common people at the time.

2. Narrative Technique: Chaucer’s narrative technique often involves framing devices, where he sets up a story within a larger narrative context. For example, “The Canterbury Tales” is framed as a group of pilgrims telling stories on their journey to Canterbury, allowing Chaucer to explore multiple narratives and perspectives.

3. Characterization: Chaucer’s characters are vividly drawn with distinct personalities, quirks, and backgrounds. He uses detailed descriptions and dialogue to bring his characters to life, showcasing a range of human emotions and motivations.

4. Humor and Satire: Chaucer employs humor, irony, and satire throughout his works to comment on societal norms, human behavior, and the foibles of his time. His satirical tone is often subtle yet incisive, offering insightful critiques of the social, political, and religious institutions of medieval England.

What kind of books did Chaucer write?

Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a variety of works across different genres. Some of his most notable books include:

1. The Canterbury Tales: This is Chaucer’s most famous work, consisting of a collection of stories told by a group of pilgrims traveling to Canterbury. The tales cover a wide range of themes and genres, from romance and comedy to moral allegories and social commentary.

2. Troilus and Criseyde: A tragic romance set during the Trojan War, “Troilus and Criseyde” explores themes of love, fate, and betrayal through the story of Troilus, a Trojan prince, and his beloved Criseyde.

3. The Parliament of Fowls: This allegorical poem presents a parliament of birds gathering to choose their mates, blending elements of romance, satire, and philosophical inquiry.

4. The Legend of Good Women: In this work, Chaucer revisits the lives of legendary women from mythology and history, offering a series of narratives that celebrate female virtues and challenge traditional gender roles.

These books, among others, showcase the breadth and depth of Chaucer’s literary talent and contribute to his enduring legacy as a pioneering figure in English literature.

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