Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343-1400) is the most well known English writer of the Middle Ages. Although he was by no means the only commemorated poet of his time – we need to cite William Langland also, the Gawain poet, and also John Gower, simply for starters – Chaucer is the writer whose work had actually the broadest variety, creating dream poems, long narrative poems about doomed love affairs, royal commissions, translations, and also at an early stage functions of scientific research writing (his ‘Treatise on the Astrolabe’, supposedly written for his kid Lewis, is maybe the first occupational of famous science created for children). And then, of course, there’s the vast ragbag that is the unfinimelted Canterbury Tales.

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Here are ten of Chaucer’s best functions.

1. The Publication of the Duchess.


I have actually gret wonder, be this lyght,How that I live, for day ne nyghtI might nat slepe wel nigh noght,I have so many type of an ydel thoghtPurely for defaute of slepeThat, by my trouthe, I take no kepeOf nopoint, just how hit cometh or gooth,Ne me nis nopoint leef nor looth …

We start this pick of Chaucer’s ideal functions with a very early work-related from approximately 1370, as soon as Chaucer was still most likely only in his late twenties. Sometimes recognized by the alternate title The Deth of Blaunche, this poem is an instance of the dream-vision, a famous genre in medieval poetry. It was created for John of Gaunt, the Battle Each Other of Lancaster, following the fatality of his wife Blanche, more than likely from the Babsence Death, in 1368.


The poem opens up via a speaker, enduring from insomnia, announcing that he has actually shed all feeling because of his lack of sleep. Somepoint is on his mind. After reading Ovid, he drops asleep (an experience many kind of classically educated schoolyoungsters may conveniently recognize with), and experiences the dream which makes up the major area of the poem.

2. ‘The Parliament of Fowls’.


For this was on Seynt Valentynes day,Whan eextremely foul cometh ther to chese his make,Of eincredibly kinde, that males thynke may;And that so huge a noyse gan they make,That erthe and also check out, and also tree, and also every lakeSo ful was, that unnethe was ther spaceFor me to stonde, so ful was al the place …

This is an additional beforehand job-related, thneed to day from roughly 1382. It has actually a curious link through the facility of Valentine’s Day as a romantic date in the calendar.


The poem features a parliament, or assembly, of birds, which have actually gathered together in order to select their mates.

3. The Housage of Fame.


God turne us eincredibly dreem to gode!For hit is wonder, by the rode,To my wit, what causeth swevenesEither on morwes, or on evenes;And why the effect folweth of somme,And of somme hit shal never come;Why that is an avisioun,And this a revelacioun …

Although it’s nowhere close to as long as The Canterbury Tales, The Housage of Fame is still a comprehensive work, in which the poet falls asleep and also desires he’s in a glass temple adorned through imperiods of glorious and famed human being from background (consisting of the poets Ovid and also Virgil). This prompts Chaucer to think about what fame actually is, and also the connection between poets and fame.


4. Troilus and Criseyde.

The double sorwe of Troilus to tellen,That was the king Priamus sone of Troye,In lovinge, exactly how his aventures fellenFro wo to wele, and also after out of Ioye,My purpos is, er that I parte fro ye.Thesiphone, thou assist me for tendyteThise woful vers, that wepen as I wryte!


After The Canterbury Tales (of which more below), this is Chaucer’s best achievement: a long narrative poem, composed in rhyme royal stanzas, detailing the doomed love affair between the Trojan prince Troilus and the beautiful woguy Cressida during the Trojan War.

A variety of scholars think that this, fairly than the next item on this list, is Chaucer’s ideal occupational, and also it’s definitely a much more polimelted, even, and finish occupational (well, he never completed the next one!). Similar to a number of the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer’s resource for this story was the Italian writer Boccaccio, however Chaucer functioned the tale of tragic love right into good English poetry.


5. The Canterbury Tales.

Not so much one poem overall series of poems, The Canterbury Tales was started in the mid-1380s and also remained unfinimelted upon Chaucer’s death in 1400. To start experimenting the sheer range and scope of Chaucer’s eclectic compilation, start at the start with his General Prologue, in which he sets the scene – a team of pilgrims travelling from London to Canterbury to visit the shrine of St Thomas Becket – and also introduces his actors of colourful characters, consisting of a monk, knight, miller, reeve, manciple, prioress, nun’s priest, and also, of course, the Wife of Bath …

But of course, The Canterbury Tales is huge, so in the remainder of this pick of Chaucer’s finest functions we’ll break dvery own that astronomical job-related into five shorter functions …

6. ‘The General Prologue’.

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote,The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,And bathed eexceptionally veyne in swich licóurOf which vertú engendred is the flour;Whan Zephirus eek via his swete breethEncouraged hath in eexceptionally holt and also heethThe tendre croppes, and the yonge sonneHath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne …

Okay, so this isn’t among the tales, however it is component of The Canterbury Tales and is obviously the best area to start analysis, considering that it opens the job-related. It also uses a wealthy and colourful photo of fourteenth-century English life and the miscellaneous world discovered in the brand-new culture that was being developed in the wake of the Babsence Death in the 1340s. The descriptions of the pilgrims taking part in the tale-informing contest are brilliantly vivid, illuminating, and also entertaining.

7. ‘The Knight’s Tale’.

The catalyst for William Shakespeare and also John Fletcher’s play The Two Noble Kinsmen (and, even more recently, for the title of a 2001 film starring Heath Ledger, and featuring Paul Bettany type of playing Chaucer), this tale kicks off the storyinforming competition among the pilgrims. A story of rivalry (in between 2 Athenians, Palamon and Arcite) and love, its pure, straight-faced nature prompts the Miller to tell his tale of bawdy high-jinks that adheres to.

8. ‘The Miller’s Tale’.

Perhaps the the majority of well known – and best-loved – of all of the tales in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, ‘The Miller’s Tale’ is told as a comic corrective adhering to the sonorous seriousness of the Knight’s tale. The tale is an instance of the fabliau or comic skit, and also pertains to a lecherous young student at the University of Oxford, Nicholas, and his adulterous relationship via Alikid, the young wife of an old carpenter. Flood warnings, farting, and also frantic ark-structure all ensue, in among the great jewels in the comic crown of medieval literary works.

We have actually analysed this tale here.

9. ‘The Wife of Bath’s Tale’.

The Wife of Bath is even more famed as a character in The Canterbury Tales than her tale, which is a tale collection in Arthurian England. After he violates a maiden, a young knight is sent out amethod to undergo his penance, tasked through finding out what it is that women desire. If he fails, he will certainly be eliminated. He meets an ugly hag who assures to tell him the answer – however just if he agrees to provide her a favour in exchange. He agrees to her terms, and also – well, we won’t provide away what the hag’s answer is.

10. ‘The Nun’s Priest’s Tale’.

The Canterbury Tales is expensive fun (as long as you skip the overlengthy and overly religious Parson’s Tale). And some of the tales even see Chaucer having actually fun creating about pets. Another genre here: this time, the medieval ‘beast fable’, featuring Chaunticleer the rooster, who, having been kidnapped by a fox (modelled on Reynard the Fox from French literature), devises a arrangement to escape.

You can uncover every one of the over works by Geoffrey Chaucer in The Riverside Chaucer: Reissued through a brand-new foreword by Christopher Cannon

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– the book that no fan or student of Chaucer’s occupational have to be without! A substantial book, it has several beneficial notes and indevelopment around each Chaucer job-related.

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The writer of this short article, Dr Oliver Tearle, is a literary movie critic and also lecturer in English at Loughbounstable University. He is the author of, among others, The Secret Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey Through Curiosities of History

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 and The Great War, The Waste Land also and the Modernist Long Poem.