The Canterbury Tales
- "A knyght ther was, and that a worthy man,
That fro the tyme that he first bigan
To riden out, he loved chivalrie,
Trouthe and honour, fredom and curteisie."
Troilus and Criseyde
- "If I be she that may yow do gladnesse,
For every wo ye shal recovere a blisse';
And him in armes took, and gan him kisse."
The famed 'Canterbury Tales' is unfinished, yet considered one of the greatest literary works of civilization, proving that perseverance isn’t a necessity after all. Born in 1340 AD to a bourgeois family in London, Geoffrey Chaucer was educated at the St. John’s Cathedral School and in 1357 became a public servant to Countess Elizabeth of Ulster, the wife of the Duke of Clarence. The young Geoffrey went off to fight in the Hundred Years’ War … and promptly got captured at Rethel.
Ransomed by King Edward III, Chaucer entered his service, travelling across France, Italy, and Spain as a diplomatic esquire to the Crown. And in 1366 Chaucer married Philippa Roet, a lady-in-waiting to the queen … which didn’t hurt Chaucer’s standing any. After some further diplomatic adventures in Florence and Genoa on behalf of the king, Chaucer was appointed Comptroller of Customs, a lucrative position. In 1385 he petitioned for leave, but spent the next years still in service – even as a member of Parliament for a short time. After Richard II ascended the throne, he served as Clerk of Works and then as a sub-forester (gardener) at the king’s Somerset estate. Chaucer died in October 1400 in Westminster.
The precise dates of Chaucer’s writings – including 'The Legend of Good Women,' 'Parliament of Foules,' and Troilus and Criseyde – are uncertain. In fact, given his duties to the crown, no one is quite sure how he found the time to write at all. For his magnum opus, Chaucer had planned on 120 satirical, witty stories for the 'Tales,' ambitious even by today’s standards. He’d only finished 24 by his death.