Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Chaucer, Geoffrey

(?1340-1400) UK poet whose importance to English literature is perhaps second only to that of William Shakespeare, and author of The Canterbury Tales (written circa 1387-1400), a central Taproot Text. His first work of interest is The House of Fame (written circa 1379-80), a Parody of Dante; The Parliament of Fowls (written circa 1385) is an Estates Satire done as a Beast Fable. But the Tales themselves rightly dominate later generations' sense of GC. For fantasy, they share a central shaping role with Boccaccio's Decameron (written circa 1350), both powerfully (and lovingly) ironizing the nature of Story while also telling tales with a narrative grace and intensity rarely found in earlier literature. If GC remains the more influential figure, it is probably because – along with the revolutionary, secular flexibility of his storytelling craft, a fluency most destructive to Allegory – he was also a first-rate portrayer of character. His storytellers, and the people who figure in the tales told, display a psychologically coherent inwardness which later generations have come to expect of characters in fiction but which was radically new in the 14th century. The tales themselves – especially the Nun's Priest's Beast Fable about Chanticleer, the Canon's Yeoman's assault on Alchemy, the Pardoner's Tale, whose young protagonists fight a personified Death, the mocked chivalric Romance recounted by the Squire, and the Wife of Bath's Tale, in which an Arthurian knight rapes a maiden and must marry a hag (see Gawain) – are memorable. But the heart of GC is the great Story Cycle of the Tales entire. [JC]

Geoffrey Chaucer


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.