Geoffrey Chaucer is one of the most famous figures in medieval England. Renowned as the “father of English literature”, his most notable works include The Canterbury Tales and Troilus and Criseyde. But Chaucer also wrote extensively on other subjects, and led an incredibly interesting life as an astronomer, philosopher, diplomat, courtier and traveller. Here, Professor Marion Turner shares her top facts about the 14th-century poet and author…


Chaucer was a versatile writer

Chaucer wrote a huge variety of things. He wasn’t just the author of the Canterbury Tales, he also wrote romances, dream visions, translations and short poems.

Chaucer travelled very widely

This was a time when England was globally connected. Chaucer went to Italy on horseback twice; Navarre (now in Northern Spain), where there were Jewish and Muslim communities; France, where he was taken prisoner; and the Low Countries. Lots of fascinating travel.

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Chaucer wasn’t just paid with money

Chaucer was once paid in wine! He was also once paid with very risqué clothing, including very tight trousers and a short tunic, which I wrote about a lot about in my book Chaucer: A European life.

Chaucer invented the iambic pentameter

Chaucer was an experimental poet and invented the iambic pentameter: the five-stressed ten-syllable line that became the key poetic line in English literature. He was also the first person in England to be reading Italian writers such as Boccaccio. This reading widely of European literature really changed what English literature was capable of.

Chaucer on women

As I've written about in my most recent book, he invented the first ordinary woman in English literature: the wife of Bath, who has gone on to be perhaps the most influential character in English literature.


Professor Marion Turner is the J R R Tolkien Professor of English Literature and Language at the University of Oxford and an academic authority on Geoffrey Chaucer


Marion Turner is a professor of English literature at the University of Oxford