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Geoffrey Chaucer

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Geoffrey Chaucer

...I think some of Chaucer belongs to his time and that much of that

time is dead, extinct, and never to be made alive again. What was alive

in it, lives through him..._

--John Masefield

Geoffrey Chaucer's world was the Europe of the fourteenth century. It was

neither rich or poor, happy nor sad. Rather, it was the intermingling of

these, a mixture of splendor and poverty, displaying both worldly desire

and spiritual purity. Chaucer's travels through it, mostly on ¦the King¦s

business,_ or civil service, shaped his writing, offering the readers of

today a brief glimpse into the world in which he lived.

Chaucer lived from approximately AD 1340 to 1400. The world in which he

lived was not one of peace or stability. Born the son of a London vintner,

he remained a Londoner for most of the rest of his life, leaving the city

only on ¦the King¦s business_.

The city of London was thus Chaucer¦s environment for most of his life.

Aside from brief visits into other countries or areas of England, he

remained in the city, and it¦s affects on his writing was immense.

London of that time was not the London of today. It was a walled city,

guarded against invasion, but long enough time had passed since such a

threat had approached that the defenses had loosened. Houses perched upon

the walls, and Chaucer in fact, lived for a time in a house built over

Aldgate, (one of the gates of the city).

London was a city less than three-quarters of a square mile in size: It

ran east and west along the Thames less than one and a half miles, and

extended northwards less than half a mile. Over 20,000 people were packed

into this small area; the diversity of the inhabitants was overwhelming.

Londoners ranged from wealthy to impoverished, from small to large, from

shoemaker to blacksmith to minstrel to priest. The city was thus fairly

close. Stone building mingled with tile, wood, and thatch. While the

major streets were fairly wide, small shops and stands often spread out

into the road, effectively narrowing it by up to half it¦s width. London

Bridge (the only bridge in the city) was home to a multitude of homes and

shops, perched on top of the span to conserve space.

Waste was disposed of simply. It was emptied out the windows into the

alley or street and slaughtering was done in he streets as well, with

scraps being tossed underfoot.
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