Although his exact birth date is unknown, Geoffrey Chaucer was born sometime between 1340 and 1343 in London, England. He was the son of a wealthy vintner and held a number of decent jobs as the result of his father’s connections. He joined the English army during the Hundred Years’ War in 1359, and was taken prisoner by the French until King Edward III paid his ransom in 1360. In 1366, Chaucer married Philipa de Roet. Chaucer traveled extensively in diplomatic service to the king, and during trips to Italy, he was introduced to the work of such authors as Dante and Petrarch, both heavy influences on Chaucer’s work to come.
Chaucer’s most notable work is the Canterbury Tales, an epic tale written mostly in verse, which follows a story-telling contest among travelers in the pilgrimage from London to Canterbury Cathedral. Through this framework, Chaucer is able to create a social commentary on the culture of the time. Canterbury Tales, written in middle-English, established Chaucer as a pioneer in the language, as most literature up to that point had been written in Latin or Anglo-Norman. He is also credited with being one of the first poets to make regular use of iambic pentameter.
Chaucer died in 1400 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. The plot where he was buried eventually became known as “Poets’ Corner,” as several famous poets have been buried alongside Chaucer since his own interment.