Jenifer Sutherland

September 12

September 19

September 26

Mini Reports




September 12

Pasolini: "The Creation of Eve" Introduction to Chaucer



In today’s class, after dealing with course business, class lists and evaluation, and plagerism, we began to talk about the Middle Ages. When did it begin and when did it end? After some discussion and suggestions for dates we settled on the sack of Rome in 410 (after which St Augustine wrote The City of God) as a convenient marker for the start, keeping in mind that the shift from the Roman Empire to the Holy Roman Empire was already underway during the reign of Constantine (324-37), and that the Nicean council took place in 325. Johann Gutenberg’s Bible was printed in 1453 and with it comes the beginning of the printing age, as good a place as any to mark the end of the medieval period. These markers are arbitrary and conventional and by the end of the course we will no doubt have a much more complex view of the Middle Ages that crosses the boundaries historians find it convenient to draw, between classical and medieval on the one hand, and medieval and renaissance on the other. There is even much that could be termed "postmodern" about the Middle Ages, as Chaucer’s writing will reveal.

Geoffrey Chaucer was born in 1340 and died in 1400. He lived through the reigns of Edward III (1327-1377), Richard II (1377-1399) and Henry IV (1399-1413), managing to stay in favour throughout all three. This is a not insignificant accomplishment since several of his friends and acquaintances lost their heads during the crises that occurred towards the end of the century. Thomas Usk, for example, a writer who called Chaucer "the noble philosophical poete in Englissh," was found guilty of treason for his involvement in the Appellant movement against Richard II and given what was the typical execution of traitors at the time—disembowelment followed by hanging followed by decapitation with a none too sharp instrument. More of the specifics of the history of England during Chaucer’s life will come up over the next months. Today we concentrated on the development of the English language. <to top>

England was not culturally separated from Europe the way, in spite of the Chunnel, it is today. French writers such as Chrétien de Troyes and Marie de France wrote about King Arthur and the Matter of Britain. Edward III was the son of Isabelle of Aquitaine and claimed to be heir to the throne of Gascony, one of the ongoing disputes that fired the Hundred Years War (1339-1453). The language of the English court was French and had been since the Norman invasion in 1066. Throughout Europe the language of church, university and court of law was Latin well into Chaucer’s century and beyond. Henry IV was the first English king to leave a will in English. Chaucer himself read Latin and was fluent in French and perhaps Italian, travelling on business throughout Europe several times. His friend and fellow poet John Gower wrote in Latin, French and English. Chaucer chose to write in English but a great bulk of his material was translated from Latin, Italian, and French literature. <to top>

After break we began to look at some of the features of Middle English, beginning with a brief overview of the history of the English language. England’s original inhabitants were Britons and spoke a variety of Celtic languages that survive today as Welsh, Breton, Cornish (up to the eighteenth century) and the related Gaelic languages of Irish and Scottish. The Romans came to Britain in 55 BC, governing the island from Rome in Latin. In the seventh century the conversion of the Britons to Christianity was undertaken in the north by Irish monks and in the south by Augustine of Canterbury, thus confirming Latin as the language of cultural ascendancy. But by the end of the eighth century, Britain was almost entirely settled by Angles, Saxons and Jutes, each bringing their own language which contributed to three dialects throughout what were then the seven kingdoms of Britain: Anglian, spoken in Northumbria and Mercia; the Kentish dialect of the Jutes, and the West Saxon dialect of the Saxons. Next came the waves of Nordic invaders in the ninth century, contributing their own influences on the language of the island before the Norman invasion of 1066 turned the official tongue to Anglo-Norman. We talked about the three letters the ‘eth’ (a d with a line through the curved staff, pronounced like the unvoiced ‘th’ in ‘father’) the ‘thorn’ (a ‘p’ with a somewhat triangular bowl, pronounced like the voiced ‘th’ in ‘theatre’) and the ‘yogh’ (close to a ‘3’ written hanging below the line like a g and usually pronounced like the gutteral ‘gh’ in Middle English ‘thought,’ no longer articulated in modern English). This history goes a long way towards explaining some of the features of English—its spelling for example—that make it difficult to learn. <to top>

We now turned our attention to the handouts, generously provided by Prof. Ruth Harvey. We looked quickly at several features of word order, negation, noun cases and plurals, weak and strong verb forms and tenses. We spent some time going through the Great Vowel Shift, trying out the shift of Modern English "forward" and practicing the shift back to Chaucer’s (probable) pronunciation with the mnemonic aid of "My feet ache" "So do ours" pronounced "Mee fate ahke" "Sah doh oours," more or less.

After a reading by the professor of "Chaucer’s Wordes Unto Adam, His Owne Scriveyn," everyone set to practising the Great Vowel Shift, taking turns reading "Fortune," out loud with a partner. At the end, Angela and Andrew volunteered to demonstrate a stanza, pulling off excellent renditions of Chaucerian English, to great applause. The professor reminded the class not to forget the ‘k’ in "knewe" and "knowe"—like our canoe—and we talked about Socrates, philosophy, friendship, reversals of fortune and the mutable sub-lunar sphere of earthly existence.

Next week, Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy. <to top>

To listen to recitations of Chaucer's poetry, go to


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September 19

Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy

We began by looking at the cosmology of Ptolemy (2c), the earth at the centre circled by the moon, the planets and sun, the Firmament, the Crystalline Sphere, the Prime Mover and the Empyrean. Dante (1265-1321) placed his hell at the frozen centre of the earth. The tendency in Western thought to see things in circles is an ancient one: in Homer the stuff of fate was spun out and then bound around the thing fated. Parmenides described the physical extension of the One as bound into a sphere by Necessity and Fate. Plato (4c BCE) and Aristotle (a generation or so younger than Plato) spoke of the bond as soul or mind, engaged in the intellection of necessity. The word “zones” used of the heavenly vault or zodiac comes from words for a belt or girdle. Plotinus (b. 204 BCE) spoke of the soul setting out from the central hub of divine reality for the lower world of Fortune. A second circle, thus, shows the relationship of the divine centre to the outer rim of the wheel of Fortune, a kind of inside-out version of the Ptolomaic universe. Both must be held in mind together. The theme of the departure from the soul’s homeland, its exile in the material world, and its return to the patria runs throughout Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy. The self looks inward by looking upward at the stars. [key source: Magee, John C. “The Boethian Wheels of Fortune and fate.” Mediaeval Studies 49 (1987): 524-533.] <to top>

Chaucer wrote a treatise on the astrolabe and makes astronomical references throughout his work. We think of Renaissance humanism as a rediscovery of the classical inheritance but some works of philosophy survived into the Middle Ages, Plato’s Timaeus, for example, though it was not until the twelfth and thirteenth century that the West retrieved the bulk of Aristotle through Islamic and Jewish translations. Chaucer read Vergil, Ovid, and Boethius (he translated the Consolation into Middle English as Boece) and felt the weight of classical tradition as well as its richness. He was very interested in the possibilities of different forms and this may have been one of the things that attracted him to the Consolation, which is by genre a consolation but also Menippean satire, a medley of verse and prose (prosimetrum), points of view, material, and characters. It often involves a dialogue between someone who knows everything and someone who knows very little. The satire is generally directed against human smugness, our tendency to confuse the things we have constructed with ultimate truths. [key source: Payne, Anne. Chaucer and Menippean Satire: University of Wisconsin Press, 1981.]

Sometime after 523 Boethius was accused of the Roman Senate of treason, imprisoned and executed (Richard Green outlines his basic biography and oeuvre in the introduction to his translation of the Consolation). Book I opens with the prisoner lamenting his condition. The early scene of Philosophy’s dismissal of the lyric muses as “whores of the theatre” introduces a problem that fascinated Chaucer: poetry can serve self-pity and self-indulgence as well as lift the mind above the limitations of the self. In Troilus and Criseyde, Chaucer explores the limitations of the romantic vision of love, for example. In Book One, Philosophy clears the eyes of the weeping prisoner so that he can see the stars and the sun and begins to lead him, through a series of difficult questions, on a course of introspection that is connected to the stable concord of the heavens. He has forgotten his true homeland but there is hope for him since he believes in divine reason.

Book Two explores the nature of Fortune, with Philosophy playing the role of the goddess who turns the wheel according to her law of constant change. One by one Philosophy points out the inadequacy of material goods to satisfy desire, concluding by suggesting that bad fortune is a better friend than good since through it you learn who are your true friends. From here it is a small leap to the sacred bond of divine love. Chaucer will constantly refer to the connection between human and divine love, generally through characters who cannot make the leap from human to divine. <to top>

Book Three explores the way to true happiness and is the beginning of a kind of intellectual pilgrimage back to the homeland, Philosophy as guide. Philosophy further questions honour, power and fame and marvels that while other creatures of nature follow their natural course (IIIm2), human beings are like a drunk who can’t find his way home. She urges the prisoner to fix his gaze on the heavens rather than on the base things of earth (IIIp8). Although we give different names to the things we crave such as self-sufficiency, power, fame, reverence and joy, in substance they are all one and the same thing (IIIp9). It is time now to follow the model of the Timaeus and implore divine aid. We may remember at this point the prisoner’s premature prayer in Book Im5 asking that the Ruler of all things make earth as stable as the heavens. The prayer of IIIm9, the structural and thematic centre of Consolation of Philosophy, is a paraphrase of Plato’s account of the world soul as it moves out and back from the centre. By the end of Book III Philosophy has linked God with Providence, the wheel and rudder by which the vessel of the world is kept stable and undamaged (IIIp12). But the story of Orpheus in meter 12 questions the role of love that Philosophy has attempted to set up. Rather than a bond common to all things, love seems here to be a power beyond the law: “who can give lovers a law?” (III.m12). This question is an important one in Troilus and Criseyde (as well as Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Caesar and Cleopatra. . .).

In Book IV, the individual soul mimics the movement of the world soul out from its homeland and then back again, using the wings of Philosophy to soar beyond the heavens (IVm1). The traveller now recognizes the country of his birth and can look down on the tyrants of earth. The first part of the book is concerned primarily with the problem of evil. Boethius follows Plotinus in denying a positive reality to evil—rather, it is an absence of light. Evil men are weak and criminals crave justice. In prose 6 Philosophy makes a new beginning as she prepares to address the relationship of Providence and human free will. This requires that she first explain that Fate is the unfolding of events worked out in time. She uses the metaphor of a wheel whose very centre hub is the motionless Providence; the rim swiftly spinning is Fortune and the network between is Fate. “Therefore, the changing course of Fate is to the simple stability of Providence as reasoning is to intellect, as that which is generated is to that which is, as time is to eternity, as a circle to its centre” (page 92). The final poem of the Book insists once more on the order of the stars and the common bond of love. <to top>

Book V continues to explore the problem of divine foreknowledge. How do random events fit in with the order of Providence? Is there a conflict between divine foreknowledge and freedom of the human will? If so, all our endeavors at justice and a good society fall apart. God becomes responsible for all vice and it’s pointless to pray (IIIp3). In prose 4 Philosophy explains the hierarchy of knowledge: “If uncertain things are foreseen as certain, that is the weakness of opinion, not the truth of knowledge. . . Everything which is known is known not according to its own power but rather according to the capacity of the knower” (page 110). This is an important premise of dramatic irony, where the character, Oedipus say, only partly knows what the audience knows more fully. The Boethian ladder of knowing moves up from the senses, through imagination which can retain images of things without their material, reason, which can extract the universals from particulars, and finally, the intellect of pure mind—a state only angels achieve. In medieval philosophy of the mind a most important rung of this ladder was memory, which sorted, evaluated, organized, and stored the images provided by imagination. We can see how different this hierarchy is from our own, so influenced by the Romantic Movement of the late eighteenth century. Philosophy argues that “eternity is the whole, effect, and simultaneous possession of endless life” (p. 115). Here the professor waxed enthusiastic about Spielberg’s “Minority Report” and the Precogs. If you can see events as they are happening you can call them as they unfold. God sees all things past and future as eternally present. “His knowledge transcends all movement of time and abides in the simplicity of its immediate present.” He knows what will happen because even in the past and future he is always “here-now.” (Doesn’t this mean that we are co-creators of the divine plan?)

Next week we read The Book of the Duchess, written to console the rich and powerful John of Gaunt upon the death of his first wife, Blanche.

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September 26

The Book of the Duchess
Minutes by Murray Gamble

The class began with Sissy volunteering to be our class representative for the English Students’ Union (ESU). Next, we were introduced to Amy, our Teaching Assistant. Amy will be available to answer questions and help with essay preparation. She will also be marking some of the papers, and will be leading tutorials. Office hours will be posted once a key to the office in the Medical Arts building has been obtained. Meanwhile, she can be contacted via email:

Genevieve provided the class with a presentation on "The Black Death" in England. Jennifer then provided us with a discourse on John of Gaunt.
Then we wrote the quiz, after which Professor Sutherland recommended that, as we read Chaucer, we should focus not just on the ideas, but on the language itself.

The Book of the Duchess was commissioned by John of Gaunt to commemorate the death of his first wife, Blanche. It may have been written as a memorial service. As we read The Book of the Duchess, we need to ask ourselves what kind of a consolation this is, and does it work? Is this a consolation of philosophy, or is it different? There are definitely differences from Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy. <to top>

Chaucer was called the "great translator", working with direct translations or adaptations of works from the continent. Thus, we should question what it means to Chaucer to be a writer. We should think of what makes him the "father of English poetry", considering the significant amount of his work that was taken from various sources on the continent. These are issues to keep in mind as we read his Chaucer’s works.

The Book of the Duchess has its basis in French "dream poetry". Two Frenchmen, Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, wrote the Roman de la rose (Romance of the Rose), a very famous book which employed "dream vision". This dream vision was useful as an allegorical tool in literature. There was much dream theory in the Middle Ages, and the use of dreams in literature allowed for allegorical presentation, in which the writer was free to talk about gods and various figures with a sense of authority. Dreams also provided the writer with a way to distance himself from ordinary life. As the genre progressed, people like Guillaume de Machaut started to insert more real life into dream poetry. (Machaut wrote about the plague, referring to "horrible marvels".) Chaucer in particular is less purely allegorical than previous writers of dream poetry had been. <to top>

At the outset of the poem The Book of the Duchess, Chaucer presents his narrator as a man with insomnia. He is suffering from a condition of melancholic, and is in a state of extraordinary sadness. The narrator is also very elusive, and cannot talk about his affliction. In the tradition of French court writers, melancholy and sleeplessness were commonly employed as the effects of unrequited love of the heart. Because Chaucer was a court writer, he knew quite well the conventions of French court writing. Machaut wrote "dits amoreux", which debated issues such as "is it worse to suffer unrequited love, or to live in the knowledge that one’s love is dead and buried?" This question is explored in The Book of the Duchess.

In studying Chaucer, we must look for his departures from established literary conventions. One of these departures in The Book of the Duchess (which, incidentally, is Chaucer’s earliest major poem) occurs at lines 47-8, where the narrator starts reading. The "romaunce" that the narrator selects to read is from Ovid’s Metamorphoses: the story of Ceyx (Seys in Chaucer’s version) and Alcyone. Chaucer alters Ovid’s account by condensing the longer story into a brief summary. Seys loses his life in a shipwreck, and Alcyone, in her despair, prays to the goddess Juno. Chaucer blends the pagan gods and Christianity in Alcyone’s prayer to Juno: "A, mercy, swete lady dere!" (line 108). This would be a common way to address to the Virgin Mary. (As an aside, when reading, Professor Sutherland advised the class to refer to the Glossary at back of the Riverside Chaucer. It is also helpful to read these works aloud, and to remember that the orthography (i.e. correct spelling) in Chaucer’s day was very unstable: different dialects equated to different spellings.) <to top>

Chaucer alters Ovid’s scene in which Juno sends her messenger, Iris (the goddess of the rainbow) to Morpheus, the god of sleep. Chaucer makes Juno’s messenger masculine, and creates a very funny scene (lines 153-185). The messenger blows his horn in Morpheus’s ear, and this is painful and loud! The result is a loud, brash, quite unsubtle scene. Chaucer also diverges from Ovid by not repeating the story (whereas Ovid does so). Chaucer’s narrator says: "As I have told yow here-to-fore; | Hyt ys no nede reherse it more" (lines 189-190). Yet another key difference in Chaucer is the lack of transformations, which abound in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Chaucer leaves Alcyone with the realization that her husband is dead, without reuniting the lovers as birds.

After reading the story of "Seys and Alcyone," Chaucer’s narrator falls asleep. (The book containing the story of Seys and Alcyone frames the poem The Book of the Duchess. The work begins and ends with a book.) The narrator remarks that he wakes up in bed (but in fact this is a dream-within-a-dream). The narrator advises the reader that neither the biblical Joseph nor Macrobeus (both noted interpreters of dreams) could explain the dream that the narrator is about to convey – it is up to us (the reader). This is a very Chaucerian technique, which we shall see again in The Canterbury Tales. <to top>

The narrator describes the birds that are engaged in song as he lies in bed. We need to remember that music in Chaucer’s day would have been a rare occurrence, so this is a remarkable moment. The long, specific, tactile description (beginning around line 290) is very Chaucerian, and very English. The room, decorated with glass, contains windows with scenes from Virgil’s Aeneid, and the paintings on the walls are from the Romance of the Rose, probably the most famous French story of the day. The narrator abides in a very textual setting. Here Chaucer employs ekphrasis, the narration of art (a story behind the main story). This textual "layering" is common in Chaucer’s works.
The narrator becomes aware that a hunt is taking place outside. Chaucer was adept at using puns, one of which appears in the word "herte", meaning both a male deer and the human heart. This was very conventional in French poetry, where the hunting for the hart and the romantic search for the heart (love) coincided in romance poetry. Joining in the hunt, when the ‘hert’ eludes the hunters, the narrator becomes distracted by a whelp (lion cub), and finds himself in an enchanted place of fresh spring (winter seems just to have passed); it is full of woodland creatures. Chaucer loves animals, and we shall encounter more in his other works. It is in this enchanted place that he comes upon the "Man in Black" (a knight). <to top>

The narrator ponders how this young man could "have such sorwe and be not ded" (line 469). The knight is blunt and plain, saying that his true love is "ded and ys agoon" (line 479). (Throughout their discourse, the narrator repeatedly comes across as stupid, not acknowledging that he understands the cause of knight’s sorrow – even though the knight has stated the cause quite clearly.) The aspect of consolation becomes apparent here, when the narrator promises to do what he is able to make the knight "hool" (line 553). His objective is to get the man in black to reveal his story. Although he is uncooperative at first, the knight does tell his story, revealing that he is someone who is consumed by despair. As in Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy, here in The Book of the Duchess is a character who has been betrayed by "fals Fortune" (line 618).

Notice also the difference in the way the two characters address each other. The man in black addresses the narrator as "the" (line 520), whereas the narrator addresses the man in black as "yow" (line 524). The term "the" (or "thee") was considered the intimate form; the term "yow" ("you") was used by individuals when speaking to someone who was of a class above them. Thus, there is an obvious class distinction between the knight and the narrator: the knight is of the noble class, while the narrator is of a class below him. This difference of address continues as the two men speak to each other. (Keep in mind that, although the knight is talking down to the narrator, this is not to be interpreted as derogatory; it is simply the appropriate manner of address based on his social rank.) <to top>

Chaucer’s narrator is able to employ pity (a specifically Christian value?) while blending it with objectivity, which is a tricky thing to do. The narrator is able to empathise, but with emotional distance. There has been considerable literary debate over whether the narrator is slow, or whether his behaviour is a ploy to draw out the knight’s story. This narrator is not like the "know-it-all" found in Menippean satire; rather, he seems to use the opposite strategy in getting the knight to tell his tale, by coming across as knowing nothing at all!

Finally, the man in black agrees to tell his story, and a confession-style format ensues. (Confession developed in the Middle Ages in 1215 – the Fourth Lateran Council put forth a law (canon): "omnis utriusque sexus fidelis" – all people had to make an annual confession. Before this time, a person may have confessed only once in their lifetime, probably with the last rites. This resulted in a tremendous education project. People began to turn inward, and describe what was going on inside them.) Back to the story: the Man in Black blames fortune for his despair. Chaucer uses hyperbole as the knight describes "the fayrest companye" of women (line 807). He also uses effictio, which is a convention in which the portrait of a lady is described: her hair must be gold, her feet small, and all in between must be white. Chaucer copies the convention, but tones down the physical description. The knight’s description is full of rhetorical device,including frequentatio (repetition): he calls his love "My suffisance, my lust, my lyf, etc." (line 1038). <to top>

The knight tells how he wooed his lady with songs. Chaucer was famous for his love songs throughout England (they are lost to us, unfortunately). Chaucer has fun with the knight, by having him produce a very bad song (lines 1175 to 1180). Although she rejects him at first, eventually, both the knight and his lady mature and she bestows upon him the gifts of her mercy and a ring. It is a happy story, which the narrator brings to an abrupt turn, when he asks, "where is she now?" The knight, remembering his loss, says that "She ys dead!" (line 1309). Finally, the knight has said it, to someone who is acting as his confessor. We think again of the "dits amoreux", and realize the knight had been truly happy – and this happiness is his consolation.

Chaucer wrote The Book of the Duchess with specific references to John of Gaunt. He mentions a "long castel", "on a ryche hil" (which stand for Lancaster, who is John of Gaunt, and Richmond Hill, which is where he lived). And of course, the knight’s lady is named "White" ("Blanche" is French for white). Chaucer probably read The Book of the Duchess in front of John of Gaunt, so if we take the narrator to be akin to Chaucer, then the author is certainly mocking himself. In a diplomatic move, Chaucer withdraws from the story very quickly, returning through the frames of the dream narratives, back out to the original story of the insomniac, with his book in hand, who now in turn will write a poem.

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Mini Reports

John of Gaunt I Macrobius I Alan of Lille I Parliament of Fowles

Brief History of John of Gaunt (Ghent)

Jen Garbin (ENG300Y)

John of Gaunt (Ghent), 1340-399
John, by the grace of God, King of Castille and Leon, Duke of Lancaster and Aquitaine, Earl of Derby, Lincoln and Leicester, Lord of Beaufort and Nogent, of Bergerac and Roche-sur-Yon, Seneschal of England and Constable of Chester.

"He was a tall spare man, reserved and proud. He was courageous in battle, and easily roused, but he was loyal to a degree and chivalrous in every sense of the word. He loved the tournament, and specialized in absolutely fair play, a quality rare in his day. He was a great patron, of poets, scholars, clergy, monks, and indeed of the poor. . . . he was nevertheless the ideal Englishman, and like all of his type he did not see where his own virtues lay: a soldier who was far and away at his best at a peace conference, a hot tempered fighting man who restrained the tempers of others."
-- John Fines
Who's Who in the Middle Ages

John of Gaunt was born the fourth son of Edward III of England, and was one of the most influential political figures in England during Chaucer’s time. In 1359, John of Gaunt married Blanche, Heiress of, and later Duchess of Lancaster. After Blanche’s father’s death, John became Earl and Duke of Lancaster, making him one of the wealthiest and most powerful nobles in all of England. He was a soldier and served under his brother, Edward the Black Prince, in the Hundred Years War and against Peter the Cruel of Castille. After his first wife, Blanche, died in 1369, John made a political marriage (1371) with Constance of Castille, heir of Peter of Castille, thus giving him a claim to the Castillian throne. <to top>

Upon his return to England in 1375, he allied himself with the corrupt court party led by Alice Perrers, mistress of Edward III and for all intents and purposes, ruled England for a short time until being ousted from power by the Good Parliament of 1376. John rebounded and put together a handpicked parliament in 1377, about the same time his nephew, Richard II, ascended the throne. It was thought by many that John would make a claim to the crown for himself, since young Richard’s ability to reign was in doubt. However, John was a strong advocate for legitimate inheritance and held strong devotion to his brother and family. In addition, his focus was on his own claims in Castille. Upon his return to England in 1389, he was named Duke of Aquitane as a reward, and helped restore peace between Richard II and the hostile barons led by the Duke of Gloucester, and which included his son, Henry of Bolingbroke (ironically, later to usurp the throne of England as Henry IV). In 1396, John of Gaunt married Catherine Swynford, the governess to his children by Blanche, as well as his long time mistress.

So, how did he come to be the chief patron of Chaucer? The connection developed as Chaucer served in a number of positions in the royal court at the time. In 1357, Chaucer became page in the household of Elizabeth de Burgh, Countess of Ulster. Later, both John of Gaunt and Chaucer served in the retinue of Prince Lionel (1359) in the war in France, in which Chaucer was captured (and then ransomed in March 1360 for 16 pounds). They were the same age. In 1365-1366, Chaucer married Philippa Roet who was a chamber lady to Queen Philippa, and later to Gaunt’s second wife, Constance. Chaucer’s wife was also the sister of Katherine Swynford, long time mistress and third wife of John of Gaunt. <to top>

In 1367, Chaucer became a valet in the household of Edward III. When Lionel died in 1368, Chaucer transferred his services to John of Gaunt. He was well known as part of the literati of the court at the time, and hence John of Gaunt would have been well acquainted with his work.
It is popularly believed that Chaucer wrote The Book of the Duchess upon the request of John of Gaunt as a eulogy for his late wife, Blanche, Duchess of Lancaster.

List of Works Cited

John of Gaunt I Macrobius I Alan of Lille I Parliament of Fowles

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