Geoffrey Chaucer (1340? – 1400) entered the court of king Edward III as a page (paggio), served as a soldier in the Hundred Years’ War, and married a lady of noble origins, enjoying (godendo) the patronage (protection = protezione)of a royal prince, John of Gaunt, a son of king Edward. He had many important official positions and made a number of journeys abroad. He visited Italy – Genoa and Florence – on a diplomatic mission where he had the opportunity to read Boccaccio’s works and Petrarch’s poems. During the eighties Chaucer increased (enlarged = ampliò) his fame and authority becoming more active in society and as a man of letters: his first books were written in French and in Italian, then, in the period of his maturity (1386-1400) he produced The Canterbury Tales, his masterpiece, in Middle English. The great merit of this work is that it represents an amalgamation of Anglo-Norman culture. Chaucer died on 25th October 1400 and was buried (sepolto) in Westminster Abbey, in what later became the Poets’ Corner.
1300: la prima vera raccolta di racconti in lingua “Inglese”
The stories of storytellers goes on in the centuries. In 1387 Geoffrey Chaucer, father of the English language, wrote The Canterbury Tales. This work is a collection of stories told by a group of pilgrims from various parts of England. They meet in London, at the Tabard Inn (tavern = locanda), and choose to continue the journey together as they are all travelling to Canterbury to pray on the shrine (memorial = santuario) of Saint Thomas à Beckett. To enjoy (to have pleasure = per passare bene) their time during the journey these pilgrims decide to tell each other (reciprocamente) stories. The teller (man who tells = colui che racconta) of the best story shall have a free dinner on his return to the inn. The collection of Tales has a preface, a Prologue, in which G. Chaucer describes vividly (colourfully = vivacemente) each of the pilgrims, their characteristics and clothes, their qualities and defects. They represent the complex social reality of the 14th century, from the highest class (knighthood = cavalieri and clergy = clero) to the lowest (middle class and peasants = contadini). Very few pilgrims escape Chaucer’s comic satire, and irony. The tales reflect the background, personality and taste of the narrator. The stories are 24 in all – some are incomplete – and vary from courtly, idealistic romances to comic and farcical anecdotes. Every one gives also a sort of lesson based on real experience.