What is Middle English
The term Middle English refers to the variety of English language spoken after the Norman Conquest until the late 15th century. It developed out of Late Old English although there were many changes in pronunciation, grammar, and orthography. It was Middle English that later developed into Modern English we all know today. Although today’s readers will find it difficult to read Middle English, some dialects of Middle English are not as difficult to understand. The type of Middle English Geoffrey Chaucer used in his work is somewhat closer to Modern English than other Middle English dialects.
What Major Works Did Chaucer Write in Middle English
Chaucer was one of the most prominent figures in the literature of Middle English. His best-known work today is The Canterbury Tales; however, he also wrote many other poems and stories. Some of his works include:
The Book of the Duchess:
This is considered to be one of the earliest poetry collections of Chaucer. It is believed that this was written to commemorate the death of Blanche of Lancaster, at the request of her husband John Gaunt’s request.
The House of Fame:
This is a poem which contains over 2,000 lines in octosyllabic couplets. It is divided into three books and takes the form of a dream vision. In this poem, the narrator ponders over the nature of fame and reliability of recorded renown, indicating the poet’s questions reporting the lives of fortune.
The Legend of Good Women:
This poem also takes the form of a dream vision and is the third longest poem written by Chaucer. It is written in a series of short narratives in the iambic pentameter. He recounts stories of ten women: Cleopatra, Thisbe, Dido, Hypsipyle, Medea, Lucrece, Ariadne, Philomela, Phyllis and Hypermnestra. However, the structure seems unfinished.
Troilus and Criseyde:
This poem is a retelling of the tragic story of Troilus and Criseyde during the siege of Troy. It is written using rhyme royal and is considered by some Chaucer scholars to be the best work of Chaucer since it is complete and more self-contained than the better-known work – The Canterbury Tales.
Parlement of Foules
Parlement of Foules is a poem of approximately 700 lines. It is also in the form of a dream vision in rhyme royal stanza and speaks of the concept of Christian love.
The Canterbury Tales
This is the most well-known work of Chaucer. It is a collection of stories presented in a format of stories told at a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims on their way to the cathedral of Canterbury. Most of these tales are written in verse. According to the prologue, each character in the group was supposed to narrate four stories – two on their way to the cathedral and two on their return journey. However, this collection only has 24 tales; thus, this work is considered to be an incomplete work.
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“Portrait of Chaucer (16th century), f.1 – BL Add MS 5141” Originally published/produced in England; 16th century.Held and digitized by the British Library, and uploaded to Flickr Commons(CC0) via Commons Wikimedia