Geoffrey Chaucer

Chaucer's fame was securely established by 1440, when Capgrave started writing in English. Indeed, Capgrave's East Anglia was full of Chaucer's admirers and imitators. John Lydgate, Osbern Bokenham, and John Metham are among the many fifteenth-century authors who enthused about their "master Chaucer." Lydgate even wrote himself into Chaucer's Canterbury pilgrimage and supplied his own tale, The Siege of Thebes. Though Capgrave pays no tributes and offers no Chauceriana, his Life of Saint Katherine shows a creative application of strategies associated with Chaucer.

Those strategies were not ones we find in Chaucer's hagiography. Chaucer wrote only one saint's life, the life of the virgin martyr Cecilia, which he later assigned to the Second Nun in the Canterbury Tales. That life, though more rhetorically polished than the saints' lives written in his day, was otherwise fairly typical of them. The work of Chaucer's most likely to have inspired Capgrave was Troilus and Criseyde, a work well known in East Anglia at the time. Capgrave's Katherine shares with Troilus a five-book structure, an obtrusive narrator, and an interest in women's psychology and experiences.

Online Resource

The Harvard Geoffrey Chaucer Page is a repository of information about Chaucer's life and times, his works, his language, and much more.

Further Reading

Complete Works of Chaucer

Perspectives on Chaucer and the Fifteenth Century

Chaucer and Capgrave