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Chaucer’s Italy

An exploration of the influence of Italy and Italians on Chaucer’s life and writing.
Geoffrey Chaucer might be considered the quintessential English writer, but he drew much of his inspiration and material from Italy. In fact, without the tremendous influence of Francesco Petrarch and Giovanni Boccaccio (among others), the author of The Canterbury Tales might never have assumed his place as the “father” of English literature. Nevertheless, Richard Owen’s Chaucer’s Italy begins in London, where the poet dealt with Italian merchants in his roles as court diplomat and customs official. Next Owen takes us, via Chaucer’s capture at the siege of Rheims, to his involvement in arranging the marriage of King Edward III’s son Lionel in Milan and his missions to Genoa and Florence. By scrutinizing his encounters with Petrarch, Boccaccio, and the mercenary knight John Hawkwood—and with vividly evocative descriptions of the Arezzo, Padua, Florence, Certaldo, and Milan that Chaucer would have encountered—Owen reveals the deep influence of Italy’s people and towns on Chaucer’s poems and stories. Much writing on Chaucer depicts a misleadingly parochial figure, but as Owen’s enlightening short study of Chaucer’s Italian years makes clear, the poet’s life was internationally eventful. The consequences have made the English canon what it is today.

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"A fascinating insight into Chaucer’s world."

Mary Hollingsworth, author of Princes of the Renaissance

"Owen performs the remarkable feat of showing us Italy through Chaucer’s eyes. It’s a wonderful evocation of the vibrant intellectual, commercial and cross-cultural exchanges at the height of the Middle Ages—and the perfect read for a getaway break to Florence, Genoa or Milan."

Ross King, author of The Bookseller of Florence

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