"The lyf so short
The craft so longe to lerne"
To understand Chaucer's work, we must first understand the conditions of the time he was living in. Chaucer was alive during the 14th Century in England; at that time, England was yet a small country with a meagre population of about 1 million people (who were mostly relatively poor compared to other European countries at that time). Many Normans had come to England in 1066 and as a result of this, French was spoken in the court. Latin was the language of diplomacy, and Saxons had brought in German; however, the vernacular language spoken on the streets was 'Middle-English'. As one can see, the English language was in a period of transition, constantly changing and adopting different aspects. The language spoken in the North was different to that of the South for example.
Chaucer himself was born in 1343 and died in 1400.
His parents were wine merchants, and during the early years of his life he worked as a courtier, a diplomat, a civil servant, and also did various jobs for the king. He travelled around Europe, visiting countries such as France and Spain; in 1367 he became a member of the royal court of Edward III as a valet/ esquire. He went to Picardy on a military expedition the following year, and as he visited Genoa and Florence it is speculated that he came across Italian medieval poetry, which would influence his later writings. He became comptroller of customs of the port of London for 12 years, and then seems to have moved to Kent. It is approximately during this time period (1380) when he is surmised to have started the 'Canterbury Tales'. In 1389 he was appointed the position of clerk of the king's works,