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The Age of Chaucer was rich in poetical forms. Since religion played a very important part in medieval society, religious poetry developed in the form of lyrics, usually drawing on episodes in the life of Christ and, even more, that of the Virgin Mary. Although these episodes sometimes used the language of chivalry, they were pervaded by mysticism and characterised by great musicality and striking imagery. 

Secular poetry, on the other hand, mostly consisted of love lyrics. These were influenced by the minstrels or 'troubadours’ of southern France, and reflected a special code known as 'Courtly Love’. Courtly Love was based on a set of conventions mainly defining the relationship between a lady and her lover, both of whom belonged to the upper class or nobility. 

The relationship generally developed outside marriage, since the latter, at this time, was normally a contract or agreement having little or nothing to do with love. Courtly love poetry obeyed the canons of a fixed formula, in which the lady was idealised and worshipped, while the Jover was ready to serve her and even die for her. Unlike the more conventional and artificial French poems, the English lyrics were more sincere and enriched with allegory. 

Medieval secular poetry was not exclusively devoted to love. It also included descriptive and narrative poems, as well as songs to be sung at banquets. Music and songs played an important role in medieval life and . very often accompanied poetry. Medieval poems (including Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales) were in fact usually composed to be listened to at court and not to be read. It was only later that they were written down, often by monks in monasteries, in the versions that have survived into our times. 

Among the poems that had appeared by the end of the fourteenth century, the finest were The Pearl and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, two anonymous alliterative poems. 

Chief Characteristics of the Age

The age of Chaucer is the first significant period in the literary history of England. In every walk of life there were signs of change. The Social, political, religious, and literary changes were taking place. In short, it was an age of change. 

An Age of Transition: 

The age of Chaucer was a transitional aye The medievalism was departing and modernism was developing slowly, Wycliffe and his followers were sowing the seeds of Reformation. hey were making attack upon the church. Individualism was being emphasised, Military events were contributing to the growth of patriotism and national consciousness, [he industrial development was giving nse to the middle and working classes. It led to the end of feudal system. In this Way we find that the age of Chaucer was an era of transition. 

Growth of National Sentiment: 

The age of Chaucer witnessed the beginning of the Hundred Years War. England was at war with Scotland and France. This war brought great victories in the battles of Crecy and Poitiers. The consciousness of national unity was strengthened. The war gave a feeling of national pride and self-respect to the people of England. The national life got purified and powerful national sentiments grew. 

Black Death, Famine, and Social Unrest: 

The age of Chaucer faced natural calamities and social unrest. Plagues and pestilences, constitutional conflicts and unorthodoxy came to the forefront. In 1348-49 came the terrible Black Death. It shook the social fabric violently. A large number of people died. It reappeared in 1362, 1367, and 1370. Famine followed plague. Vagrants and thieves multiplied. Labour became scarce. Heavy taxation was imposed. The Toll Tax brought about the peasants’ revolt. This revolt was a clear sign of social tension and unrest. 

The Corruption of the Church: 

In the age of Chaucer the Church was the seat of power and prestige. It was infected with corruption. The churchmen were fond of wealth and luxury. They indulged themselves in all sorts of vices. They lived in a Godless and worldly way. John Wycliffe, the morning star of the Reformation, led an attack upon the growing corruption of the church. . 

The New Learning: 

The age of Chaucer marked the dawn of new learning. It brought about a change in the general outlook of the age. Man's intellectual horizon expanded. He began to make efforts to liberate himself from the shackles of theological slavery. Two Italian writers Petrarch and Boccaccio were the pioneers of this great revival. But beneath the medievalism the heaven of Renaissance was already at work. The modem world was in the process of being born. 

Thus in the age of Chaucer a curious modern note began to be apparent. There was a sharper spirit of criticism. The vogue of the romance was passing. In this age there was a spirit of revolt. The church was losing her great hold upon the masses of people. Reformation was in process, The light of new learning was shining. This age was given proper voice by Chaucer.


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