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Geoffrey Chaucer (c.1343-1400) was one of the greatest English poets and the most renowned of those who wrote in Middle English. Although Chaucer came from a middle-class background and was the son of a wine merchant, he married into the aristocracy and held several positions in the service of the Crown and at the court of John of Gaunt, where his literary talents were highly appreciated. As a diplomat Chaucer travelled abroad to France and Italy, and his work was much influenced by Italian literature, particularly the works of Dante and Boccaccio. Some of Boccaccio's stories are retold in Chaucer's best-known work, The Canterbury Tales.

Chaucer may also have been the one who translated parts of the Romance of the Rose, a French 13th-century poem about courtly love, into Middle English. When in 1476 William Caxton, the first printer in England, set up his printing press at Westminster, he produced a varied list of books, and The Canterbury Tales were among them.

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