Other writers from Chaucer's time

William Langland

Piers PlowmanWilliam Langland, author of Piers Plowman, lived from about the 1330s to probably the end of the century. His great poem includes satire against abuses in the Church, including fraudulent pardoners and the corrosive effect of love of money on human beings. Piers Plowman also contains perhaps the most powerful description of the Seven Deadly Sins in English literature.

John Gower

John Gower (c 1330 - 1408) was another close contemporary of Chaucer's. Between 1390 and 1393 he wrote a poem entitled Confessio Amantis. Like The Canterbury Tales, this is another collection of tales within an overall structure: this time a set of chapters each one based on one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Gower's treatment of this frame is, however, witty and worldly: the ‘penitent' is a lover and his sins are all aspects of his relationship with his lady.


Boccaccio was an Italian who lived from 1313-1375. Several of Chaucer's poems, notably his Troilus and Criseyde and The Knight's Tale, are based on works by Boccaccio, though Chaucer, as ever, transforms his sources into unique, new creations. Like The Canterbury Tales, Boccaccio's Decameron is a set of stories set in a frame story (a group of people staying at a country house and telling stories). It is not certain whether Chaucer knew the Decameron.

Chaucer's literary world

Chaucer certainly knew Gower, lived in London for a number of years when Langland was there, and could possibly have met Boccaccio in Italy – though there is no evidence that he did so. There was an active literary life in London and particularly in princely households, in which English traditions were being developed in new ways and foreign influences absorbed by English writers.

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