Assigned Poets' Birth, Education, First Major Work, Death, and Career Length

Geoffrey Chaucer, born ?1340-45 to a family of wine importers who lived in Vintry Ward, a wealthy suburb of London on the Thames, among French, Flemish, and Italian immigrant merchants.

1357 (anno 12-17) page to Elizabeth de Burgh, Countess of Ulster and wife of Lionel, duke of Clarence and second son of Edward III.

1359 (anno 14-19) captured during battle with the French and ransomed by Edward III.

?1366 (anno 21-26) marries Phillipa Paon, sister of Catherine Paon, later Catherine Swynford, governess of John of Gaunt's children (duke of Lancaster), his mistress for a decade, and finally his third wife.

late 1360s (anno 20-25) probably manuscript circulation of his short lyrics translated from and in imitation of French balades etc.

1370 (anno 25-30) the Boke of the Duchess, a 1334 line dream vision in rhyming couplets, his first major work.

1370-1400 all of his major works produced while employed as a customs agent, king's building contractor, forest supervisor, and royal secret agent.

1400 (anno 55-60) dies. Working career, approximately 35 years.

Sir Thomas More, born 1478, son of a wealthy knighted lawyer and judge.

Page in the household of Archbishop Morton.

Educated at Canterbury College, Oxford.

Practicing lawyer.

1499 (anno 21) meets Erasmus, a reformist Catholic Humanist whose satire, "Morae Encomium" or "Praise of Folly" also could be translated "Praise of More."

1516 (anno 28) Utopia, first major work.

1529-32 (anno 51-54) Lord Chancellor (like Attorney General) of England

1535 (anno 57) executed for refusing to acknowledge Henry VIII head of the Church of England. Working career approximately 19 years.

Sir Thomas Wyatt, born 1503, son of a Kentish knight who served Henry VII.

Educated St. John's College, Cambridge.

1527 (anno 25) visits Italy, and begins translating Petrarch's "rima" into English sonnets.

1536 (anno 33) briefly imprisoned in Tower of London where he probably witnessed the execution of his former lover, Anne Boleyn, and the three men charged with treason for having affairs with her while she was married to Henry VIII (see "V. Innocentia"). Then "rusticated" from court to Kent for a year (see "Mine Own John Poins").

1537-9 (anno 34-36) ambassador to the Spanish king, Charles V.

1541 (anno 38) imprisoned on false charges of treason after death of his ally and protector, Lord Chancellor Thomas Cromwell.

1542 (anno 39) dies of fever after a long ride in the rain on diplomatic mission for Henry VIII. Working career, approximately 15 years.

1557, Richard Tottel prints 91 sonnets and songs we believe to have been written by Wyatt in Songs and Sonnets written by the Right Honorable Lord Henry Howard late Earl of Surrey and other, a poetry anthology now most often referred to as Tottel's Miscellany.

Henry Howard, earl of Surrey, born ?1517 to Thomas Howard, later duke of Norfolk.

Educated with the duke of Richmond, Henry VIII's illegitimate son, and companion of Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger, the poet's son.

1532 (anno 15) marries Frances Vere.

1530s-40s, wrote numerous sonnets, some translated or adapted from Petrarch.

1544-6 (anno 27-9) served in war with France, wounded at Montreuil.

1545-6 (anno 28-9) commander of Boulogne

1547 (anno 30) arrested on numerous petty charges, probably false. Tried and convicted of "treasonably quartering the royal arms" (combining the Tudor heraldic symbols with those of the Howards) and executed. Working career, approximately 17 years.

1554/1557, translations of Virgil's Aeneid, Book 4 and Book 2, in blank verse, are published posthumously. First published work in blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter, the form of Marlowe's and Shakespeare's tragic dramas).

1557, Richard Tottel prints 40 sonnets and songs attributed to Surrey in Songs and Sonnets written by the Right Honorable Lord Henry Howard late Earl of Surrey and other, now most often referred to as Tottel's Miscellany.

Elizabeth I (Tudor), queen of England, born 1533 to Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, his second wife. (She is half sister to Mary I, whose mother was Katharine of Aragon, Henry's first wife, and to Edward VI, whose mother was Henry's third wife.)

1536 (anno 3) declared illegitimate to enable Henry's son by Jane Seymour to become his heir.

1530s-40s educated by Roger Ascham and other Humanists in classics. Begins writing short poems and orations as school assignments to prepare her to rule.

1544 (anno 11) Parliament, dreading the eventual succession to the throne of her openly Catholic sister Mary, re-establishes her legitimacy and her claim to the line of succession.

1553 (anno 20) barely avoids capture by the forces supporting Lady Jane Grey's claim to the throne, enabling her sister Mary to escape to become queen.

1558 (anno 25) becomes queen of England and returns England to Protestantism after its five-year period of return to Catholicism under Mary.

1559 (anno 26) refuses the offer of marriage by Philip II of Spain.

1588 (anno 58) Philip's revenge, the Spanish Armada, wrecked by storms and defeated by English ships under command of Sir Francis Drake, among others.

1603 (anno 70) dies. Working career, approximately 50 years?

Sir Philip Sidney, born 1554 to Sir Henry Sidney, lord deputy or governor of Ireland.

1564 (anno 10) Shrewsbury School.

1568 (anno 14) Christ's Church, Oxford. Leaves without taking a degree (common among the aristocracy who around this time began to prefer to complete their children's education with a tour of the major courts of Europe, the ancestor of the "Grand Tour" of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries).

1572 (anno 18) in the retinue of the earl of Lincoln he visits Paris and there witnesses the "St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre" of French Protestant Huguenots by Catholic mobs on 24 August.

1573 (anno 19) visits Heidelburg, Frankfort, Vienna, and Hungary, and studies in Padua and Venice.

1575 (anno 21) returns to England through Vienna, Poland, and the Netherlands.

1578 (anno 24) begins to write The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia, an enormous, prose pastoral romance, dedicated to his sister.

1580 (anno 26) "rusticated" from court to Pembroke estate for vehement opposition to the proposed marriage between Elizabeth I and the Catholic duc d'Anjou.

1581 (anno 27) begins to write the sonnets in Astrophil and Stella, the year in which Penelope Devereux marries Lord Rich. Perhaps begins "The Defense of Poesy," in response to Stephen Gosson's The School of Abuse (1579), a Puritan pamphlet presumptuously dedicated to Sidney, and which condemned poets, and dramatists in particular.

1583 (anno 29) marries Frances Walsingham, daughter of one of Elizabeth's most powerful advisors.

1586 (anno 32) in the war against the Spanish forces occupying the Netherlands, he is wounded at Zutphen and dies a month later. Working career, approximately eight years.

1590, The New Arcadia (a revised version of the 1578 work) published posthumously.

1591, Astrophil and Stella published posthumously.

1595, The Defense of Poesy published posthumously, the first published work of literary criticism and theory in English.

Edmund Spenser, born 1552 to a journeyman cloth-maker in London.

1569 (anno 17) goes to Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, as a "sizar" or work-study student.

1573/1576 (anno 21 / 24) graduates with a B.A. and an A.M.

late 1570s (anno 24-28) serves as secretary to Dr. John Young (bishop of Rochester) and the earl of Leicester. Meets Sidney. Writing sonnets and other experiments with various short verse forms.

1579 (anno 27), publishes The Shepherd's Calendar, a poetic collection of love songs, political satire, and social commentary in the pastoral mode, containing poems in 13 different metrical forms.

1580 (anno 28) secretary to Lord Grey of Wilton, lord deputy of Ireland.

1590 (anno 38) publishes Books 1, 2, and 3 of The Faerie Queene, an allegorical epic poem in "Spenserian" stanzas.

1596 (anno 44) publishes the completed six-book Faerie Queene and "A View of the Present State of Ireland," a defense of the violence of the English government of the island.

1599 (anno 47) dies. Working career, approximately 20 years.

Lady Mary Herbert, countess of Pembroke and sister to Sir Philip Sidney, born 1561 to Sir Henry Sidney, lord deputy or governor of Ireland.

1575 (anno 14) called to court by Elizabeth I.

1577 (anno 16) marries Henry Herbert, earl of Pembroke.

1577-1621, at Wilton House, Salisbury, Wiltshire, Lady Mary assembled a visiting group of the most accomplished thinkers and artists of her day, including chemists, astrologers, historians, physicians, entymologists, and many poets including Samuel Daniel, Thomas Moffet, Edmund Spenser, Michael Drayton, Nicholas Breton, Thomas Watson (see Marlowe), and (perhaps) Shakespeare.

1586 (anno 35) after her brother Philip's death from his wound at Zutphen, she completed his project of translating the Psalms with numbers 1-43. She also translated works from French and Italian, and was an accomplished player of the lute, to whom Thomas Morley dedicated the Canzonets in 1593.

1621, dies. Working career, approximately 35 years.

Christopher Marlowe, born 1564 to a Canterbury shoemaker.

1580 (anno 16) attends Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and studies to become a minister.

1584/1587 (anno 20 / 23) graduates (barely) with a B.A. and an M.A.

1587 (anno 23) Tamburlaine (I) produced on the London stage, the first drama in blank verse, is an instant success.

1589 (anno 25) jailed as the accomplice of the poet Thomas Watson in the murder of William Bradley. Released when Watson pled self defense.

1592 (anno 28) flees to the Netherlands to avoid prosecution for the use of forged gold coins.

1593 (anno 29) stabbed to death by Ingram Frizer, supposedly in a quarrel about a tavern bill--all four men in the room, including Marlowe, were or had been employed by the royal secret service. Working career, approximately 7 years.

1604, the "A-Text" of The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus published posthumouslyThe significantly edited B-Text was published in 1616, indicating that the play was still drawing audiences 23 years after its author's death.

William Shakespeare, born 1564 to a glover and commodities trader in Stratford upon Avon.

1582 (anno 18) marries Anne Hathaway (children Susanna [1583], Hamnet and Judith [twins, 1585]). Scholars speculate that he taught school in or around his home town.

Late 1580s (anno 22-26) probably writes Henry VI parts 1, 2, and 3, as well as Richard III.

1592 (anno 28) first mentioned in Richard Greene's Greene's Groatsworth of Wit, a prose satire which alluded to him as an "upstart" playwright and parodied a speech from 3 Henry VI. This implies he already had become a successful author, and was well-known enough to attract such tacit public criticism.

1594 (anno 30) acting in and probably writing for the company supported and protected by Lord Strange.

1599 (anno 35) Lord Strange's Men become the house players at the Globe Theatre outside London.

1603 (anno 39) the company comes under royal protection with the accession of James I and change their name to the King's Men.

1609 (anno 45) the King's men begin performing year-round, at the Globe during the summer and at the indoor stage at Blackfriars during the winter. Also in that year, someone, probably not Shakespeare, publishes the Sonnets, most of which were written in the 1590s and circulated in manuscript form for years.

1616 (anno 52) dies. Working career, approximately 31 years.

1623, Mr William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies (A.K.A., "the First Folio" for the large size of the edition) was published by friends and fellow actors John Heminges and Henry Condell.

Want to earn some extra credit in English 211?  Complete brief biographic notes like those above for the rest of the authors on this list and send them to me.

Sir Walter Raleigh

Ben Jonson

Lady Mary Wroth

John Donne

Robert Herrick

Andrew Marvell

George Herbert

Richard Crashaw

John Milton

Francis Bacon

Lady Anne Haklett

Dorothy Osborne

Thomas Hobbes

Aphra Behn

John Dryden

Aemilia Lanyer

John Wilmot, earl of Rochester

Anne Finch, countess of Winchilsea

Matthew Prior

Lady Mary Wortley Montague

Jonathan Swift

William Congreve