He was a contemporary of Giovanni Boccaccio, Dante, and Christine de Pizan. Although born as a son of a vintner, he became a page at the court of Edward III of England. He was in the service of first Elizabeth de Burgh, Countess of Ulster, and then Lionel of Antwerp, son of Edward III. He traveled from England to France, Spain, Flanders, and Italy (Genoa and Florence), where he came into contact with medieval continental poetry.
Chaucer married, ca. 1366, Philippa (de) Roet, a lady-in-waiting to Edward III's queen, Philippa of Hainault and a sister of Katherine Swynford, who later (ca. 1396) became the third wife of Chaucer's friend and patron, John of Gaunt.
Chaucer wrote poetry as a diversion from his job as Comptroller of the Customs for the port of London, and also translated such important works as The Romance of the Rose, written in French by Guillaume de Lorris and enlarged years later by Jean de Meun, and Anicius Manlius Severinus BoŽthius' De consolatione philosophiae. He also wrote the Parlement of Foules and the House of Fame. However, he's best known as the writer of Troilus and Criseyde and of The Canterbury Tales, a collection of stories (told by fictional pilgrims on the road to the cathedral at Canterbury) that would help to shape English literature.
In the history of English literature, he is considered the introducer of continental versifications which broke with the rigid metric of Anglo-Saxon meters. He also helped to standardise the southern accent (London area) of the Middle English language.