Scottish Chaucerians in English Literature – Characteristics


Scottish Chaucericians were a group of poets belonging to the late 15th and early 16th centuries. This period came about right after the rather untimely demise of Geoffrey Chaucer, “Father of English Poetry”, and saw a dry spell in the literary landscape of London. Following this emerged the “Chaucerians” who, deeply influenced by Chaucer and his works, imitated him. “Scottish Chaucerians” were those poets hailing from Scotland– their contribution was crucial to the history of English Literature and carrying forth the legacy of Chaucer. 

Characteristics of Scottish Chaucerians

The characteristics of this movement were heavily marked by Chaucer and the salient features of his works– it was a movement to commemorate and keep alive Chaucerian traditions of writing. Scottish Chaucerians thus predominantly imitated Chaucer’s poetic style– their works were allegorical and satirical and used iambic pentameter and the 7-lined stanzas as he did. They also made use of the ‘rime-royal’ or “rhyme royal” in poetry. They also imitated Chaucer in the themes he used– being a court poet, his poems largely were about love, morality, and praises of royalty. Scottish Chaucerians thus wrote about courtly love, the nobility, and chivalry. By imitating Chaucer, Scottish Chaucerians helped unify the rift between England and Scotland.  

Scottish Chaucerians Poets List & Their Works

Some of the key figures of Scottish Chaucerians are:

King James

King James I of England (i.e., King James VI of Scotland) was the first among Scottish Chaucerians. His magnum opus “Kingis Quair” depicts the elements mentioned above– it is a love allegory that makes use of 7-lined stanzas written using the rime-royal scheme of ‘ababbcc’. Other notable works of his include “The Ballad of Good Counsel” and “Christ’s Kirk on the Green”, both of which are satires.

Robert Henryson

Henryson is considered to be the “best” among the Scottish Chaucerians. He, however, did not attain as much fame as Dunbar. His work ‘The Testament of Cresside’ is a direct response to Chaucer’s ‘Troilus and Criseyde’. Other notable works containing Chaucerian elements include “Orpheus and Eurydice”, “Robene and Makyene”, and “The Morall Fabillis of Esope the Phrygian”. 

William Dunbar

Dunbar, the most famous Scottish poet before Robert Burns, was renowned for his use of wit and satire. He has penned several works, the most famous of which are “Thistle and the Rose”, a love allegory, “The Devil’s Inquest”, “Dance of Seven Deadly Sins”, “Satire on Edinburgh” and “The Two Mary Women”, all of which are satires.

Gavin Douglas

Douglas was known for being a humanist poet. His best-known work is his translation of “The Aeniad”. His work “Palace of Honour” is directly remodelled after Chaucer’s “House of Fame”. One other notable work of his would be “King Hart”.


The Scottish Chaucerians thus, through their imitation, helped keep alive Chaucer’s style of writing and helped revive the literary landscape of London, even as they united the English and the Scots.