This is the first comprehensive critical comparison of English and Italian literature from the three centuries from Dante to Shakespeare. It begins by examining Chaucer's relationship with Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio, and then looks at similar relationships within the areas of humanist education, lyric poetry, the epic, theatrical comedy, the short story and the pastoral drama. It provides a detailed comparison of major works from both traditions including descriptive and critical readings of Italian works. It shows why English writers valued such works and demonstrates the ways in which they departed from or tried to outdo the Italian original. Assuming no prior knowledge of Italy or Italian literary history, this book introduces the student and general reader to one of the most important and fascinating phases in European literary history.