Gower Bibliography

"My Family First: Draft-Dodging Parents in the Confessio Amantis."

Kiefer, Lauren. ""My Family First: Draft-Dodging Parents in the Confessio Amantis."." Essays in Medieval Studies: Proceedings of the Illinois Medieval Association 12 (1995), pp. 55-68.


For Gower, Kiefer argues, one of the central images of the unravelling of human bonds due to division and loss of love is the disruption of marriage and family. She focuses first on three tales of Ulysses, emphasizing how Gower has depicted in them the threat to family ties posed by mindless militarism. In "Nauplus and Ulysses," Ulysses always thinks of family first: "he dodges the draft out of love for his wife, but succumbs to the draft out of love for his child" (p. 57). By placing Nauplus in the traditional role of his son Palamedes, moreover, Gower has replaced the confrontation of two tricksters with a confrontation between two loving fathers. Gower's audience would have known that Ulysses was later responsible for the death of Palamedes. The tale of "Namplus and the Greeks" demonstrates that Nauplus/Namplus is just as devoted to his son as Ulysses is, but war turns his love to hatred, just as in the former tale it makes "the same loving father willing to jeopardize the life of another man's son" (p. 59). In "Achilles and Deidamia," Ulysses, drafted by a ruse, gets to draft Achilles with a ruse of his own. Gower emphasizes again the toll that war exacts on three different families, Thetis', Lichomede's, and that of Achilles and Deidamia, who is the real victim of Ulysses' guile. These three tales take place within a series of tales in Books 3, 4, and 5 in which families are placed at risk by outside pressures. In Book 3, "Canace and Machaire" places greatest emphasis on the need for parental devotion, and "Orestes" offers another demonstration of the threat to the family posed by war. In Book 4, Genius offers a series of tales in which love is opposed to militarism. Later in the book, when he attempts to link love and war via chivalry, he is successfully opposed by Amans, and the tale he offers, "Nauplus and Ulysses," shows the praise of military valor to be merely meaningless bluster. Book 5 offers several stories of families destroyed or abandoned, notably "Jason and Medea," "Theseus and Ariadne," and "Tereus." "We can trace a rough progression from tales of perverted devotion to family in Confessio Book Three, to discussion of the militarism which perverts it in Confessio Book Four, to an emphasis on the victims of the perversion — women and children — in Confessio Book Five. In all three books, however, Gower repeatedly privileges an individual's bonds to spouse and children over any other — over the demands of heroic destiny, chivalric glory, or societal convention" (p. 65). [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 15.2]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Confessio Amantis

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