Gower Bibliography

Gower's Confessio Amantis IV, 1963-2013: The Education of Achilles

Zambreno, Mary Frances. "Gower's Confessio Amantis IV, 1963-2013: The Education of Achilles." Essays in Medieval Studies: Proceedings of the Illinois Medieval Association 3 (1986), pp. 131-48.


After a number of tales in Book 4 concerned with the passage into adulthood, one of the major themes of CA, Amans makes his single attempt at self-assertion in his declaration of his refusal to kill for love (4.1648 ff.), citing the example of Achilles laying down his arms for Polixena based on Benoit de Sainte- Maure (4.1693-1701). Genius responds with three tales rebuking Amans' budding independence, and concludes with the tale of "Achilles' Education" drawn from Statius (4.1963 ff.), presenting Genius' somewhat different idea of the mature life. In Book 5 Genius makes two further mentions of Achilles, presenting the story of Deidamia from Statius (5.2961 ff.), and completing the story of Polixena begun by Amans (5.7591-96), expressing his own disapproval of Achilles in correction of his pupil. Genius' ideal is the heroic warrior-lover described by Statius, and using Achilles as his example he "urges Amans to grow up perfectly in an imperfect world" (pp. 135-36). Amans is more aware of the impossibility of such an ideal, and he turns to Benoit and to romance as an expression of accommodation to the realities of the world and of human behavior. Genius' attempt to educate Amans becomes increasingly irrelevant: the self-contradictions in his ideal become more evident in the two stories of Achilles in Book 5, and Aristotle's education of Alexander in reason and logic in Book 7 turns out even less successfully. Books 4 and 5 thus mark an important turning point in the poem; and in Book 8, once Genius has faded into the background, Amans' real education is completed in his vision of the Company of Lovers, with its examples of "those who try to live as best they can in this flawed world" (pp. 143-44). [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 7.1]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Confessio Amantis

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