Gower Bibliography

Gower and Child, No. 45, 'King John and the Bishop'

Bratcher, James T.. "Gower and Child, No. 45, 'King John and the Bishop'." Notes and Queries 246.48 (2001), pp. 14-15.


Noting that no source for Gower's tale of "The Three Questions" has ever been identified, Bratcher points to the ballad of "King John and the Bishop" (Child, no. 45) as a possible analogue. The characters in the ballad are different (King John and the "Bishop of Canterbury") and the riddles differ too, but in both tales, the king is motivated by envy, he grants a similar period of time before the answers are required, and "a dependent relative of inferior standing, prompted by love and loyalty" (14) steps forward to provide the answers. In the ballad, it is the bishop's half-brother, a shepherd, whose answers are more clever than wise but which nonetheless finally win him a stipend from the king as well as a pardon for the bishop. A check of Sargent and Kittredge’s edition of Child reveals that there are actually two versions of this ballad extant. Both their notes and the references in Bratcher lead to a number of other tales that are structurally similar to Gower’s, but as Macaulay points out in his note (Works 2.478), the closest known analogue for the riddles themselves remains MO 12601-12. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 21.1]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Confessio Amantis

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