Gower Bibliography

Gower's Tale of Florent and Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Tale: A Stylistic Comparison

Fischer, Olga C.M.. "Gower's Tale of Florent and Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Tale: A Stylistic Comparison." English Studies 66 (1985), pp. 205-225. ISSN 0013-838X


Fischer offers one of the most detailed comparisons of the two most frequently compared passages in Chaucer's and Gower's poems. She draws a general distinction between what she labels the "baroque" style of WB and the "classical style" of Gower's Confessor, borrowing her terms from H.H. Meier. The former she describes as "emotive, committed, excited" and the latter as "calm, detached, orderly;" and she analyzes the specific stylistic features in which this general difference is manifested. Gower uses longer and more complex sentences, he uses more parataxis and makes more use of the passive voice, his vocabulary is less familiar and more specialized, and he uses fewer exclamations, fewer intensifying words and expressions, less anacoluthon, and less alliteration, in general reflecting rationality and design rather than emotion and impulsiveness. He also uses less direct speech, and his version is less dramatic, less suspenseful, and more prosaic and matter-of-fact. The WB's style reflects her direct involvement in her story, while the Confessor is less interested in the characters than in the moral of the tale. Fischer acknowledges that WBT represents the differences between Chaucer and Gower at their greatest extreme. Her examination of the Clerk's Tale reveals a style closer to the Confessor's than to WB's, and thus range and variety themselves must be considered a characteristic of Chaucer's style. The Confessor's style, however, is identical to Gower's, for their purposes in telling their tales are the same; and echoing Schmitz (1974), though she does not cite him, Fischer concludes that Gower's style is a consciously chosen attempt to match "form" and "content" and to reflect the reason and harmony that he teaches in the orderliness and harmoniousness of his poem. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society: JGN 6.1]

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

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