Gower Bibliography

Duke or Duck: Reading the Stories in John Gower’s Confessio Amantis.

Zaerr, Linda Marie. "Duke or Duck: Reading the Stories in John Gower’s Confessio Amantis." Willamette Journal of the Liberal Arts 4 (1988), pp. 1-9. ISSN 0740-6789


Zaerr uses her own youthful misreading of the first line of the tale of "Mundus and Paulina" as an exemplum on the possibilities of misreading the entire poem: believing from the reference to the villain as a "duck" that she was reading a beast fable, only on consideration of the entire context did she realize that he was a duke. The "duck" in the interpretation of the entire poem is the superficial acceptance of Genius' claim to present a coherent morality of fin amour. This is a reading that quacks and waddles because of the tediousness of many of the stories viewed in this light and because of the persistent contradictions between the tales and the frame. A closer examination of how Gower's purposes build upon Genius' stumbling reveals the "duke." The examples that Zaerr uses are the two pairs of tales about Aeneas and Ulysses in Book 4. The first pair, which Genius evidently thinks offer parallel lessons, actually set up two contradictory situations. Aeneas never professes a love for Dido, and her protests against his slowthe, cast within the vocabulary of fin amour, reveal her own sensuality. Ulysses is genuinely guilty of slowthe and knows it; Penelope, however, forgives rather than blames him. Unknown to Genius, they illustrate both a more solidly based "honeste" love and also a spirit of forgiveness that is modeled on God's mercy. In the two later tales, Genius blames Ulysses for sloth because of his initial unwillingness to leave Penelope rather than for the tardiness of his return, and he credits Aeneas for his accomplishments after he abandons Dido. "Sloth, defined in terms of fin amour, is revealed to be a contradictory concept

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Confessio Amantis

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