Gower Bibliography

Gower's Two Prologues to Confessio Amantis.

Mahoney, Dhira B.. "Gower's Two Prologues to Confessio Amantis." In Re-visioning Gower. Ed. Yeager, R.F.. Ashville, NC: Pegasus, 1998, pp. 17-37.


Mahoney examines the passages at the beginning and ending of CA that exist in two versions, one written for Richard II (Macaulay's recension "one") and the other for his successor Henry of Lancaster (Macaulay's recensions "two" and "three"). Each creates a different "liminal frame" that shapes the reader's view of the entire poem. The Ricardian frame begins with the charming account of the poem's commissioning (which Dahoney discusses with reference to its analogues as an example of an Auftragstopos). Gower expresses hope both in his young king and in the "newe thing" that he offers him; and as he offers to follow a middle way, "somwhat of lust, somwhat of lore," he presents a self-confident and trustworthy persona. The epilogue contains Venus' compliment to Chaucer and a prayer for the king that emphasizes loyalty and obedience; and it attributes the poet's renunciation of love poetry to his realization of his age and the restoration of wholeness that occurs with his "healing." The Lancastrian prologue is less personal and more monitory; the emphasis shifts from promise to degeneration; and the poet's devotion to Richard is replaced by an extended moral and social critique. The renunciation of love at the end of this version is not founded on the contrast of youth to age but on "a more general, one-note, condemnation of secular love, which is blind, opposed to reason, a cause of division in the self" (p. 32), culminating in a contrast between secular and heavenly love. There is less sense of the presence of the court, and Gower himself "becomes less an observer, less a poet, and more a prophet" (p. 33). The later revision has been privileged by modern editors, and thus "it is not surprising that the official version of Gower is the 'moral' Gower" (p. 34). Dahoney presents the alternative versions as equally authoritative, but it is clear that she has strong reasons for preferring the former and for urging it upon our attention. She points out that it was still widely circulated, even after Richard's death. She argues that it was probably not as offensive as modern readers, influenced by Lancastrian propaganda, have believed, and that its dedicatory passage had an "authorizing value" that extended beyond political considerations and even beyond considerations of historical fact. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 18.1]

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Confessio Amantis

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