Gower Bibliography

Chaucer et Gower: Esquisse comparative de leurs attitudes morales et politiques

Dauby, Hélène. "Chaucer et Gower: Esquisse comparative de leurs attitudes morales et politiques." In Economie, Politique et Cultureau Moyen Age: Actes de Colloque, Paris, 19 et 29 mai 1990. Ed. Buschinger, Danielle and Spiewok, Wolfgang. WODAN: Recherches en littérature médiéval (5). Amiens: Centre d'Etudes Medievales, 1991, pp. 55-63.


Dauby begins her comparison of Chaucer's and Gower's social views with a detailed look at "Wife of Bath's Tale" and the "Tale of Florent." Both tales are drawn ultimately from a myth concerned with the granting of sovereignty, but both authors ignore the mythical implications. Without making any assumptions on either poet's exact source, we can identify four principal differences in the plots of their respective versions: Gower provides more of a historical frame for the tale, while Chaucer maintains more of the atmosphere of a fairy tale; the story begins in one case with the killing of another knight, in the other with a rape; the old woman offers very different alternatives to the knight in the final scene; and while Chaucer allows the implication that love transforms the one who loves or who is loved, Gower provides more rational reasons for the old woman's transformation. They also differ greatly in method. Gower's follows a straighter line; he gives names and descriptions to his characters; he specifies carefully their family relations, underlining the importance of social bonds; he rationalizes the marvelous and eliminates suspense--in brief, he privileges the clarity and vividness of the tale, while Chaucer has fun with it allows himself (or the Wife of Bath) several digressions, in the process giving us much more to think about than Gower does. Both offer the tale to illustrate a moral, but their morals are of very different sorts. Gower's interest is more social than individual: all of Florent's behavior is motivated by an effort to keep up appearances, typical of a poet whose entire work constitutes a defense of inherited social models. Chaucer, on the other hand, is more interested in the individual than in the social; "viola pourquoi la poésie de Chaucer nous touché plus pourfondément que celle de Gower." Dauby's conclusions on Gower are based on a rather small sample of the Confessio; her conclusions on Chaucer don't seem to be based very closely on her sample at all. There are also three major factual errors on the first page of the essay, which don't however impinge on the author's argument. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 13.1]

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

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