Gower Bibliography

'Thing which a man mai noght areche': Women and Counsel in Gower's Confessio Amantis

Schieberle, Misty. "'Thing which a man mai noght areche': Women and Counsel in Gower's Confessio Amantis." Chaucer Review 42 (2007), pp. 91-109. ISSN 0009-2002


Peronelle's role in providing both the solution to the riddle and advice to the king on his own behavior in Gower's tale of "The Three Questions" is not unlike that which Chaucer attributes to such women as Prudence (in Melibee) and Alceste (LGW). It has its roots, Schieberle argues, in the role reserved for women as intercessors in contemporary ideology (as illustrated, for instance, in the historical examples of English queens pleading on behalf of the less powerful), which in turn has its roots in the model of Marian intercession, also invoked by Peronelle's humble conduct in the tale. Women were able to exercise such influence over their husbands and monarchs precisely because their "subordinate status allow[ed them] to challenge the king without threatening his ultimate authority" (93). "In Peronelle, Gower imagines the possibility that a woman could exercise power both privately and publicly" (95). As the daughter of one of the king's knights, however, not yet directly related to the king, Peronelle raises the threat of a woman acting independently, a problem that Gower resolves by the way in which he arranges for her to be married to the king, restoring the proper hierarchy of gender at the end. Peronelle is one of several examples of female counselors in CA, all of whom (unlike several of the males who appear in a similar position in the poem) are successful in their attempts to influence their kings. "Such a special status for women suggests strongly that Gower finds in the image of the woman advisor a compelling model for counsel in general" (92), a model that he himself imitates in his own efforts to offer non-threatening advice to his king. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 26.2]

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

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