Gower Bibliography

John Gower and the Last Years of Edward III

Stillwell, Gardiner. "John Gower and the Last Years of Edward III." Studies in Philology 45 (1948), pp. 454-471.


Stillwell explicates Gower's allusions to contemporary politics in the MO's section on kingship. Gower's opposition to taxing the clergy, for instance, makes sense in the light of recent events. When after a considerable truce the war with the French was renewed in 1369, the need to raise funds led to calls in the parliament of 1371 to tax the Church. Gower also expresses disapproval of Edward III's favourites, and particularly of his mistress, Alice Perrers. Stillwell demonstrates how the MO reworks the apocryphal story of "King, Wine, Woman and Truth" to castigate women who corrupt kings. Whereas in Book 7 of the CA the same story provides a more positive treatment of women (naturally, given the work's focus on courtly love), the MO only describes the woman who subjects the king to servitude. Stillwell next turns to the Chronicon Angliae, 1328-1388 to historicize Gower's commentary and provide a sketch of contemporary opinion on Alice Perrers and the Lancastrian party that supported her. Edward III is further compared negatively to Gower's King David. Whereas the good shepherd David removed the mangy sheep in his flock from the bad, Edward did nothing to halt the corruption of his court. Whereas David was a good harpist, Edward, in an image found in a contemporary sermon, allowed Alice Perrers to string a jarring melody. In fact, Gower suggests that if Edward wants to conquer the French then he should first fix the discord created by his bad harping at home (MO 22959-68). Gower's sympathies are thus with the Black Prince, with Peter de la Mare (imprisoned by the Gaunt-Perrers faction), and with the citizens of London (who opposed the Lancastrian party). Support for this view is found in the MO's mercantile and bourgeois bias. On the other hand, since Gower shows little direct partisanship, his criticism is invaluable for historians interested in making an ethical judgment of the main political figures of the 1370s. [CvD]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Backgrounds and General Studies
Biography of Gower
Confessio Amantis
Mirour de l’Omme (Speculum Meditantis)

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