Gower Bibliography

Thyn Owne Book: A Note on Chaucer, Gower and Ovid

Callan, Norman. "Thyn Owne Book: A Note on Chaucer, Gower and Ovid." Review of English Studies 22 (1946), pp. 269-281.


Callan compares Gower and Chaucer's telling of the tale of "Pyramus and Thisbe." He notes Gower's aptitude for didacticism, and adds, "Gower has a simple mind, unencumbered with subtleties, and it is one of the incidental pleasures of reading the Confessio Amantis to see what surprising lessons he can extract from the most unpromising material" (270). Gower on the whole translates his original closely, "but he is never the slave of it" (271). For instance, he expands the description of Polyphemus' envious emotions and alters Ovid's somewhat abstruse account of Medea's necromancy. Chaucer's adaptation of Ovid is more varied. His rendering of "The Legend of Lucretia" stays so "tediously close" (272) to Ovid that it lacks all spontaneity. On the other hand, when Chaucer works freely with his source he produces more "felicitous re-creations of individuals words and lines" (274) than Gower. In "Pyramus and Thisbe," for instance, Chaucer retains the detail that the walls of the town are made from baked tiles ("coctilibus" in Ovid), and he renders Thisbe's hiding from the lion with the unique verb "darketh" (Ovid has "obscurum"). Chaucer's lines tend to resonate with more powerful echoes, and so Callan concludes that "[d]espite the virtues of Gower's rendering which make it at a first reading more attractive than Chaucer's, there is a strength in the latter which brings us back to his passages more than once, when we are content to let Gower remain a pleasant memory" (276). [CvD]

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

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