Gower Bibliography

Quellen und Plan der Legende of Goode Women und ihr Verhältnis zur Confessio Amantis

Bech, M. "Quellen und Plan der Legende of Goode Women und ihr Verhältnis zur Confessio Amantis." Anglia 5 (1882), pp. 313-382.

Review

Bech analyzes Chaucer's Legend of Good Women (LGW) not only in relation to Gower's CA, but also in comparison with works by Ovid and Boccaccio, among others. The first section (314-65) thus catalogues the various sources for the LGW. The story of Pyramus and Thisbe is the first major tale where Bech closely compares Gower and Chaucer. Chaucer's superiority is clear, for he copies Ovid faithfully and with rich psychological insight. Gower lacks an artistic eye for dialogue and monologue, and generally turns Ovid's "schöne miniaturbild" (320) into mere plot summary. Next, Bech turns to the story of Aeneas and Dido, which both authors tell in the contemporary language of chivalry and courtly love. Gower gives a very general account of this narrative, however, and his reference to King Menander (in Dido's letter) is a misreading of Ovid's phrase "vada Meandri" that Chaucer avoids (323-24). Bech further notes that while Gower makes no mention of Jason's adventure on Lemnos (as Chaucer does), he does relate the story of Jason and Medea at length. Bech argues that Chaucer and Gower use the same source (Benoît de Sainte-Maure) independently from one another (332). The story of Lucrece is also borrowed independently, although Bech suggests that at a crucial moment in the narrative (where Lucrece's relatives argue for forgiveness on the basis of other examples), both Gower and Chaucer turn to Livy rather than Ovid. Yet another tale where Chaucer and Gower do not borrow from one another is the story of Ariadne. Gower does not have Minos imprison Theseus and omits some of the latter's dramatic dialogue with Ariadne. Nevertheless, both writers elaborate on two points, namely the story of how Minos's son Androgeus was killed in Athens, and the defeat of the monster. Any parallels at this point may be explained by the possibility that they both used similar medieval manuscripts of Ovid, as well as by the fact that the means of killing the Minotaur may be influenced by the biblical narrative of the dragon in Daniel 14. Similar conclusions about Gower and Chaucer's independent story-telling are drawn about other narratives (including the story of Procne and Philomela and the story of Phyllis and Demophoon) before Bech turns in part 2 (365-71) to a more direct comparison between the CA and the LGW. Aside from the fact that both works use classical sources and have an "erotischen charakter" (365), Gower borrows much from Chaucer's Prologue to the LGW. Although Gower downplays Cupid's role, he too uses the deities of love (Cupid and Venus), sets his narrative in the month of May, and has Venus tells Amans to confess his love, just as Alceste tells Chaucer to write the LGW as an act of penitence. While it might be objected that the Romance of the Rose was the source for both authors, it seems improbable that two poets with such different poetic talents ("leute von so ganz verschiedener dichterischer begabung" 368) would borrow the same material. It seems more likely that, for instance, Gower's praise of Alceste is the result of Chaucer's "verherrlichung dieser frau" (368). When Gower tells the story of Alceste in Book 7, certain plot details suggest an acquaintance with the LGW. Bech indeed dates the CA later than the LGW, although when it comes to the legends themselves (rather than the prologue), Gower's only indebtedness may be his mention of the death of Cleopatra. When Gower mentions Cleopatra and Thisbe in Book 8 as members of the company of young lovers, he names them in the same sequence as their tales are related in the LGW, but this may be due to the fact that both women led similar lives: they both committed suicide and their lovers followed suit. Part 3 (371-82) of Bech's study focuses on the structure and plan of the LGW, although he includes some brief commentary on the Man of Law's Tale and its relation to the CA (376). [CvD]

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

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