Gower Bibliography

Rome, Troy, and Culture in the Confessio Amantis

Wetherbee, Winthrop. "Rome, Troy, and Culture in the Confessio Amantis." In On John Gower: Essays at the Millenium. Ed. Yeager, R.F. Studies in Medieval Culture (46). Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute, 2007, pp. 20-42.


Even in "Constance," Wetherbee affirms, Gower is more concerned with social difference than with religious difference; like "Apollonius of Tyre," the tale offers a universally applicable "integrity of conduct which in this tale happens to be congruent with the heroine's role as an embodiment of Roman Christianity, but which Gower is at pains to represent largely in social, rather than religious terms" (22). He finds the poem to be shaped not by the historical opposition between Christianity and other faiths but by a broader opposition that Gower himself constructs, between Rome, as a site of "wise government," "stable institutions," and "justice" (24), and the world of "ceaseless random movement" of knighthood and chivalry (25) which Gower depicts in the many tales in CA associated with Troy. Gower's Trojan characters have little of the epic dignity of their classical counterparts. To cite only highlights of Wetherbee's analysis: in the tale of "Orestes," "the anti-social aspect of knightly conduct is presented as a function of chivalric education itself" (27); "Paris and Helen" "reveals a society betrayed by its inability to acknowledge the reckless desire to which it owes its origin, and committed by its blind pursuit of that desire to inevitable dissolution" (36); and "Ulysses and Telegonus" reveals "the ultimately self-betraying character of the chivalric life as Gower understands it" (36). The "defining instance" of the opposition that Wetherbee finds is the "Tale of the False Bachelor," in which the Roman knight's pursuit of chivalry . . . cut[s] him off from the stable center of his world" (24). "Rome may or may not be the religious and political hub of the universe," he concludes, "but it is the cultural center around which the world of the Confessio is organized and thus an essential aspect of the identity of the 'wel menynge' lover" (39-40). [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 27.1]

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Confessio Amantis

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