Gower Bibliography

'And to the herte she hireselven smot': The Loveris Maladye and the Legitimate Suicides of Chaucer's and Gower's Exemplary Lovers

Sobecki, Sebastian. "'And to the herte she hireselven smot': The Loveris Maladye and the Legitimate Suicides of Chaucer's and Gower's Exemplary Lovers." Mediaevalia 25 (2004), pp. 107-121.

Review

Both Chaucer and Gower depict both Dido (in HF 373, LGW 1349-52, and CA 4.132-34) and Pyramus and Thisbe (in LGW 850, 915 and CA 3.1444, 1490) as taking their own lives by stabbing themselves in the heart, a detail not found in any of their known sources. The priority of HF suggests that Chaucer set the example here, but Sobecki is not primarily interested in who came first. He instead focuses on the significance of the heart, not as the most efficient target of a suicide, as we might presume, but as the seat of the passion that motivates its victims: "Eneas's blade, it seems, is directed by Dido into her emotive centre in a frantic attempt to extinguish her suffering" (112). And he links the force that compels their death to common medieval descriptions of love-sickness, suggesting that the poets attempted to place the characters' deaths within the narrow grounds that under medieval theology and law might provide exoneration for suicide. Thus for both poets "Dido is not only a victim of Eneas's sloth; she is also a casualty of lovesickness, a "Minneopjer," which circumstance, at least in its pathological right, could exculpate her from mortal sin" (112). [PN. Copyright. The John Gower Society. JGN 28.2]

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

Gower Bibliography Editors Only: edit metadata