Gower Bibliography

Giving Each His Due: Langland, Gower, and the Question of Equity

Van Dyk, Conrad. "Giving Each His Due: Langland, Gower, and the Question of Equity." Journal of English and Germanic Philology 108 (2009), pp. 310-315.


Van Dijk argues that, in their respective wrestlings with "the question of sovereignty, whether the king . . . is 'legibus solutes,' or free from the law," Gower and Langland "despite their ostensible ideological differences . . . share a legal and political reference field that needs further study, and that discloses some surprising similarities" (310). He concludes that "the definition of equity that lies behind "Piers" and the CA is Ulpian's maxim that justice gives to each his due or law. The primary terms that describe this principle, as Gower and Langland interpret it, are consistency, uniformity, and reciprocity. As a result . . . equity is not to be associated strictly with the prerogative courts, but encapsulates instead the correct way to administer the law. Equitable justice is fair, and that is why it can sometimes seem fearful. Lastly, whereas justice is in theory strictly separate from the law, in practice the two are frequently conflated" (333-34). More specifically, "for Langland, this means that there is not a fundamental difference between Reason's call for the enforcement of the rigor of the law and the virtue of Justice in the later passus . . . . In the Mirour, Gower similarly associates equity with the scales of justice. The main point about equity, then, is that it considers all to be equal before the law and gives each his due reward or punishment . . . . In Gower's [CA] Book 7, the exposition of Pity entails that even the king's mercy must be without favor and follow the strictures of law and justice . . . . In nearly every instance the hope is that, if the proper administration of the law is hampered in any way, then the king might correct the problem so that the law can once more be applied justly to all who are subject to it" (334). [RFY. Copyright. The John Gower Society. JGN 28.2]

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

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