Gower Bibliography

John Gowers Erzahlkunst

Esch, Arno. "John Gowers Erzahlkunst." In Chaucer und seine Zeit: Symposion fur Walter F. Schirmer. Ed. Esch, Arno. Tübingen: Neimeyer, 1968, pp. 207-239.


To reveal something of Gower's artistry, Esch looks at the Tale of Rosiphelee, the Tale of Albinus and Rosemund, and the Tale of Constance. The Tale of Rosiphelee is indicative of Gower's aims in the CA, since it promotes marriage, rather than just courtly love. Rosiphelee's vision of the ladies on horses is full of tension and suspense, and the narrator's easy transitions in point of view provide rich psychological insights into Rosiphelee's mind. In the second narrative, Gower makes Albinus much more in love with Rosemund. Whereas Gottfried of Viterbo (Gower's source) focuses on the curse that follows Albinus' actions, Gower primarily sees Albinus' boasting as a breach of the law of love. More attention is thus given to the feast, to the magical artwork on the cup made from Gurmond's skull, and to the dramatic moment when Albinus cryptically asks Rosemund to drink with her father. Albinus here conflates his victory in battle with a victory in love, and so in boasting he plays herald to himself. The rest of the tale – with its focus on fortune, discord, and the "wylde loves rage" (CA 1. 2620) – is entirely a "Tragödie der Liebe" ("Love tragedy"; 225). Finally, Esch compares Gower's Tale of Constance with the versions by Trivet and Chaucer. Gower creates unity by making the various episodes parallel with one another and by occasional foreshadowing of later events. Whereas Chaucer opens the tale by giving much more social context and background and initially makes Constance known less for her piety than for her beauty, Gower is more focused and abstract in his narration. In fact, Gower "erwähnt kaum ein Detail, das nicht direct mit der Handlung verknüpft ist" ("mentions hardly a detail which is not directly tied to his plot"; 233). Gower creates less pathos than Gower and separates Constance from her world by making her "einsamer, größer, unsentimentaler" ("more lonely, larger, less sentimental"; 234). Chaucer mixes irony with saintliness, but Gower is completely focused on creating a saint's legend. Still, Gower occasionally introduces brief psychological insights, as when we see Allee's thoughtfulness in dealing with Domilde's crimes (a moment which leads to a more judicial trial and punishment). Thus, Gower shows great skill in the construction of narratives, even though his artistry may not be as exceptional as Chaucer's. [CvD]

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Style, Rhetoric, and Versification
Confessio Amantis

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