Gower Bibliography

The Allegorical Figures in Gower's Confessio Amantis

Cherniss, Michael D.. "The Allegorical Figures in Gower's Confessio Amantis." Res Publica Litterarum 1 (1978), pp. 7-20.


Cherniss examines the origins and characteristics of the allegorical figures Venus, Cupid, Nature, and Genius (as well as the concepts of Will and Reason). While the CA attempts to create some coherence out of these figures – specifically a reconciliation of natural love and charity – Cherniss feels that the result is often dissatisfying. Venus and Cupid both embody a natural love, and they seem morally neutral. This neutrality is also seen in Nature (for instance, in the tolerant attitude to incest expressed in her name). Here Gower follows Jean de Meun more than Alain de Lille. Cherniss further points out that "neither Venus nor Nature are permanently allied with Reason in the Confessio" (12). The result is that Genius is caught between representing Reason and the other figures. In general, "Genius is more fully the champion of Reason and Christianity than of Nature and Venus" (13). The only way to reconcile the two sides is to see Genius as representing human nature. The problematic relationship between Venus and Genius becomes especially apparent when Genius substitutes the sin of incest for lechery (what Venus condones) in Book 8. Cherniss argues that Gower deals with lechery in Book 7, where he discusses chastity. In the same book, Genius appeared to give up his role as confessor for Venus, yet later in Book 8 it is not clear whether he is still her servant. Indeed, the conclusion of the CA, where Amans comes to recognize his old age, struggles to sort out the various and conflicting meanings of the major allegorical figures. [CvD]

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

Gower Bibliography Editors Only: edit metadata