Gower Bibliography

Place of Egypt in Gower's Confessio Amantis

Knapp, Ethan. "Place of Egypt in Gower's Confessio Amantis." In John Gower, Trilingual Poet: Language, Translation, and Tradition. Ed. Dutton, Elisabeth, and Hines, John, and Yeager, R.F. Cambridge: Brewer, 2010, pp. 26-34.


Knapp's is the first of two essays in this collection concerned with Gower's knowledge of regions lying at the edge of Europe. Egypt is depicted at length in two passages in CA, in the excursus on religions in Book 5 and in the tale of Nectanabus in Book 7. In the first, Gower condemns the Egyptians, who worship animals, more severely than he does the Chaldeans, who worship planets and elements, because of the loss of distinction between the worshipper and the worshipped and the "full immersion of human beings in the world of nature" (32). The tale of Nectanabus illustrates the limits of astrology, particularly as compared to God's power, but also its truthfulness, within those limits. "Within the closed circuit of astrology, the world does indeed proceed as a purely mechanical process, with the human positioned as simply another object pushed and pulled by celestial causation. And this fatalism, I would argue, is to be read as a specifically Egyptian temptation, as the surrender of the self into a world of natural mechanisms" (33). But while the death of Nectanabus suggests passing beyond astrology and sorcery, certain aspects of the story, including the accuracy of his prophecy and the portents surrounding Alexander's birth, suggest that "Egypt is not so easily left behind" (34). [PN. Copyright. The John Gower Society. JGN 30.1]

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Confessio Amantis

Gower Bibliography Editors Only: edit metadata