Gower Bibliography

Florent's 'Mariage sous la potence'

Green, Richard Firth. "Florent's 'Mariage sous la potence'." In John Gower, Trilingual Poet: Language, Translation, and Tradition. Ed. Dutton, Elisabeth and Hines, John, and Yeager, R.F. Cambridge: Brewer, 2010, pp. 254-62.


Green investigates the "folklore custom, apparently widespread in Gower's day, that offers a clear analogy for both [the] conditions" (255) central to Gower's "Tale of Florent" and Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Tale: a hero under sentence of death who saves himself by marrying a hag, who holds his salvation in her power. "Moreover, this custom, recorded in the folklore of several European countries in the Middle Ages and early modern period, fully accords with . . . the air of legality that Gower conveys" (256); "it is the custom of 'mariage sous la potence'" (256). Green cites examples from several countries, spanning several centuries, of the belief that if a condemned man accepts an offer of marriage from a prostitute, he will be pardoned and saved from the gallows, on the grounds that (in the words of an English common lawyer in 1602) "both their ill lives may be bettered by soe holie an action" (258). There are, however, difficulties in adopting this claim: Green admits that "the comparative scarcity of evidence for the custom in medieval England must be conceded" (259). Nonetheless, Green thinks "mariage sous la potence" offers a "soft-analogue" (a term coined by Peter Beidler) to the Loathly Lady stories, and for him "the possibility that [Gower] was inspired by this custom seems . . . extremely strong" (262). [RFY. Copyright. The New Chaucer Society. JGN 30.1]

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

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