Gower Bibliography

Gower, Chaucer, and the Classics: Back to the Textual Evidence

Schmitz, Gotz. "Gower, Chaucer, and the Classics: Back to the Textual Evidence." In Recent Readings. Papers Presented at the Meetings of the John Gower Society at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, 1983-88. Ed. Yeager, R.F.. Studies in Medieval Culture (26). Kalamazoo, MI: Western Michigan University, 1989, pp. 95-111.


Considers both the textual and the manuscript evidence for Chaucer's and Gower's knowledge of the works of Virgil, who is often mentioned alongside Ovid as one of the most important classical influences in the late Middle Ages. In their retellings of the story of Dido and Aeneas, which Schmitz uses as his primary example, both poets adopt Ovid's view of Dido's misfortune, rather than Virgil's view of Aeneas' heroic calling. Gower shows no familiarity at all with Virgil's version, a lack of knowledge confirmed by his references to Virgil elsewhere in CA. Chaucer mentions Virgil more knowledgeably but remains equally bound to Ovid's version of the story, and may even have drawn his Virgilian material from a later French historical romance rather than from the original. The absence of direct knowledge of Virgil is consistent, Schmitz notes, with what others have observed about the lack of books in late medieval England, and suggests the need for care in our references to "classical influences" in fourteenth-century poetry. [PN. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 9.2]

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

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