Gower Bibliography

Exemplary Cases: Marriage as Legal Principle in Gower's 'Traitié pour les amantz marietz'

Lipton, Emma. "Exemplary Cases: Marriage as Legal Principle in Gower's 'Traitié pour les amantz marietz'." Chaucer Review 48 (2014), pp. 480-501. ISSN 0009-2002


Lipton argues that Gower's discussion of marriage in the 'Traitié' is shaped as much by legal doctrine (and his own legal training) as by the sermons and confessional manuals that are more frequently cited and that lie closer to the heart of CA. She notes the prevalence of legal vocabulary in the 'Traitié' and traces the way in which the opening ballades incorporate marriage within an account of the descent of law from divine to natural to positive and from old to new. Both law and marriage, for both Gower and for the writers of the legal treatises that she cites, are regulatory in nature, and they originate in paradise in response to man's fallen condition. The main body of the 'Traitié' is shaped by the "case-based ethical thinking" of Aristotle and Aquinas that was central to medieval legal theory as well, and in contrast to their analogues in CA, the exempla that Gower presents, with their emphasis on punishment, "repeatedly represent transgressions of marriage as occasions for exercising justice rather than teaching moral truth" (495). The address of the poem "a tout le monde en general," finally, reflects an evolving view of the social foundations of law. "The poem makes marriage instead of kingship emblematic of legal principles. Rather than presenting law as a divinely given monarchical prerogative, the balades feature principles of common good and contractual integrity, which are essential to the law as a foundation of wide-ranging social order. The poem thus reflects both a contemporary legal view of marital crime as social and the increasingly broad public participation in English criminal justice" (497). [PN. Copyright. The John Gower Society. JGN 33.2.]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Confessio Amantis
Traité pour Essampler les Amants Marietz

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