The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Condren, Edward I. "The Historical Context of the Book of the Duchess: A New Hypothesis." 5 (1971): 195-212.
Readers will never know with certainty the context of this poem, though we recognize that Blanche of Lancaster is the subject of this elegy. External evidence suggests that Chaucer wrote it between 1369 and 1387, but internal evidence points to a more specific date. The narrator's "phisicien" and the man in black's lady are one and the same. Also, the knight and the narrator provide two different reactions to Blanche's death. Further, the man riding toward Richmond cannot be the man in black because he is on foot and not associated with the hunt, and the riding man is not given a social rank. The knight has dedicated his service to Love, not to Blanche, so he cannot be her husband. The knight might be identified as Chaucer, particularly since the knight is a budding poet, and poets in Chaucer's other works often turn out to be Chaucer himself. In their two responses to death, the knight and the narrator seem to be two different figurations of the same person. The way in which the work progresses, then, depends on the process of Chaucer's patronage after the death of Blanche under Edward III, John of Gaunt, and Henry IV.