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.
Jordan, Robert M. "The Compositional Structure of the Book of the Duchess." 9 (1974): 99-117.
Geoffrey of Vinsauf's principles of "macro-rhetoric" shape the narrative structure of the Book of the Duchess (101). Examination of the structure of the Book of the Duchess indicates division into eulogy and consolation. Within this larger structure, smaller clear sections follow Vinsauf's "poetic-house" structure (103) and display amplificatio. The man in black, a portrait of John of Gaunt, instructs readers and the narrator in courtly virtue. The narrator's response, however, is personal, though in other places the narrator functions as a transitional device. We cannot read the narrator as a unified consciousness because he moves between these two roles. Once the dreamer shows his personal concern, the man in black expands his complaint d'amour. The dreamer's response seems inappropriate because readers share gentility with the man in black which the narrator does not. The irregularities of the text result from the fact that Chaucer did not write the Book of the Duchess organically, and this inorganic approach accommodates Seys and Alcyone's story.
Owen, Charles A., Jr. "The Tale of Melibee." 7 (1973): 267-80.
Chaucer may have translated Melibee between 1386 and 1390 when John of Gaunt was preparing to establish his wife's claim to the Castilian throne; thus Melibee would have been interesting for its significant parallels to Chaucer's situation, and for the figure of Dame Prudence. Melibee also discusses forgiveness, a theme which runs through the Canterbury Tales as a whole. The tale also centers on the moment of decision: Melibee can choose war or the reconciliation which Prudence urges. For all of its allegorical significance, however, the tale never loses the level of literal narrative. Melibee can also be read at the anagogical level as applicable to rulers and nations.
Palmer, John N. "The Historical Context of the Book of the Duchess: A Revision." 8 (1974): 253-61.
The letter from Luis de MÔle to Queen Phillipa, fully reprinted here with translation, poses a problem for the accepted date of Blanche of Lancaster's death. Careful examination of historical evidence suggests that Blanche must have died in 1368. Despite arguments to the contrary, Chaucer is not the man in black, and the Book of the Duchess was not written because Chaucer needed a new patron. The man in black speaks of Blanche in terms of married love, and he must be, therefore, John of Gaunt. Given the references to Lancaster and Richmond, Chaucer's audience would probably have interpreted this poem as a satire against Gaunt. Thus, scholars can date the poem between 1368 and 1372.