The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Condren, Edward I. "Of Deaths and Duchesses and Scholars Coughing in Ink." 10 (1975): 87-95.
The opening lines of the Book of the Duchess express the poet's search for his text as well as his desire for the lady. The poem will fulfill both longings, resulting in sleep, dreams, and poetry. Readers should be cautious as only puns and a title connote Blanche. In fact, the Queen's death may have occasioned most of the poem. The man in black is probably a love poet, suggesting that he represents Chaucer. The king, then, becomes the Earl of Richmond. Gaunt cannot be an inconstant lover because he did not love Constance of Castille, though he kept Katherine Swynford as a mistress. Thus Gaunt could not claim insult because he appears in the poem only briefly.
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.
Ferris, Sumner. "John Stow and the Tomb of Blanche the Duchess." 18 (1983): 92-93.
John Stow's Survay of London records the date on Blanche of Lancaster's tomb as 1368, thus corroborating the likely date for the Book of the Duchess as 1368.
Hardman, Phillipa. "The Book of the Duchess as a Memorial Monument." 28 (1994): 205-15.
Chaucer constructed the Book of the Duchess on the model of the elaborate tombs popular among the aristocracy in the Middle Ages. In poetry Chaucer could create an idealized image of Blanche of Lancaster, much the way a sculptor would make such an image for a tomb. The images of Seys and Alcyone that Chaucer creates also represent the "sorrow of death" (213).
Loschiavo, Linda Ann. "The Birth of 'Blanche the Duchesse': 1340 Versus 1347." 13 (1978): 128-32.
Given that laws considered "full age" to be 14 and that Blanche is considered of age to claim her father's inheritance, scholars can argue that Blanche was married at 12, a traditional age of marriage, and that she was born in 1347.
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.
Schless, Howard. "A Dating for the Book of the Duchess: Line 1314." 19 (1985): 273-76.
In line 1314 the shift in reference from man in black to king suggests that at least the conclusion to the Book of the Duchess was written around 1371-72, not, as most scholars think, a few months after Blanche of Lancaster died.
Stevenson, Kay Gilliland. "Readers, Poets, and Poems within the Poem." 24 (1989): 1-19.
Chaucer examines the relationship between reader and poet in the Book of the Duchess. This exploration is most apparent in the narrator's reaction to Seys and Alcyone's tale, the challenge to the reader posed in the Prologue, the man in black's story and the following elaboration in the man in black's dialogue, and the three attempts to court Blanche. Chaucer borrows from Froissart's Paradys d'Amours, Machaut's Dit de la Fonteinne amoureuse and the Jugement de Roy de Behaingne, and Roman de la Rose, altering them to change the reader's response to his telling of the story.