The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Anderson, J. J. "The Narrators in the Book of the Duchess and the Parliament of Fowls." 26 (1992): 219-35.
Though the narrators of Chaucer's dream visions seem to share the same naiveté, they are all variations upon the narrators of the French dream visions, and this fact suggests that Chaucer was experimenting with different narrative personas. Comparing the personas in Book of the Duchess and Parliament of Fowls makes this conclusion particularly clear. The two speakers open their poems differently, expressing different views of love, reading, and writing. Their experiences of the dream world are similar in that the dream world provides a welcome respite from the waking world, but in the end, neither narrator seems to profit much from the dream, though their responses to their dreams are quite different.
Carson, M. Angela. "Easing of the 'Hert' in the Book of the Duchess." 1 (1967): 157-60.
The story of Seys and Alcyone contrasts with the easing of heart which occurs in the dream section. The images of the hunt also anticipate the Knight's experience. The narrator provides the Knight a respite from his grief by having him tell of happier times.
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.
Connolly, Margaret. "Chaucer and Chess." 29 (1994): 40-44.
Chaucer's use of the chess metaphor in the Book of the Duchess is confused, even from a medieval perspective on the game. Chaucer's misunderstanding can be attributed to the fact that no English translation of Liber de ludo scaccorum existed at the time Chaucer wrote, though two French translations can be dated in the mid-fourteenth century. Chaucer's knowledge of chess came via the Roman de la Rose.
Dubs, Kathleen E., and Stoddard Malarkey. "The Frame of Chaucer's Parlement." 13 (1978): 16-24.
The opening stanza of the Parliament of Fowls expresses a poet's concern with shaping his raw materials into poetry. The writer-narrator of the Parliament is more detached than the narrator of the Book of the Duchess; the narrator of the Parliament achieves detachment through the frame of book, then dream. The dismissal of Somnium Scipionis in the opening stanzas of the Parliament can be read as part of Chaucer's concern with writing, and understanding the Parliament as a poem about writing illuminates the poem's circular structure.
Ellis, Steve. "The Death of the Book of the Duchess." 29 (1995): 249-58.
The title of the Book of the Duchess should be the Death of Blanche the Duchess. Though on the surface this distinction would seem trifling, each title makes a difference to the interpretation of the poem. The Book of the Duchess has been historically plagued by title problems, having been called the Dream of Chaucer, the Book of the Duchess, and the Death of Blanche. The critical emphasis on the Book of the Duchess as consolation hides the portrait of human beings caught between opposing forces. The two titles draw attention to the opposing interpretations of the poem as consolation or as cycle of pain.
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.
Finlayson, John. "The Roman de la Rose and Chaucer's Narrators." 24 (1990): 187-210.
Comparing Chaucer's dream vision narrators to the narrator in the Roman de la Rose illuminates the functions of Chaucer's narrators. In the Roman de la Rose the narrator has a number of different stances highlighting a variety of personality traits. Guillaume de Lorris's narrator psychologically coresponds to the author. In the Book of the Duchess, however, the narrator is not established with a particular autobiographical connection to the author. The places in which the narrator becomes autobiographical are merely narrative devices because texts like the Book of the Duchess and the Parliament of Fowls do not present a "consistent, 'comic persona'" (200). The narrator in House of Fame is not consistently the same, but he is constantly in attendance as the unifying device for the poem. In the Book of the Duchess and the Parliament of Fowls the narrator is not often present, nor is he consistent, and his statements show greater neutrality than previous scholars have thought.
Frank, Robert W., Jr. "The Legend of The Legend of Good Women." 1 (1966): 110-33.
The idea that the good women bored Chaucer has halted criticism of the Legend, though writers immediately following Chaucer's death seemed unaware that Chaucer thought the project unpleasant, and the Legend of Good Women remained a part of literary fare into the fifteenth century. Nineteenth-century critics derived the idea that the Legend bored Chaucer from the project's unfinished state and other assumptions about Chaucer's literary development not drawn from the work itself. Others point to passages of "mocking, humorous tone" (116). References to various women in the Book of the Duchess, the House of Fame, and the Parliament of Fowls, however, suggest that the material for the Legend had interested Chaucer for some time. He also rewrote the Prologue and mentioned the Legend in the Man of Law's Tale, surely not acts of boredom. Other passages which have been used to demonstrate Chaucer's boredom with his subject are in fact occupatio. The humorous tone does not present a problem because Chaucer characteristically lightens serious moments and because the topic itself (good women) evokes satire.
Friedman, John Block. "The Dreamer, the Whelp, and Consolation in the Book of the Duchess." 3 (1969): 145-62.
In the Book of the Duchess, the dog serves to draw the Dreamer and the man in black together, functioning as an instrument of healing. Before meeting the whelp, the Dreamer must join the hunt, a movement which suggests that he is ready to face a world which is awake. The dog appears to the Dreamer, coaxing him into a animal-filled forest where the Dreamer comes upon the man in black. The conversation resulting from the meeting of the two men will heal them in both a physical and psychological way. In associating the dog with physical healing, Chaucer follows a precedent established in the legend of Aesclepius, the Book of Tobit, the legend of Saint Roche, and the Tristan romance. Dogs were also associated with the search for truth in such authorities as Plato, though Chaucer probably drew his knowledge of dogs from the bestiary. By drawing the man in black and the Dreamer together, the dog leads them to healing through the recognition of the root of their sorrow and thus helps to release them from psychosomatic illness.
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).
Herzog, Michael B. "The Book of the Duchess: The Vision of the Artist as a Young Dreamer." 22 (1988): 269-81.
The Book of the Duchess is constructed on the tension between tradition and creativity that appears in the most basic aspects of the poem, including "the complex frame structure," "the ambivalent dreamer/ narrator," "the relationship between storytelling and dreams, and between experiential and book learning," and "the implications of these relationships for living and dying" (280). Chaucer uses the dream as a metaphor for poetry. As in Chaucer's other works, the narrator is the center of artistic questions. He has experienced suffering, and he finds the story to be a sleep aid. But the story discusses ways to deal with grief, and the narrator does not have to understand that to make the story effective for the reader. The active characters in Book of the Duchess use stories to untangle difficulties, since the poetry brings the relationship back to a realistic level.
Hill, John M. "The Book of the Duchess, Melancholy, and that Eight-Year Sickness." 9 (1974): 35-50.
In addition to Chaucer, poets like Guillaume de Machaut and Deschamps use what is traditionally love poem material to portray other states. For example, general melancholy and love melancholy share many symptoms. In the Book of the Duchess, the narrator's melancholy cannot be love because the narrator is not fixated on his beloved. Instead, the narrator suffers from a non-fatal head melancholy. The narrator's insomnia suggests his highly unnatural state, indicating that sleep is the only remedy. The insomnia results in a semi-hysterical attitude toward sleep for the narrator, who would like to sleep, but without dying as Alcyone did. Finally, Seys and Alcyone's story allows the narrator to sleep. In an appendix, Hill suggests a date for the Book of the Duchess, 1374.
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.
Martin, Carol A. N. "Mercurial Translation in the Book of the Duchess." 28 (1993): 95-116.
Chaucer employs figures of Mercury to camouflage gaps in the text. As a result, careful readers become even more painstaking when such a figure appears. Chaucer uses Mercury in Book of the Duchess as Juno's messenger. In order to give Mercury a role, Chaucer changes the story of Seys and Alcyone that he found in Ovid, Statius, and Machaut, though Mercury is not named. Chaucer alters the use of the word "goddess" so that he can install "language itself as the ultimate shape-shifter" (102). Chaucer even invests the dog with symbolic significance, creating a line of dog imagery throughout the poem until the dog materializes. The dog and other Mercury figures guide the reader beyond gaps in the text, "unite thematic and structural elements of the poem" (110), bring messages and guide souls.
Martin, Ellen E. "The Interpretation of Chaucer's Alcyone." 18 (1983): 18-22.
Chaucer uses the story of Seys and Alcyone in the Book of the Duchess in consoling the man in black because it is a tale of the desire for "true love and self-knowledge," not one of purposeless grief (21).
Morse, Ruth. "Understanding the Man in Black." 15 (1981): 204-08.
In the Book of the Duchess, the ambiguity of the dreamer's knowledge and the word "fers" remind readers of the separation between the world of the poem and the knowledge readers bring to it.
Palmer, John N. "The Historical Context of the Book of the Duchess: A Revision." 8 (1974): 253-61.
The letter from Luis de Mâle 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.
Payne, Robert O. "Making His Own Myth: The Prologue to Chaucer's Legend of Good Women." 9 (1975): 197-211.
The Prologue to the Legend of Good Women shows a standard Chaucerian narrator, an academic who relates his dream. Like the Book of the Duchess, the Parliament of Fowls, and House of Fame, the Legend of Good Women chronicles the development of a love poet. The narrator becomes progressively more integral to the prologues of these poems, gaining an identity and participating in the activity of the dream garden. In the Legend of Good Women, the narrator becomes a representative of Chaucer; as the narrator, Chaucer refers to his earlier work. Finally, the Prologue to the Legend of Good Women portrays the quest for an ars poetica.
Pelen, Marc M. "Machaut's Court of Love Narratives and Chaucer's Book of the Duchess." 11 (1976): 128-55.
Examining poems by Machaut and Froissart may help to illuminate Chaucer's early voice. Most of these poems are dream visions, and they follow a three-part structure in which the dreamer calls up a perfect garden, is met by a guide, and discovers a dispute which will work towards the resolution of his love-trials. Readers can also find this structure in poems like Phyllis and Flora, which is not technically a dream vision. In these French poems, classical references inform the images and the structure, as does a "larger memory of a common marriage theme" (130). Close examination also reveals borrowings from the Roman de la Rose. In the Book of the Duchess, Chaucer includes lines from Jugement dou Roy de Behaingne and Jugement dou Roy de Navarre. The structure of both poems falls into the traditional clerk-chevalier debate. Remede de Fortune integrates Boethian philosophy as a response to Ovidian infatuations. The lover's complaints against Fortune appear in the Book of the Duchess as the complaints of the man in black. Dit de la Fonteinne Amoureuse employs the traditions of complaint and consolation, and Chaucer borrows elements of this poem in the Book of the Duchess. In light of the borrowings from Machaut, readers must hear the Book of the Duchess as a French "love-debate at a Court of Love without a specific plea, contest, or decision" (147).
Phillips, Helen. "Structure and Consolation in the Book of the Duchess." 16 (1981): 107-18.
Readers' interpretations of the consolation in the Book of the Duchess rest on how they read the other parts of the poem. To readers, the work presents four parallel structures in the man in black's tale, Alcyone's story, the narrator's own situation, and the hunt. Many medieval works, both of art and literature, employ form to add to meaning. The Second Shepherd's Play, Pearl, and Piers Plowman use such typological imagery. Three of the four instances of parallelism in the Book of the Duchess end with the loss of a beloved object, but the man in black's tale seems to extend into the consolation. The reference to "Octavian" (368) probably denotes the story of Octavian and Sibyl. Careful analysis of this story may suggest an additional parallel to other situations in the poem. Finally, the Book of the Duchess demands that humans come to terms with mortality, but that mortality does not invalidate love.
Rendall, Thomas. "Gawain and the Game of Chess." 27 (1992): 186-99.
Chess was a popular game in medieval romances often played between the sexes as an excuse for courting. Also, the stake was often the loser's head. Other medieval works such as Les Eschez Amoureux, Garin de Montglane, Huon de Bordeaux, Book of the Duchess, and Guy of Warwick depict chess as part of the game of courtship. The use of chess terms to describe the game in which Gawain and the Green Knight participate suggests that the Pearl-Poet wants to present this game as if it were a game of chess.
Robbins, Rossell Hope. "Geoffroi Chaucer, Poète Français, Father of English Poetry." 13 (1978): 93-115.
Chaucer's early work is lost, though scholars conjecture that because the courts of Chaucer's early life were French-speaking, his early poetry was French. French continued to be used as a court language until approximately 1417, though it continued to be the professed language of noble families for some time thereafter. Chaucer's wife also spoke French and probably Flemish. The Book of the Duchess was not written in French because a small audience for English poetry was growing at the aristocratic level. Also, Chaucer probably wrote the Book of the Duchess to read before the personal staff of the Duke of Lancaster, most of whom spoke English. Certainly, Chaucer's early works followed the French tradition in a manner similar to that of Michael de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk. Anonymous French poems, while not attributable to Chaucer, may be considered similar to courtly love lyrics Chaucer may have composed. Chaucer borrowed heavily from French works by Machaut and Froissart as well as the anonymous Songe Vert. Froissart and Machaut, not earlier French romances, were his models for the Book of the Duchess.
Ross, Diane M. "The Play of Genres in the Book of the Duchess." 19 (1984): 1-13.
The Book of the Duchess contains three different genres, lyric, allegory, and proces, a narrative that proceeds step by step. Not only does this variety allow Chaucer to demonstrate writing by example, but it also allows him to contrast the story-telling capacity of each one. The poem becomes both a consolation for the man in black and Blanche's final resting place. The Book of the Duchess encompasses other lyrics which force the reader to examine carefully the meanings and places of these lyrics in the work to determine the allegory behind them. Chaucer asserts the primacy of narrative in this work.
Salda, Michael Norman. "Pages from History: The Medieval Palace of Westminister as a Source for the Dreamer's Chamber in the Book of the Duchess." 27 (1992): 111-25.
The dream chamber in the Book of the Duchess is probably connected to Chaucer's decision to have the dreamer fall asleep while reading, and to have his position be such that when he awakens, he sees a book. Thus his dream chamber is literally the book. Chaucer may also have been referring to the interior of Westminister Abbey or of the chapel of St. Stephen, since both were decorated with scenes depicting stories and accompanied underneath by glosses running the length of the wall.
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.
Walker, Denis. "Narrative Inconclusiveness and Consolatory Dialectic in the Book of the Duchess." 18 (1983): 1-17.
The Book of the Duchess simultaneously offers and denies consolation to the sorrowful man in black in two Affektkomplexes. Blanche focuses the poem as key to the man in black's sorrow and his consolation. In the end, the man in black is not comforted, but the reader perceives a genuine offer of solace.
Watts, Ann Chalmers. "Chaucerian Selves--Especially Two Serious Ones." 4 (1970): 229-41.
The separation between Chaucer the author and Chaucer the speaker seems to vary considerably throughout Chaucer's work. The relationship between the author and the speakers is also the relationship between the speakers and the worlds of their settings. The speaker is "normal" while the world is fantasy, and the speaker accepts his illusory world, asking the wrong questions or no questions at all. Thus, the narrator in the Book of the Duchess displays notable obtuseness in his conversation with the man in black, an obtuseness that points to the real world. In the House of Fame, readers experience a similar disjunction between the real world and the fanciful world, and at the end, the narrator denounces the surroundings. As in the House of Fame, the narrator of Troilus and Criseyde presents an interesting problem, particularly at the end of the poem when the distance between the narrator and the author collapses. The joining of author and narrator presents a distinct moral discernable in the serious tone and the absence of qualifing phrases. At the end of the poem, the speaker curses his world, and the author prays for salvation.
Whitman, F. H. "Exegesis and Chaucer's Dream Visions." 3 (1969): 229-38.
The Book of the Duchess, the House of Fame, and the Parliament of Fowls have structural similarities which imitate French love poetry. Each poem has a moral, though each includes substantial sections from classical works. The works of Ovid, Macrobius (on Scipio), and Virgil generate the themes of which the dream visions are contemplations. All three poems examine love as it relates to real and unreal happiness. The dream vision is the best way to examine and apply moral principles of love.
Zimbardo, Rose A. "The Book of the Duchess and the Dream of Folly." 18 (1984): 329-46.
In the Book of the Duchess Chaucer uses the relationship between fool and king to allow the narrator to offer folly as an antidote to the man in black's grief. Careful examination of the place of the fool in the medieval court suggests parallels between the way in which Chaucer treats the narrator and the way kings traditionally treated fools. As a fool, the narrator instructs the man in black, showing him a double view of life in which humans both order and create but are also confused.