Age of Chaucer

Romaunt of the Rose: It’s a lengthy allegorical poem written in octosyllabic couplets and based upon Le Romaunt de la Rose of Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meung. According to critics, not the entire poem, but the first part of it may be written by Chaucer. In this dream poem the narrator enters the Garden of Mirth, where he sees various allegorized figures and falls in love with a rosebud. Part A and B describe the instructions of the god of love to the dreamer. Part C is a fragment and satirizes the hypocrisy of religion, woman and the social order. (French Group)
The Book of the Duchesse: It’s probably Chaucer’s earliest poem and is written in 1369. It’s a dream poem in thirteen hundred thirty four lines in octosyllabic couplets. It is believed to be an allegorical lament on the death of Blanche of Lancaster, the first wife of John of Gaunt, who died in 1369. (French Group) The poet falls asleep while reading the story of Ceix and Alcyone and in his dream he follows a hunting party. He meets a night in Black He meets a night in Black who played a game of chess with Fortuna and lost his queen. In answer of the dreamer’s question the knight declares that his beloved is dead now.
The hunting party reappears and a bell strikes twelve. The poet awakes and decides that the dream was so wonderful that it should be set into rhyme. In the French group there are also three poems: The Compleynt unto Pite, An A. B. C. and The Compleynt of Mars. Anelida and Arcite: An incomplete poem by Chaucer. The poem tells the story of faithless Arcite to Queen Anelida. The first 270 lines are written in rhyme royal and 140 lines in varying metrical patterns. (Italian Group) The Parlement of Fouls: It’s a dream poem by Chaucer in 699 lines of rhyme royal.

It has been thought to be a poem in celebration of a marriage, perhaps the marriage of the young Richard II and Anne of Bohemia in 1382. The poem is the first reference to the idea that St. Valentine’s Day was a special day for the lovers. The poet falls asleep after a prologue in which he makes the Boethian lament that he has not what he wants and he has what he does not want. He then has a vision of a garden in which three eagles pay attention to a beautiful ‘formel’ (female). Then there follows a long dispute about love and courtship.
The dispute centers on the opposition between the courtly love approach of the noble eagles and pragmatism of the duck. The debate is unresolved and the birds agree to assemble a year later to decide. (Italian Group) Troilus and Criseyde: Chaucer’s longest complete poem in 8239 lines of rhyme royal, probably written in the second half of 1380s. Chaucer takes his story from Boccaccio’s Il Filostrato. In the story Troilus falls in love with Criseyde, a widow whose father Calchas leaves Troy and joins the Greeks. The first three books tell us how Troilus with the help of Pandarus, Criseyde’s uncle, finally charms her.
In the fourth book, she has to go to the Greek camp because of the political reason and she promises to come back at the tenth day but she does not. Troilus writes to her but gets only evasive answers. Finally at his battle with Diamede he finds in Diamede’s hand a brooch which he had given to her. Ultimately he dies at the hand of Achilles. (Italian Group) The House of Fame: An unfinished by Chaucer in 2158 lines of octosyllabic couplets. After the prologue on dreams and an invocation on god of Sleep in Book I the poet dreams of the temple of Venus where on the walls he reads the depicted story of Dido and Aeneas.
He then comes out and sees a golden eagle shining in the sky. It is from the same family of Dante’s eagle in the ninth book of Purgatorio. In Book II, the bird seizes him and carries him to the House of Fame and tells him during the journey that in the House of Fame he will learn about love affairs and hypocrisies of man. In Book III he watches in House of Fame the candidates approach the throne for fame, some being granted and others rejected. The poem owes much to Dante’s Divine Comedy. Dante’s poem is also a dream poem and divided into three books.
And Dante in Divine Comedy is guided by Virgil. (Italian Group) The Legend of a Good Woman: It is possibly the first significant work in English to use the iambic pentameter or decasyllabic couplets which he later used throughout the Canterbury Tales. The poet falls asleep and sees in his dream that Cupid appears before him followed by twenty lady martyrs for love. Cupid accuses him for writing only about faithless female characters like Criseyde and as a penance instructs him to write about faithful women, beginning with Cleopatra.
But in the poem Chaucer only finished eight stories and the ninth is left unfinished. Some of the good characters are – Cleopatra, Dido, Thisbe, Medea and Lucrece. (Italian Group) Canterbury Tales (English Group) The Lak of Stedfastnesse (English Group) Compleynte of Chaucer to his Empty Purse (English Group) * There are two prose tales in Canterbury Tales: Tale of Melibeus and The Person’s Tale. William Langland| The Vision of William Concerning Piers the Plowman: An allegorical narrative poem written in unrhymed alliterative verse, divided into sections called passus (Latin for step).
The poem concerns the narrator’s intense quest for true Christian life, from the perspective of true Christian life, from the perspective of mediaeval Catholicism. The quest includes a series of dream visions and an examination into the three allegorical characters: Dowel (Do-Well), Dobet (Do-Better) and Dobest (Do-Best). A man named Will falls asleep and has a vision of a tower upon a hill and a fortress in a deep valley. Between these symbols of heaven and hell is a field full of folk, representing the world of mankind. In the early part of the poem Piers, the humble plowman, appears and offers himself as the narrator’s guide to truth.
The latter part of the poem is concerned with the narrator’s quest for the Dowel, Dobet and Dobest. This poem appears in many manuscripts in three forms – A, B, C text. The A text is 2500 lines long, the B is more than 7200 lines and C is based upon B and 7300 lines long. The latest theory is that A text is written by Langland; B and C are composed by some poorer poets. John Gower| Speculam Meditantis: It’s his first poem, written in French and for a long time was lost, being discovered in 1895. The poem is about 3200 lines of octosyllabic in twelve lines stanzas, concerned about a fallen man, his virtues and vices.
Vox Clamantis: The meaning of Vox Clamantis is ‘The Voice of One Crying Out’. It is a Latin poetry in 10265 lines of elegiac couplets that recounts the events and tragedy of the 1381 Peasant’s Rising. The poem takes aim at the corruption of the society and laments the rise of the evil. Gower takes completely aristocratic side in this poem and thinks the peasant’s claim as invalid and their actions are anti-Christ. Confessio Amantis: It is over 33. 000 lines long and containing 141 stories in octosyllabic couplets. According to the prologue it was composed at the request of Richard II.
The epilogue dedicates the work to Richard II and to Chaucer. None of the tales are original. The source he relies most is on Ovid whose Metamorphoses was ever a popular source of example. Others include Bible and other classical and mediaeval writers. The framework of the poem is the confession of a lover. The confessor helps to examine the lover’s conscience and tells him the stories of behaviour and fortune in love, organised under the heading of seven deadly sins. There are eight books – one for the each of the sins and one (Book VII) which gives an encyclopedic account of philosophy and morals. John Barbour|
Bruce: Barbour is the first Scottish poet to catch reader’s attention. His great work is Bruce (1375), a lengthy poem of twenty books. The book is really a history of Scotland’s struggle for freedom from the year 1286 till the death of Bruce. The central incident of the book is battle of Bannockburn. Sir John Mandeville| Travels: It is originally written in French. In English it has a preface in which it is stated that the author was Sir John Mandeville, a knight, crossed the sea in 1322 and travelled in many strange regions. Much of the personal narrative is invention. Nowadays the very existence of Sir John is denied.
The real author of this book is said to be Jehan de Bourgogne. John Wycliffe| * Many Latin books in support of his revolutionary opinions. * Tracts and pamphlets in English * An English translation of the Bible. Wycliffe was a teacher in the Oxford University. He attacked the pope and bishops, pointing at them their fine palaces, their likings for ceremony and the extent of their power. He said Christ’s life and preaching were more important than the Church itself. True Christianity was a gathering of believers who had no need of bishops, abbots, priors or any of the pope’s officials.
Then this brave man attacked other Catholic beliefs, particularly the one which says the bread and the wine served at Mass changes into the body and blood of Christ. The Church had taught this belief for centuries and refusal to accept it was called a heresy. Wycliffe spread his message by writing some of his book in English, the common men’s language, instead of Latin, the language of the Church. His followers were called Lollards, because of the low and quite way they said their prayers. Some of the Lollards went into the countryside to preach Wycliffe’s message to the common people.
Wycliffe told others to translate the Bible into English. Many people became Lollards, and therefore heretics. The punishment for heresy became death. Under a new law, heretics could be taken to a public place for burning. There they were tied to a post and given an opportunity to declare their belief to be false. If they refused to do this, a fire stick was lit around them and they burned. Still the Lollards increased in numbers and joined the other discontented people in the countryside. Sir Thomas Malory| Morte d’Arthur: It was originally written in eight books.
William Caxton published it in twenty one books in 1485. It is a compilation of all the Arthurian legends – the birth of Arthur, the twelve large battles fought by him against the Angles and Saxons, his marriage with Guinevere, his court Camelot and his Round table meeting with his knights, the adventures of Gawain, Gaheris, Tristram and Sir Launcelot (most well-known knight), Story of Sir Galahad (son of Launcelot and purest of all the knights) who led a search for a cup called Holy Grail, and the adulterous relationship between Launcelot and Guinevere.

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