Date of Award

Spring 1979

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Allen, Judson B.

Abstract

The Confessio Amantis. John Gower's greatest work, has suffered both misunderstanding and neglect. Scholars turning to the Confessio have been satisfied to investigate Gower's use of the obvious penitential and courtly themes. Certainly, these penitential and courtly themes exist, yet John Gower's Confessio Amantis also mirrors the political attitudes of the later fourteenth century. The theory of kingship and the political policy advanced throughout the poem demonstrate not only Gower's idealistic conception of sovereignty in the middle ages, but also the accepted traditional beliefs of the political philosophers before him. The Confessio stands, then, as a brilliantly artistic compendium of fourteenth century political attitudes and ideals. In a poem which ostensibly projects dissatisfaction and dismay, Gower has articulated the duties and actions of a reasonable and responsible king. Moreover, the Confessio constitutes the pattern for the first De Regemine Principum in the English language. The Confessio opens with a consideration of political love in which Gower discusses the power of that love to unit kingdoms and to maintain social order. He laments the passing of the world into the age of iron and clay, then, in a seeming about face, claims his inability to speak of political matters. Instead, he asserts he will treat love between men and women. Yet courtly love is not his focus since both Book VII and the Conclusion take as their subject sovereign government. What proports to be a disquisition on human love is, in effect, contained within a political setting. The beginning, end, and rhetorical middle of the Confessio Amantis articulate the necessity for order in government and virtue in kinship. In addition, the tales presented throughout the poem support and refine this direct political theory by illustrating in bono and in malo examples of sovereign policy...

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