Thought by most, but non all, to be an lament for Blanche, Duchess of Lancaster, who died of pestilence in 1368, and a solace for her hubby ( and Chaucer ‘s frequenter ) John of Gaunt. Blanche can be seen in the Lady White, the object of the Black Knight ‘s fondness ; the Black Knight himself represents John of Gaunt. Gaunt besides appears in the character of Octavian, the great Roman emperor hunting in the Narrator ‘s dream. Augustus was besides the name of Virgil ‘s frequenter, and for whom Ovid ‘s Metamoprhoses, from which the narrative of Ceyx and Alcyone is taken, was to observe. This is merely one illustration of Chaucer tie ining himself with the celebrated classical writers, popular with his blue coevalss, even at this early phase in his literary calling.
The verse form is portion of the mediaeval ‘dream-vision ‘ tradition, and the signifier would be really familiar to Chaucer ‘s readers. Poems in this mode are either religiously/ philosophically indicative or prophetic, or like the verse form here, courtly dream-visions of the Gallic manner. Dreams were seen as agencies by which truth and apprehension could be made evident to ordinary, mortal work forces and adult females through supernatural agencies.
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The verse form is singular for its heavy usage of classical beginnings and the grade to which it was influenced by Gallic literary tradition. In the old ages taking up to the verse form ‘s publication Chaucer was in France, foremost with Edward III ‘s ground forces, so as a captive, so later still executing minor diplomatic responsibilities. At place excessively Chaucer would hold been in regular contact with Gallic civilization, French was the linguistic communication of the royal tribunal until the terminal of the century, and several Gallic poets were members of the royal tribunal, into which Chaucer had married, or were at least visitants to it. The poets Guillaume de Lorris, Froissart and Machaut were large influences on this work, peculiarly de Lorris ‘s Roman de la Rose and Jugement dou Roy de Behaingne by Machaut.
The verse form could be seen to be in three parts ; the first incorporating the storyteller ‘s description of his sleepless state of affairs and his narrative of Ceyx and Alcyone ( lines 1-290 ) ; the 2nd is from when he awakes in his dream in the beautiful chamber, until the narrative starts between him and the Black Knight ( 290-475 ) . The 3rd is from here to the terminal.
The first 24 lines resemble Froissart ‘s Paradis. In this subdivision the storyteller is wracked with wakefulness ; the ground why is non clear, but some suggest it is love-sickness, as in Paradis, and this would surely suit with subjects in the remainder of the verse form. What of all time the cause, he is listless, hopeless and seemingly close to decease. Death brought about by sorrow is another repeating subject in the poem- the storyteller believes he must certainly decease from his melancholy ; Alcyone dies within three yearss of detecting her hubby is dead ; and the Black Knight is close to suicide.
To go through the dark he picks up the Metamorohoses and the narrative he reads from it serves for us as a nexus with the chief narrative of the dream. Like the storyteller, Alcyone is insomniac, in this instance because she does non cognize the destiny of her hubby who is off at sea. She invokes the aid of Juno and with the goddess ‘s aid discovers Ceyx is dead and is grief smitten, merely like the Black Knight is over the loss of his love. Chaucer cut short Ovid ‘s original story- Ovid gave the lovers solace by turning the twosome into birds, but the Narrator here ends the narrative with Alcyone ‘s decease. The lone solace gained is the storyteller ‘s happy phantasy that he excessively could strike a trade with the Gods to acquire himself a good darks sleep- his naif offer of a rich bed with satin sheets compares humorously with Alcyone ‘s offer to Juno of her very psyche.
The storyteller does eventually pull off to acquire to kip, and the dream universe into which he enters can be compared nicely with the sleeping universe he leaves behind. From flushing and darkness we move to forenoon and visible radiation, the storyteller ‘s demeanor alterations from the lassitude and melancholy to bright action. The unnaturalness of his sleepless province contrasts with the abundant nature nowadays in even in merely his dream chamber- he is awoken by birds singing in his room, he knows instinctively that it is spring, the season associated with love and new birth, and he can hear the sound of the Hunt outside his window. It is as if he has done what Alcyone could not- awoken from his heartache and sorrow and started his life afresh. The description of May is similar to that in Roman de la Rose, and Chaucer acknowledges this with frescoes from that narrative on the walls of the dream chamber.
Chaucer has managed to do this dream really a realistic, reliable dream- one minute the dreamer is naked in his bed, serenaded by birds, the following on his Equus caballus following the Hunt. The spring from action to action, or the spreads between them experience really natural in the dream state of affairs.
The chief portion of the verse form is the narrative between the Black Knight and the Dreamer. The dreamer is guided off from the Hunt to the Knight by a little Canis familiaris, the Canis familiaris perchance being another Gallic influence on the verse form. The reader finds out the Knight is sorrowing for his dead married woman when we hear his vocal ( line 479 ) , as the storyteller is coming up behind him. But somehow the Dreamer misses this and returns to oppugn the Knight, seeking to happen out what is doing his great sorrow. Like the storyteller inquiring how he still lives while enduring such insomnia, the Knight admirations excessively how he still lives with this hurting: In lines 587-88 he says ‘This ys my peyne without ruddy, / Always deynge and be non ded, ‘
He bemoans the unreliable nature of Fortune, whom he believes is out to trck ad trap honest work forces. /he describes a game of the with Fortune, in which he loses after Fortune takes his queen through hocus-pocus. The image of Fortune contrasts with that of the one she has taken from the Knight, who was the tallness of equity and honestness. The drawn-out and inflated description he gives of his married woman closely follow Gallic conventions, the flawlessness of her physical organic structure and her disposition are asserted with their comparing to both Biblical and Classical characters. However, Murial Bowden points out that Chaucer moves off from the Gallic manner in that the topic of all this worship in his verse form is dead. She goes on to state that while some critics have called the Narrator ‘stupid ‘ for non recognizing the Lady White is dead, to the mediaeval audience he was a device, and he would be required non to happen out the truth until the terminal, giving the Knight a opportunity to give his eulogium. The contrast in the characters of simple storyteller and impressive Knight could function other intents for Chaucer- If we assume John of Gaunt to be the adult male behind the character of the Knight maybe we could see Chaucer in the Narrator, utilizing self-deprecation to blandish his frequenter. On the other manus, Chaucer is believed to hold been sympathetic to Wycliffe and the Lollards, and their desires for literalism and simpleness may be seen to be championed when the Narrator ends the Knight ‘s metaphor-laden address with the really blunt ‘She Y ded! ‘ ( 1309 ) .
Whether we see the Narrator as ‘stupid ‘ or non, he is surely certain of himself and his abilities. He claims to hold had a dream that defines all understanding- yet he gives it a go anyhow, promoting himself above the Biblical dream translator Joseph. He is confidant he can work out the Knight ‘s job if he can merely acquire to the nub of what it is. He reads, and his relationship with books seems really similar to what a modern reader ‘s might be- he has a book of narratives at his bedside for bed-time reading. Books hold power for him- he falls asleep on the book after reading it and goes on to hold this antic dream. Throughout his narrative he uses some characters that would be familiar to most of his audience- chiefly Esther and Joseph from the Bible, and some that merely the more educated – richer – readers would appreciate. I think it is in this respect that we can most decidedly see Chaucer. The Book of the Duchess is his first major work- he would desire to be out to affect. Some critics claim the verse form could non be directed to Blanche or John of Gaunt because person of Chaucer ‘s position would non near person of Gaunt ‘s. But in this verse form he is stating ‘I am worthy, my work deserves to be ranked amongst the best ‘ .
The verse form may hold been written for a individual, private event- the decease of Blanche, but its subjects of heartache, the foolishness of contending luck are cosmopolitan and public. It tries to offer solace, and at first it is difficult to see where the solace is, and for whom. Te fact he is composing approximately could intend the Narrator is cured of his unwellness. The is surely no solace for Ceyx and Alcyone. So the lone 1 left is the Black Knight who does look to see some sort of katharsis brought approximately by the storyteller ‘s inquiries, right at the really terminal. So possibly Chaucer is stating to Gaunt everything and everyone is fleeting- he must travel on.