Confessio amantis  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
love poetry

Confessio Amantis ("The Lover's Confession") is a 33,000-line Middle English poem by John Gower, which uses the confession made by an ageing lover to the chaplain of Venus as a frame story for a collection of shorter narrative poems. According to its prologue, it was composed at the request of Richard II. It stands with the works of Chaucer, Langland, and the Pearl poet as one of the great works of late 14th century English literature.

In genre it is usually considered a poem of consolation, a medieval form inspired by Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy and typified by works such as Pearl. Despite this, it is more usually studied alongside other tale collections with similar structures, such as the Decameron of Boccaccio, and particularly Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, with which the Confessio has several stories in common.

The tales

The treatment given to individual stories varies widely. The Apollonius is nearly 2,000 lines long, but at the other extreme, the distinction between tale and allusion is hard to define; for example, summaries of the story of Troilus and Criseide appear in three places (II.2456–2458, IV.7597–7602, VIII.2531–2535), but none can really be described as a "tale". It follows that it is hard to produce a definite figure for the number of tales in the Confessio, since the line between allusion and tale is hard to define. Even excluding the very shortest, however, there are over 100 individual stories (Macaulay 1908), making them more numerous than the strict 100 of the Decameron, and much more so than the Canterbury Tales or the Legend of Good Women.

None of Gower's tales are original. The source he relies on most is Ovid, whose Metamorphoses was ever a popular source of exempla; others include the Bible and various other classical and medieval writers, of whom Macaulay (1908) lists Valerius Maximus, Statius, Benoît de Sainte-Maure (the Roman de Troie), Guido delle Colonne (Historia destructionis Troiae), Godfrey of Viterbo, Brunetto Latini, Nicholas Trivet, the Romans des sept sages, the Vita Barlaam et Josaphat, and the Historia Alexandri Magni.

The best-known tales are those that have analogues in other English writers, since these are often studied for comparison. These include the Apollonius, which served as a source for the Shakespearean Pericles, and the tales shared with Chaucer, such as the tales of Constance (II.587–1603, also told by the Man of Law) and Florent (I.1407–1875, also told by the Wife of Bath).

List of the Tales

Book 1

  • The Tale of Acteon (I.330-388)
  • The Tale of Medusa (I.389-462)
  • Aspidis the Serpent (I.463-480)
  • The Sirens (I.481-530)
  • The Tale of Mundus and Paulina (I.761-1076)
  • The Trojan Horse (I.1077-1230)
  • The Tale of Florent (I.1407-1882)
  • The Tale of Capaneus (I.1980-2020)
  • The Trump of Death (I.2021-2253)
  • The Tale of Narcissus (I.2275-2366)
  • The Tale of Albinus and Rosemund (I.2459-2647)
  • Nebuchadnezzar's Vainglorious Punishment (I.2785-3042)
  • The Tale of Three Questions (I.3067-3402)

Book 2

  • The Tale of Acis and Galatea (II.97-200)
  • The Tale of the Travelers and the Angel (II.291-372)
  • The Tale of Constance (II.587-1612)
  • The Tale of Demetrius and Perseus (II.1613-1860)
  • The Tale of Deianira, Hercules, and Nessus (II.2145-2307)
  • The Tale of Geta and Amphitrion (II.2459-2500)
  • The Tale of the False Bachelor (II.2501-2781)
  • The Tale of Pope Boniface (II.2803-3040)
  • The Tale of Constantine and Sylvester




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Confessio amantis" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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