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Images of Kingship in Chaucer and his Ricardian Contemporaries

Images of Kingship in Chaucer and his Ricardian Contemporaries

Series: Chaucer Studies
Volume: 39
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 190
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  • Book Info
    Images of Kingship in Chaucer and his Ricardian Contemporaries
    Book Description:

    The idea of kingship forms a recurrent theme in the poems of the so-called "Ricardians", John Gower, William Langland, the ‘Gawain’-poet and Chaucer - unsurprisingly, during a period of considerable turmoil. This book aims to widen understanding of these poets through an examination of the theme in ‘Confessio Amantis’, ‘Piers Plowman’ and the works of the ‘Gawain’-poet and then setting these against the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, the most well-known and studied of the Ricardians. It brings the other poets' work into sharper focus, showing that despite a diversity in style and approach, common concerns and attitudes underpin all of the poets under consideration. SAMANTHA RAYNER gained her PhD from Bangor University; she is currently Senior Lecturer in Publishing, Anglia Ruskin University.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-646-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Preface
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. [ix]-[x])
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    When John Burrow defined the poetry of the late fourteenth century as ‘Ricardian’, he linked it to the King in a way even he admitted was ‘not perfectly apt’.¹ The period was an unstable one for England, as Richard II’s rule took the country from one political crisis to another. The writers who lived through it reflect the shifting nature of their world in the range of styles they use and the attitudes they portray.

    Though these styles are very different, the challenges that their works present actually allow for a more focused pursuit of specific themes. Studies in medieval...

  6. 1 Gower: The Confessio Amantis
    (pp. 5-34)

    Gower’s Confessio Amantis is a very substantial poem. Its eight books run to some thirty thousand lines, about twenty-five per cent longer than the Canterbury Tales as we have it. It survives in over forty manuscripts,¹ which preserve two main versions: the earlier recension dedicated to Richard II and the later, more critical of Richard’s reign, dedicated instead to Henry of Derby, the future Henry IV. The earlier recension was written about 1390 and the later one about 1392–3.² The poem was immediately popular, and very soon translated into portuguese and Spanish, an unusual and expensive undertaking. Caxton printed...

  7. 2 Langland: Piers Plowman
    (pp. 35-60)

    Although very little is known about William Langland, the fifty-two manuscripts that survive of Piers Plowman suggest that it was one of the most widely read poems of its time. These manuscripts represent at least three, and arguably four, separate versions of the poem, each with its own identity, which have been respectively designated as the A, B, C and Z texts. The B text will be the one used here, as it is the most complete: it is also the base text of A. V. C. Schmidt’s accessible edition of the poem.¹ The B text has been dated to...

  8. 3 The Gawain-poet
    (pp. 61-82)

    Our third poet is the presumed author of the four poems in British Library manuscript Cotton nero A.x. He is usually called the Gawain-poet, and his poems demonstrate clear similarities of language, style and theme: among these, the poet’s treatment of the ideas of courts and kingship are consistent enough on many points to bear detailed examination and to contribute to a wider perspective of fourteenth-century literary representations of this topic. The manuscript has been dated to around 1400, and MED dates the poet’s work to about 1390, which would mean that he was writing at the same time as...

  9. 4 Chaucer
    (pp. 83-159)

    This final chapter is concerned with the work of the best-known of all the Ricardian poets, Geoffrey Chaucer: ‘the most receptive as well as the most inventive English poet of the Middle Ages’.¹ Chaucer’s work has been consistently celebrated for its breadth of scope and range of styles; writing while in the service of different members of the royal family through the reigns of three different monarchs, he was in an excellent position to comment on the political and social events of his time. He travelled widely, carrying out royal business on the continent, and knew the courts of France...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 160-162)

    Richard II’s reign was marked by a particular concern to establish the king as a divinely confirmed ruler. This concern manifested itself in the construction of an image of powerful and authoritative majesty that was to prove ironically vulnerable and insubstantial under pressure. However, the poets who wrote during Richard’s reign did not concentrate on portraying kings as possessors of a quasi-divine status, or directly reflect on or engage with Richard’s governance; they did, as we have seen, unite instead in their focus on the individual subject’s place in a kingdom beset with corrupt practices and unstable leadership. This kingdom...

  11. Appendix: Prologues to The Legend of the Good Women
    (pp. 163-164)
  12. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 165-172)
  13. Index
    (pp. 173-178)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 179-181)