Advertisement

The Peasants’ Revolt: Cock-crow in Gower and Chaucer

The Peasants’ Revolt: Cock-crow in Gower and Chaucer

Astell, Ann W.

Essays in Medieval Studies, vol. 10 (1993)

Abstract

Geoffrey Chaucer and John Gower both responded to the tumultuous, end-threatening events of the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt in the linked forms of beast-fable and dream-vision. Gower did so in his Anglo-Latin Vox clamantis (Book 1), and Chaucer in the Nun’s Priest’s Tale which appears at the end of Fragment VII, the so-called “Literary Group” of the Canterbury Tales. Despite the current flourishing of Gower studies, the two works have never been compared systematically, even though Gower’s work almost certainly preceded and influenced Chaucer’s “tale . . . of a cok.” The marked structural similarities between them and their particular, respective use of the cock as an image of the poet serve to highlight key differences between Gower’s authorial self-definition and Chaucer’s. Gower certainly ascribed to himself as poet the role of teacher and preacher–a two-fold role that Chaucer assumed only with diffidence and out of conditional necessity. The Nun’s Priest’s emphasis on the homiletic “moralite” (VII.3440) of his tale marks it as yet another Chaucerian rejoinder to the “moral Gower” hailed in Troilus and Criseyde (5.1856)–this time, in answer to the pressing question of the court-poet’s ethical responsibility in apocalyptic social circumstances.

Click here to read/download this article (HTML file)

Sign up to get a Weekly Email from Medievalists.net

* indicates required

medievalverse magazine