Ambition and Anxiety in The House of Fame and The Garlande of Laurell
Marginalia, Vol. 2, Cambridge Yearbook (2004-2005)
Chaucer’s The House of Fame and The Garlande of Laurell by John Skelton consider the ways in which people’s reputations are made. These works share an understanding of fame as a kind of worldly immortality, achieved when a person’s name becomes inseparable from the record of their notable deeds, and both feature a personification of Fame, who presides (with different degrees of constancy) over the reputation-making process.
Following the conventions of dream-vision poetry, The House of Fame and The Garlande of Laurell feature narrators who are to some extent representative of their poets, and the personal investment this implies seems to shape the poems’ approach to fame. Both poems have a particular interest in how poets might share in the fame of their subjects. They respond, in other words, to the Petrarchan assertion that a poem could bring “undying fame, a secular immortality, to [the poet] and to his subject matter.