GowerÕs Confessio Amantis
1. According to the introduction to John GowerÕs work, in what specific ways does he differ from his friend and admirer Geoffrey Chaucer?
2. How does Gower see himself in writing his first books?
3. Gower changes his stance in writing the Confessio. What does the title and content suggest? What does the book seem to do? What does it really do?
4. How does the elderly GowerÕs search for self-identity in the poem connect to the more universal idea of proper governing of the state?
5. How does GowerÕs retelling of the story of Philomene and Tereus differ from that of Chaucer? Why might Gower have adhered to closely to Ovid?
6. What purpose do the lines describing Pandion and his daughters serve in the poem?
7. Does Gower implicate Progne in the rape of her sister? How does he clear her of blame?
8. Where does Gower foreshadow the horror in the story?
9. How is TereusÕs response to Philomene a courtly love response? What is the poemÕs speakerÕs response to the irresistibility of courtly love?
10. Why might Philomene threaten, in the face of TereusÕs power, to tell the world of his deed?
11. To what does the speaker liken Tereus when he cuts out PhilomeneÕs tongue? What is ProgneÕs response to the story he tells?
12. To what debate that we have been considering does PhilomeneÕs prayer in prison connect? What seems to be GowerÕs position?
13. OvidÕs story is read by feminists as symbolic of the silencing of women. How does Philosmene overcome her disempowerment and how does it reflect a feminine response?
14. Why might Ovid not name the messenger of PhilomeneÕs message to Progne?
15. Gower keeps the pagan gods of Ovid operating in the story. What does he achieve with this rather than invoking the Christian God? What elements of the story do not accord with Christian values as understood by the medieval audience?
16. Is Progne right to both blame and exonerate herself? Explain.
17. How does the speaker exonerate Progne in the murder of her son Ihis? Chaucer doesnÕt develop this part of the story very much. What does Gower gain by doing so? Assume medieval audiences would not be less outraged by this deed than modern readers.
18. Although the speaker accuses Tereus of acting against ŌkinĶ in an unnatural (unkind) act of eating his own child, he is also accused of being against nature (unkind) in raping his sister-in-law. What does the parallel accomplish for Gower?
19. What is the godsÕ attitude toward the two crimes? How do the birdsÕ natures mirror their human ones?
20. How is the attitude toward rape in this story different from that in WBT? Is the story feminist or not? What is the moral of the story? Does Amans learn it?