Questions about Chaucer ‘s Dreamer in the Book of the Duchess continue to linger among Chaucerians. Is he naA?ve or stupid, a sap, as Kemp Malone suggests, or one who amuses us with, as George Kittredge believes, “ child-like admiration ” ( 47 ) ?[ 2 ]Discussions like these and the sentiments that follow are artistic testaments to Chaucer ‘s mastermind. The fact that Chaucer wrote this verse form in an attempt, possibly to comfort his frequenter – John of Gaunt – over the decease of his married woman – Blanche, Duchess of Lancaster – is good documented. However, when critics continually picture his character in unkind footings, they immortalize the character in a negative manner that overshadows Chaucer ‘s attempt to comfort the life every bit good as his purpose to continue the memory of the dead. Chaucer ‘s Dreamer should be examined as a composite character whose tactful, speculative nature guides him on a poetic way of find: where solace is reciprocated through the vision of one ‘s lamenting and captured by the creative activity the other outputs on the page.
Chaucer ‘s witting Dreamer at the verse form ‘s oncoming is a adult male on the threshold of suicide, non so much physically every bit much as mentally. His symptoms, mostly due to the “ defaute of slepe, ” ( 5 ) have rendered him as “ a mased ” ( 12 ) sleepless person for the last “ eight yere ” ( 37 ) . Furthermore, the storyteller is cognizant that his current mental province is “ ageynes kynde, ” yet he is non forthcoming on its head cause, merely that a province of melancholy has practically deadened him both mentally and emotionally to everything ( 16 ) .
Now, whether the Dreamer/ Narrator ‘s depression is Chaucer ‘s testimonial, as W.O. Sypherd suggests, to the conventional melancholy depicted in similar love verse form or an version of Gallic poets of his epoch is problematic.[ 3 ]Similarly, an every bit problematic claim is the 1 most critics attach to the storyteller ‘s melancholy which stems from a deeper autobiographical beginning: Chaucer ‘s ain unanswered love or, as R.M. Lumiansky provinces, a asleep lover.[ 4 ]However, Chaucer ‘s chief beginning remains vague unless that which his storyteller offers as his exclusive remedy – a cryptic “ phisicien ” whose individuality is likewise elusive as his hurt – is but a hint ( 39 ) .
This nameless doctor has been the centre of great speculation among Chaucerians. Some critics hold the dreamer ‘s physician as being an earthly individual or lover ; others view this doctor as being one of religious importance. All, I believe, view this equivocal figure as a metaphor, possibly an drawn-out one, particularly if readers view it in close relation to his drawn-out illness. In add-on, we have the right to hold to differ on make up one’s minding on the affair in which Chaucer uses the drawn-out metaphor throughout his verse form. For case, I dispute Michael Cherniss ‘ claim that “ [ H ] ad [ Chaucer ] desired that his audience be certain of his significance ( individuality ) he would surely hold made it clearer than in fact he has ” ( 116 ) .[ 5 ]
Chaucer ‘s storyteller remains tight lipped about his doctor because for the last 40 lines or so he is unable to believe clearly allow entirely set much loving thought on an earthly doctor whose decease has numbed his mental modules and merged his emotions. His joys and sorrows are non independent of each other but are one ; his ideas are “ ydel, ” yet trapped inside his “ sorwful imaginacion ” ( 4, 14 ) . Therefore, I believe, Dreamer ‘s doctor was the earthly Blanche, whose decease is linked to his insomnia, non for an eight-year period, of class, but as the poet ‘s ain “ courtly compliment to the dead Blanche ” and, as M.W. Stearns stresses, Chaucer ‘s ain “ love-longing for that lady ” ( qtd in Lumiansky 118 ) .[ 6 ]The job here is how does Dreamer/Narrator show those feelings in an effectual, suited mode?
No uncertainty, the emotions the Dreamer/Narrator experiences here are non unlike those the poet Chaucer was sing besides. Furthermore, the storyteller does non cognize what to make because Chaucer, himself, possibly, was fighting to happen precisely what to voice or write in an lament every bit of import as the Duchess ‘ . Hence, like any great author, the storyteller needs the capacity to kip to get the ability to compose. Lisa Kiser asserts that Chaucer ‘s insomnia non merely symbolizes “ his failure to dream, ” but besides “ his inability to compose, ” which further fuels the storyteller ‘s “ period of disturbingly unproductive idling ” and creates a “ poetically bare ” consciousness ( 4 ) .[ 7 ]
To relieve his insomnia and reconstruct his consciousness from its poetical waste province, the storyteller decides “ [ T ] O rede and dryve the dark off ” with a “ romaunce ” supplemented by Machaut ‘s Fountain of Love, the narrative of Ovid ‘s Ceyx and Alcyone ( 48-49 ) . There is no inquiry that Chaucer radically alters the Ovidian narrative to further set up non merely thematic relationships between his characters, such as the Narrator/Alcyone and Alcyone/Black Knight, but besides thematic concerns like wakefulness, life and decease, and solace.
Besides presenting the experience of decease, both through Halcyon and her hubby, Ceyx, and the topic of heartache that prolongs Alcyone, until her decease, and subsequently the Black Knight, Chaucer ‘s storyteller discovers a procedure by which people can be revived. It is from this poetic procedure of Resurrection on the page that the dreamer will raise the memory of Blanche. Yet readers do non hold to look far to see that Chaucer ‘s storyteller obtains this poetic method from the failure of Morpheus ‘s Resurrection of Alcyone ‘s dead hubby, Ceyx.
The map of Morpheus is non unlike Chaucer ‘s soon-to-be dreamer. Both characters have a important function in making a vision or image of a lost loved one. In Chaucer ‘s version of the Ovidian narrative, Morpheus ‘s exclusive intent is to raise the dead hubby, Ceyx, as a manner to assist his widow, Alcyone, recover from her heartache and overwrought mental province. Chaucer ‘s Dreamer, furthermore, has an just undertaking, within the model of his dream and verse form, to help the Black Knight, or in a historical capacity – John of Gaunt, to retrieve from his mourning by making an image of his dead mate ( Blanche ) by agencies of a airy experience.
In fact, Chaucer ‘s word picture of Morpheus positions him as a divinity capable of supplying Alcyone with an existent “ life ” of her dead hubby, yet, throughout the class of the narrative, Morpheus act is “ mechanical ” and lacks the full force or “ consequence ” to properly resurrect Ceyx to his sorrowful married woman ( Kiser 6 ) . Morpheus ‘s unreal act of conveying the dead dorsum to life falls short of Juno ‘s initial bid that he demo Ceyx to his sorrowing married woman instead than miming advice:
My swete wyf,
Awak! Let be your sorweful lyf,
For in your sorwe there lyth no reed,
For certes, swete, I am but deed. ( 201-04 )
Still, Morpheus ‘s show and state act merely farther strengthened Alcyone bereaved head because she yearned to see her hubby ‘s presence above all, but when she wakes both facets – the physical and the verbal, there is no hint left of recollection: :
With that hir eyen up she casteth,
And sawe zero. “ Allas! ” quod she for sorwe,
And deyde within the thriddle morwe. ( 212-14 )
Another main point Chaucer stresses in Morpheus ‘s portraiture is the evident idling the God displays, he “ slepe and did noon other werk ” ( 169 ) , and the descriptive unregenerative life environment in which he and his helpers dwell:
Ther ne’er yet grew corne ne gras,
Ne true, ne nil that ought was,
Beste, ne adult male, ne zero ells,
Salvage ther were a fewe Welless
Came renning fro the drops adoun
That made a deedly slepinge soun. ( 157-62 )
In many ways, Morpheus ‘s waste landscape matches the witting storyteller ‘s ain mentality. Though the dream that the storyteller has is non located in an sterile vale nor surrounded by the Lethe River, it is located within a fertile vale where the dreamer is led down a poetic way to continue the recollection of the dead by raising the knight ‘s beloved in a successful manner.
Critics frequently point to Chaucer ‘s skip of the traditional Ovidian metabolism, which display the hubby and married woman couple ( Alcyone and Ceyx ) turned into birds, as another critical point to debate. Chaucer does this, I believe, for several grounds. First, in Chaucer ‘s head, Morpheus is unsuccessful in detecting a suited redress for human heartache. Second, the storyteller creates the unsated stoping as a manner to non merely contrast what he learns from Morpheus ‘s failed effort to raise the dead, but besides to let his poetics to bring forth a vision of the Duchess that will populate on long as the words he uses to raise her.
When Chaucer ‘s storyteller is eventually asleep, he is able to woolgather of an environment that allows his poetics to transform the memories of the Knight ‘s beloved into life poetry. The dream begins with the Dreamer depicting his new landscape as one resembling a poetic Eden. It is a beautiful Spring forenoon where nature ‘s natural poets, the birds, sing heavenly tones of cloud nine for him to hear as his eyes are illuminated by the glassy images of Troy and captured with “ text and glose ” of the Romance of the Rose ( 333 ) . From the Dreamer ‘s word pictures, of the birds and his chamber ornaments, he is able to make his ain poetic ambiance that will finally take him down a way poetic journey in which his trade will let him to transform his dreams and the memories of the dead into transcended plants of poetry.