John Gower's Shaping of "The Tale of Constance" as an Exemplum contra of Envy.

Jamison, Carol.

John Gower's Shaping of "The Tale of Constance" as an Exemplum contra of Envy.

Jamison, Carol. "John Gower's Shaping of 'The Tale of Constance' as an Exemplum contra of Envy." In Richard G. Newhauser and Susan J, Ridyard, eds., Sin in Medieval and Early Modern Culture: The Tradition of the Seven Deadly Sins. Woodbridge, Suffolk: The University of York / York Medieval Press, 2012, Pp. 239–59. ISBN 9781903153413.

Considering several versions of the Constance story, Jamison argues that in the Constance section of Book II of CA Gower pointedly replaced Trivet’s political concerns, eschewed Chaucer’s high rhetoric, and, shortening and simplifying the known narrative, produced an exemplum of Charity as a remedy to Envy. Focusing on characterization, Jamison argues that the sultan’s mother “exemplifies envy” (247), that the Northumbrians charitably respond to the virtue in Constance, an embodiment of Charity itself, and that the knight who threatens Constance “reflects the first branch of envy that Genius mentions, sorrow over another man’s joy” (250). Constance’s marriage to King Allee “emphasizes the triumph of charity over envy,” Jamison tells us, and the execution of Domilde “evokes the sin of envy” through fire imagery (252). Other details of Gower’s version evince the generative power of charity in familial bonds and neighborly love. While consistently contrasting Gower’s version and its analogues, Jamison also indicates how his tale “plays against the other tales and commentary in Book Two” (242), especially “The Tale of Constantine and Sylvester,” to produce an exemplum pro Charity and contra Envy. [MA. Copyright. John Gower Society. eJGN 37.1].


Gower Subjects
Confessio Amantis
Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations