Violence without Warning: Sympathetic Villains and Gower's Crafting of Ovidian Narrative.
- Zarins, Kim.
- Violence without Warning: Sympathetic Villains and Gower's Crafting of Ovidian Narrative.
- Zarins, Kim. "Violence without Warning: Sympathetic Villains and Gower's Crafting of Ovidian Narrative." In Russell A. Peck and R. F. Yeager, eds. John Gower: Others and the Self. Publications of the John Gower Society XI (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2017), pp. 141-55.
- Zarins focuses her analysis on how Gower retells the stories of "two Ovidian villains who are known for their depravity" (141), Polyphemus in "The Tale of Acis and Galatea," and Tereus the rapist who mutilates his victim. "Gower writes sympathetically about them (141), treating their stories "without irony," that is, devoid of the heavy foreshadowing that in Ovid's telling, makes them evil from the start: " . . . throughout Gower's "Confessio," monsters are not born, but made" (143). The lonely Polyphemus is assailed by envy of the happy lovers Acis and Galatea, but only when he surrenders to his sinful urge--by burying the lovers in a landslide--is he named as a "giant," a monster (144). Tereus is declared an evil freak of nature both in Ovid and Chaucer's "Legend of Good Women," while Gower goes out of his way to portray the future rapist as a loving husband until the moment of his choosing to act on a criminal desire (152). In many other tales, Genius illustrates how "conversion" to evil is possible for anyone, thus providing a cautionary example for Amans in his spiritual struggle--and of course for the reader as well. The reader's sympathy with Gower's villains is based not on guilty identification, as is sometimes alleged, but on a sense of our common humanity and free will. Zarins notes: "Gower's greatest villains are unsettling because they started out happy, hopeful, and ordinary, and in Gower's sympathetic retelling, one can imagine an alternate ending in which they remain so" (155). [LBB. Copyright. John Gower Society. JGN 36.2].
- Gower Subjects
- Confessio Amantis
Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations