Richard II's Publicly Prophesied Deposition in Gower's "Confessio Amantis."

Fonzo, Kimberly.

Richard II's Publicly Prophesied Deposition in Gower's "Confessio Amantis."

Fonzo, Kimberly. "Richard II's Publicly Prophesied Deposition in Gower's Confessio Amantis." Modern Philology 114 (2016): 1-17.

Fonzo reprises the question of why so many manuscripts of the “Confessio Amantis” produced after the deposition of Richard II present the first recension of the poem, dedicated to Richard, rather than the later versions dedicated to Henry. She locates her answer in Gower's self-stylization as a prophetic poet, a persona he used in “Vox Clamantis” and revived late in his career with the "Prophesy of the Eagle," for example, but which, Fonzo maintains, was also found in (or imposed upon) the CA and promoted by the Lancastrians after Richard was deposed: Gower's commentary on kingship in the CA was regarded, with tendentious hindsight, as prophecy or prediction of "Richard's imminent downfall" (8). Fonzo reviews the manuscript evidence for the prevalence of the first recension, links it with Derek Pearsall's notion of "standard" manuscripts of the CA, and argues that the Lancastrians promoted the version dedicated to Richard as part of their broader program of presenting Richard's rule as corrupted by youthful counsel, fated for failure, and worthy of usurpation. Drawing her material largely from CA Book VII, Fonzo shows that Gower's narratives of, for example, "Ahab and Machaiah," "David and Saul," and even the account of Gower's meeting Richard on the Thames could be, and seemingly were, read retrospectively as prophetic critiques of Richard's rule and predictions of his downfall rather than the way Gower probably intended them initially, that is, as “vox populi” reminders of a king's proper agency. After the deposition, Gower "cultivated a poetic voice that was more emphatically prophetic and critical of Richard II" (15), and the CA was read accordingly as justification of the usurpation, foreseen and inevitable. [MA. Copyright. The John Gower Society. eJGN 38.2.]


Gower Subjects
Confessio Amantis
Manuscripts and Textual Studies