The Importance of the Prologue: Poetry and Politics in "Confessio Amantis"
Having subdivided the text into three distinct parts, namely, the State, the Church and the Commons, Gower's Prologue addresses all three estates from its stylistic "medial" point. Although initially dedicated to the king, this poem addresses all people - the "lewed" as well as the learned, though with perhaps less of an emphasis on the Commons. While the trinity of the estates in the conventional sense suggests a structure in which the three estates (those who pray - the clergy; those who fight - the nobility; and those who work - the peasants) were supposed to work together for the common good, their actual history is one of constant friction and conflict. In Gower's vision, this idealism has given way to a profound pessimism and even despair about the current disintegration of the social order.
Much like in Chaucer's General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, what is interesting about Gower's Prologue is not that it portrays an archaic and closed social order, but that it reveals an order that is about to experience an awaited disaster. Gower's characters are by no means content to stay in their proper places, but are rather engaged in the corrupt pursuit of wealth, status (out of their...
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