The Book of the Duchess and Other Poems

Shattering the Dream (Vision)

But if, Sir Knight, you let me know

The cause of this tremendous ill,

As sure as God gives help, I will,

If power is granted to me, remove it...

"The Book of the Duchess" 548-551

Throughout the study of medieval literature, certain trends define the genres. Whether the hero be of a certain estate, conquer insurmountable foes, or finally unite with his lover, specific standards serve to differentiate the epic from the Breton Lai. "The Book of the Duchess" breaks the rules of dream vision literature through its subtle adaptations of the expected elements. Although this passage embodies only one aspect of this adaptation, it serves as a standard of all of the alterations throughout the text. Formerly the focal point of all other dream vision tales, the dreamer becomes a mere accessory in this piece, functioning as a medium through which other tales are exposed. Furthermore, the setting -- be it a garden or forest -- enables the dreamer to escape from societal distractions; in this passage, however, the dreamer awakens to the bustle of horses and marksmen. The final and perhaps most noteworthy aspect of this anti-dream vision revolves about the fact that the dreamer does not change his former way of living upon...

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