Confessio Amantis Background

Confessio Amantis Background

John Gower’s Confession Amantis exists in at least three separate and distinct versions. The very first edition published in 1390 is generally regarded as the definitive edition for scholarly and academic attention. That edition comprises more than 33,000 lines that tell 141 different tales composed in octosyllabic couplets.

The stories mostly deal with the Seven Deadly Sins and presented through a framing device taking the form of a confession by a lover named Amans to a priest of Venus named Genius. Although often compared to Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, many critics view Gower’s work as the greater poetic achievement. Chaucer and Gower were not just peers, but at one time close friends. Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde is dedicated to Gower; Gower’s return tribute to Chaucer in the first edition marks one of the changes made to later editions. Other alterations include the excision of praise heaped upon King Richard II following his deposition and the addition of a dedication in the final edition to the usurper of Richard’s throne, Henry IV.

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