The Double Loss and Recuperation in Chaucer's "The Book of the Duchess"

Aktarer S.

IX. YILDIZ ULUSLARARASI SOSYAL BİLİMLER KONGRESİ , İstanbul, Turkey, 26 - 27 December 2022, vol.9203962041, pp.10

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • Volume: 9203962041
  • City: İstanbul
  • Country: Turkey
  • Page Numbers: pp.10
  • Recep Tayyip Erdoğan University Affiliated: Yes


This study aims to examine the themes of loss and healing in Chaucer's dream poem, "The Book of the Duchess". Together with romance, dream poetry was one of the most popular genres in the high medieval era. The genre was mainly employed by the poets so as to instruct and enlighten the dream persona either in devotional or secular tradition. Accordingly, Chaucer adopts the secular tradition in "The Book of the Duchess" and deals with the themes of loss and death. The Dreamer in the poem suffers from insomnia and an eight years' sickness which he cannot name. He is spiritually in a huge grief and marks that it is against human nature. Consistent with the features of the genre, he falls asleep in May and meets the Black Knight in his dream. The Black Knight is mourning inconsolably for his lost love. In an attempt to ease the Black Knight's pain, the Dreamer initiates a philosophical debate, which is in his own control, about life and fortune. The dreamer endeavours to make the Black Knight talk and hence relieve him from his intense suffering. In the end, the Black Knight acknowledges that the lady he has lost is indeed dead. At this point, the dreamer wakes up and plans to put all his experience in writing. Thus, in the poem, instead of mourning over the loss, a commemoration and acknowledgment of it is prevailed by admitting the truth of death. Once he admits that his beloved is dead, the Black Knight is reconciled with his loss. As a result, he could assuage his extreme pain. Similarly, the Dreamer is also healed by the Boethius-like philosophical dialogue they have had. By alleviating the sorrow of the Black Knight, the dreamer can also heal himself. In this light, this study intends to analyse the way the two characters suffering from different kinds of loss in "The Book of the Duchess" are, directly and indirectly, consoled and transformed.