Jan 18: Book of the Duchess Part 2

At the end of the poem, the speaker wakes up and claims that the dream he has had is so ‘curious’ that he must put it in writing. What elements of the dream vision does Chaucer exhibit and how does that impact the overall message of the story? Basically, how would this story differ if there wasn’t the presence of a dream narrative?

6 thoughts on “Jan 18: Book of the Duchess Part 2

  1. If there wasn’t a presence of a dream narrative, there would not be an interpretation of the dream reflecting the dreamer’s state of mind.
    When we started off the poem, we had a sense that the dreamer doesn’t cares ‘nothing leef nor loth’ (Line 9) because of his strange eight year illness. The man in black is also incredibly sad from the death of his wife, his ‘lyf’ and ‘lustes’ are ‘loothe’ (581). When the man talks about his pain in these passages, we can see a clear parallel between the man in black’s sorrow and the sorrow of the dreamer. Knowing that this is a dream, we can make an interpretation that the dream of the man in black is really a reflection of the dreamer’s mind and sorrow. This creates an interesting reading of the poem, because then we would need to ask who the dreamer and the man in black stand for. Is the dreamer just talking to some strange man that is just something he picked in the poem? Or is the man in black a reflection of the dreamer?

  2. The dream vision element of the poem allows the reader to realize the significance of the seemingly out of place story about Seys and Alcyone. Both the story and the lamentations of the man in black connect the allegorical themes of loss of love and death. Without the dream vision, the poem would not retain the mystical element that the dreamer can enter into and easily explain. A dream vision leaves interpretations open to the reader and the dreamer alike. It also creates a common experience between the reader and the writer/dreamer. The dreamer even talks about ha had ” queynt a sweven”, a strange dream (1330) Everyone has had dreams that need interpretation before, and the dream vision elements strengthen the poem.

  3. If this story wasn’t in the format of the dream vision our narrator wouldn’t likely frame it the way he does. Obviously the dream is meant to have a philosophical meaning to the dreamer but he has yet to find it. Because of it’s possible higher meaning, the dreamer has decided to write the dream down. If Chaucer hadn’t used the dream vision, then the meaning of the dream would likely be lesser. We still aren’t positive what is ailing the dreamer and preventing him from sleeping but it is easy to assume that it might be the death of a loved one. If we look at it as Chaucer having the dream vision, then it is almost like this dream came to him in order for him to help John of Gaunt by writing it down. I think the dream vision format gives it a more mystical and important meaning as well.

  4. A major aspect of the dream vision that Chaucer implements is the source of the dream in that it is essentially a divine gift, given to the narrator after he prays to Juno and Morpheus for sleep. Though it can seem simply an answer to the narrator’s desire for rest, the under layer of the gift is the narrator’s slow movement towards self realization. As he comes across the black knight and listens to his story, while trying to console the knight’s grief, he is all the while facing his own issued and grief that he sees reflected in the knight’s struggle. If the poem was not centered around a dream narrative, the narrator wouldn’t be able to separate from himself as he does with the black knight, and likely wouldn’t have been able to come to the realization and determination that he does at the end of the poem.

  5. The decision to use a dream vision for this particular poem was an artistic choice that Chaucer found to be the most suitable for his purpose. The first convention that Chaucer followed was how he described his character’s moment of going to sleep. An interesting component that shows how Chaucer’s character differentiates from standard characters in dream visions is the fact that his character suffers from insomnia. This poem was written for John of Gaunt who was suffering from the loss of his wife at the time. The character’s insomnia has been linked with Guant’s inability to sleep after the death of his loved one. I myself have suffered long nights reminiscing and thinking about the loss of one of my good friends. Chaucer spent a significant amount of effort forming his story to match the conventions of a dream vision by filling the remainder of the poem with allegorical connections to Gaunt and his wife. The finalizing aspect that parallels the format of a dream vision was how the poet described his desire to “Strive to put this dream in rhyme.”

  6. The dream narrative allows for a handy reconciliation of the narrator’s own state and the story of Seys and Alcyone, while also allowing for a sensitive representation of Gaunt’s loss through the man in black. The dream narrative form also allows for a “spooky” element, that is, a supernatural tinge to the story. The fact that the dream the narrator receives seems to be “bestowed” upon him by the gods that he prayed to suggests that he had this dream for a reason. Rather than this being a random event in his life, it seems to be an implicit linking of three narratives: the narrator’s personal turmoil, the story of Seys and Alcyone, and the man in black’s loss. I also can’t help but appreciate the meta element of the narrator commenting about how he wishes to turn his dream into a poem, and that’s the ending to the poem about his dream that we just read.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *