Hoccleve's take on Chaucer and Christine de Pizan: gender, authorship, and intertextuality in the Epistre au dieu d'Amours, the letter of cupid, and the series.
To understand his recasting of the Epistre, one must first determine the foundation on which the earlier text bases its polemic. Before Christine--or rather her mouthpiece Cupid--proceeds to reverse the slanderous charges made against her gender, she examines the defective social and discursive conditions that enable them. The same flaws, she argues, result in a split between language and reality that causes harm to men as well as women. Christine's fresh analysis, rather than her superlative praise of female "nature" (e.g., 668-76), makes the Epistre a landmark in the history of feminist thought in a way that previous scholarship on the poem has insufficiently recognized. (8) Having filled this gap, I shall argue that Hoccleves translation dismisses or disregards the relevance to male authors of the criticism leveled by its source and therefore reproduces the very cultural habits it targets. (9) His attempt to initiate himself into a distinctly masculine literary coterie that was forming around Chaucer's legacy by imbuing the Letter with irony and ambivalence towards womankind remains trapped in the terms of a discourse more commonplace, and thus less serviceable to aspiring poets, than Hoccleve appears to acknowledge.
The second part of my discussion will consider some key moments in the sequence of poems known to modern readers as the Series (ca. 1419-21). This experimental cycle revolves around the autobiographical speaker's recovery from a mental breakdown and--like the Letter, to which it explicitly harks back--combines questions of authorship and gender. Even as it continues to express contradictory attitudes, the Series acknowledges the hazards of faulty communication and predicates Hoccleves convalescence on his ability to perceive women correctly and himself in relation to them. Hence, on more levels than scholars have realized, it constitutes a palinode to the Letter and a partial retrieval of the values upheld in the Epistre. These developments correspond to an important shift in Hoccleves interaction with the Chaucerian tradition. For all its notorious quirkiness, the Series will emerge from this study as his last, best attempt to carve out a position of authority by engaging his sources in a more complex, original, and ethical manner.
The Epistre does more than simply issue a statement against male chauvinism. Its poetic structure conveys the ideas that it formulates. An overview of this work is necessary to appreciating both what it says about men and women and what Hoccleve then makes of it. Unlike
Christines better-known Livre de la Cite des Dames (1405), which features an all-female cast of narrators and interlocutors, the Epistre is drafted by Cupid, the god of love, in the presence of "cent / Dieux et plus de grant povoir" ("a hundred gods and more of great power") belonging to both genders (798-99). (10) At the end of the poem, the assembly ratifies his critique of misogyny and decision to expel its proponents forever from his court (771-96). This choice of speaker and setting is crucial to Christine's project. She could have easily appointed Venus, Minerva, or Juno to hold court, surrounded by other goddesses. By selecting Cupid, a male deity, she underscores that misogyny is not an exclusively female problem. Rather, it is a social malady that affects both men and women, who must collaborate in fighting it. Early in his discourse, Cupid introduces himself as "Filz de Venus" ("Son of Venus"; 4), proudly announcing that he is of woman born: a fact that misogynists are later accused of forgetting with regard to their own mothers (720-21, 729, 749-54). (11) Hence, he embodies the reformed male identity that, we shall observe, the Epistre seeks to establish. (12)
Cupid is more than a regenerated man: he is also a remodeled literary figure. A significant part of the Epistre consists of a polemic against two poets whom Christine regards (justly or unjustly) as epitomes of antifeminism: Ovid and Jean de Meun. (13) The former was celebrated in the Middle Ages for his cycle of love elegies concluding with the Remedia amoris, the Cures of Love--or of Amor, another name for Cupid--a classroom staple whose goal was perceived as unteaching carnal desire. Schematically put, the male elegiac subject experiences love both as an external influence that disrupts his previously regulated existence and as the source of a new sense of interiority predicated on contradictory impulses: desire and surfeit, agony and ecstasy, hot and cold flushes, and so forth. Cupid, accordingly, is portrayed by such writers as capricious, imperious, and vindictive. The lover's relationship with him oscillates between subjection and rebellion. In some cases, he finally extricates himself from the deity's grasp and reclaims the normative values of his culture. While there are as many versions of this dialectic as there are poets, the important thing to note is the central place that dialectic itself occupies in their poetics. The lover is never at one with love or Cupid. Instead, the poem is born of their negotiation. More intellectualized versions of the Ovidian tradition, such as Jean de Meun's continuation of the Roman de la Rose, substitute the expression of contrasting viewpoints for the description of conflicting moods. The various allegorical figures that populate it may represent different aspects of the Lover's psyche, but they are not coterminous with him, nor can he in turn be equated with the author.
By contrast, the Epistre presents a near unity of poet, persona, and emotion. Though himself not in love, Cupid obviously embodies it. Most of the arguments he puts forth in defense of women are consonant with the attitudes expressed in Christine's other polemical writings, with perhaps the difference that he views celibacy with the suspicion one might expect of the pagan god (though one who is nevertheless conversant in both the Old and New Testaments). Apart from the beginning and end of the Epistre, passages where Cupid speaks in character are few and far between. At one point he refers to "aucuns ... qui jadis en mes las / Furent tenus" ("some who were once caught in my snare"; 493-94). Two hundred and fifty lines later, he declares that "Qui tel vice a nest pas de ma mesgnie" ("Whoever has such a vice is not of my retinue"; 744): a sentence that could, however, be uttered by a human lord or lady.
Such instances notwithstanding, the reader may well identify the speaker with the author or with female figures of authority in general. (14) An illustration found in the London, British Library, MS Harley 4431 copy of the Epistre expresses this amalgamation by portraying an androgynous-looking Cupid with an oval face and narrow shoulders (fig. 1), who differs starkly from the virile deity shown elsewhere in the manuscript (fig. 2). (15) Contrary to other depictions of the God of Love as an ephebe, he does not convey the impression of effeminate youth but rather of middle age. Significantly, the presentation miniature of Harley 4431 has Christines patron Queen Isabeau of Bavaria sport a garment identical to Cupids (fig. 3). While adding one more component to an already composite figure, this iconographic resemblance does not create a split among the different facets of the deity. Rather, the human sovereign who plays his part and the protegee who pens his words are suggested to be of like mind.
We are now ready to consider the Letter of Cupid in relation to its French source. In his critique of Christine's attack on Jean de Meun, Fleming looks down upon the alleged lack of "clever indirection or iconographic sophistication" in the Epistre. Unlike the case of the Roman, its "allegorical veil is spun of fine transparent silk; it richly adorns, but barely conceals." (16) Allegedly misunderstanding the art of this seminal work, Christine also falls short of its high standards. Fioccleve, who has been schooled in the writings of Chaucer, an author well versed in the thirteenth-century poem, recognizes these deficiencies, according to Fleming, and emends them in the Letter. Recent studies have proposed a more political explanation for Hoccleve's contention with Christine. The English poet would have sought to draw attention to himself by penning a local version of a piece that was evidently popular enough in France to find its way across the channel soon after its completion yet whose author dodged Fienry IV's invitation to follow suit and instead used this opportunity to recall her son from his court. (17) Whereas the Epistre is grounded in references to specifically French attitudes to women (23-32, 223-44), the Letter deplores their treatment in "Albion" (16) and cites an "old prouerbe ... in Englissh" when attacking the perfidy of misogynist men (183-89), on the one hand, and implicitly contrasts Chaucer's Legend of Good Women with the Roman, on the other (281-322). As Roger Ellis suggests, "Chaucer's work, particularly the Legend" provides "for Hoccleve a gloss on the Epistre." (18) I shall soon return to this poetic triad and examine it from a gendered perspective.
Fleming insists that despite his contention with Christine, Hoccleve remains true to his source's profeminist campaign. As noted in the introduction to the present study, other scholars take a less charitable view of his attitude to women. One way or another, if Hoccleve does indeed strive to emerge as the better craftsman, the question of their dignity can only be secondary to his principal endeavor. Defending them is a rhetorical move that does not appear to him to possess greater merit than its reverse. Or rather, by combining both positions in a single text, he scores extra points for wit. Let us consider two examples of this interplay. Christine writes that even the most esteemed misogynist authors
ne quistrent En leurs vies fors femmes decevoir. Nen povoient yceulx assez avoir, Et tous les jours vouloient des nouvelles, Sans loyaute tenir, nez aux plus belles. Quen ot David et Salomon le roy? Dieu sen courca et pugni leur desroy. (314-20)
[sought nothing else in life except to deceive women. They could never have enough of them and ever desired new ones, keeping no faith even with the most beautiful. What good came out of it to David and King Solomon? God in His wrath punished their mischief.]
This argument is often compared with the Wife of Bath's remark on the male bias of textual authorities in condemnation of women (688-96). (19) However, whereas Chaucer's Wife focuses her complaint on "clerkes" (694; cf. 689)--a polyvalent term which encompasses clerics as well as the Greco-Roman writers they hold in esteem--Christine's more general phrase "ceulx qui ce escriprent" ("those who wrote this"; 313) targets all sexually frustrated enemies of women, whether secular or religious, past or present. By naming the promiscuous monarchs and scriptural authors David and Solomon, she implies that both kinds of male chauvinism share a common root. Neither is looked upon favorably by God, the ultimate authority who punished these men for their sins. Hence, even such a biblically sanctioned expression of misogyny as Ecclesiastes 7.27-29 may be dismissed as the ravings of a jaded roue.
Hoccleve not only removes the sting from this passage, which, in his hands, reinstates David and Solomon as mere victims of female duplicity. He also dilates on the commonplaces of antifeminist literature while pretending to react against them:
Tho wikkid bookes maken mencion, How they betrayeden, in special Adam, Dauid, Sampson and Salomon, And many oon mo. Who may rehercen al The tresoun pat they haue doon and shal? Who may hir hy malice conprehende? Nat the world, clerkes seyn, it hath noon ende. (197-203)
The two rhetorical questions in lines 200-2 lack an identifiable speaker. Are they a case of free indirect discourse, representing the opinions that "clerkes" express in their "wikkid bookes"? Or has Cupid been carried away by his own line of reasoning, forgetting for a moment that he has chosen to defend women and then, in line 203, struggling to ascribe the offensive assertion to the butt of his critique? Since Hoccleve was himself a clerk (albeit in the bureaucratic sense of the word), (20) the difference between these interpretations collapses. (21) Consequently, pro- and antifeminist discourse become equal sides in a never-ending debate, not unlike that which Chaucers other heir John Lydgate was to depict in A Mumming at Hertford some twenty-five years later. (22)
Moreover, if Hoccleve was acquainted with the Wife of Bath's Prologue in 1402, (23) he probably took advantage of the opportunity to mimic both this Chaucerian figure and her fifth husband's "book of wikked wyves," which had been the bane of their marriage (685). Twice interrupted on the road to Canterbury by male pilgrims who object to her speaking at length (163-68, 829-31) and twice invoked as a pseudoauthority within the framework of the Tales (1170-72, 1685-87), the Wife of Bath was a literary icon that medieval men took pleasure in appropriating and undermining. Hoccleve's "Dialogue," the second poem of the Series, does so explicitly (694-96). A fifteenth-century male reader familiar with both Chaucer and Christine might have relished the implied analogy between her and the Wife in view of the latter's loose sexual morals, the same vice with which the Epistre charges misogynists.
Hoccleve soon ups the ante by transforming another passage from the Epistre into something altogether darker and more sinister than Christine would have tolerated. On two occasions, she argues that men like Ovid who think and speak ill of women get their just desserts when their beloved turns out to embody their opinions about her gender (321-40, 507-18). These passages are perhaps the most caustic in the entire poem. They rail against the kind of man who "De filletes se pare et de pietaille" ("makes a show of his wenches and commoners"; 335) and therefore does not deserve "une chose qui vaille" ("a thing [viz., woman] of worth"; 336). Instead, he "cuide trop bien couvrir sa honte, / Quant plus n'en peut et qu'il est ja vielx horns, / Delle trayr par ses soubtilz raisons" ("believes himself only too capable of covering his shame, when already in his dotage and no longer able to perform, by traducing her with his subtle arguments"; 335, 338-40). The "femmes folles / De peu d'onneur, males, mau renommees" ("debauched women having little honor, wicked, and of ill repute"; 510-11) who consort with such misogynists fare no better. Christine's purpose, however, is not so much to celebrate the downfall of antifeminist writers as it is to solve one of the perennial problems that beset her quest for women's dignity: how to explain the fact that some do not follow the high standards of virtue she maintains are intrinsic to female nature. Whereas the Cite des Dames banishes such deviants from the ideal community it envisions, (24) the Epistre places the responsibility for accidental defects in the hands of male chauvinists and encourages immoral women to return to their substantial goodness (341-47).
Hoccleve submerges the fine points of this argument in a comedy of manners that pits high-ranking clerks against lowbred shrews who have the better of them (232-66). To begin with, Cupid boasts an "impressioun" (233) so powerful that it can give woman-haters their comeuppance by making them fall in love with the "foulest slutte in al a town ... As thogh shee wer a duchesse or a qweene" (237, 240). He then switches to praising "Ouyde" and "many anothir" (246-47) for the great merit of their writings. Next, the deity suggests that whatever sorrows befell these clerks happened in spite, rather than because, of their doctrines. Finally, he pins down their misfortunes on the guile of "wommen" in general (254) before realizing, once again, that his role is to scold not women but their calumniators. Much as Cupid pretends to exclude "ladyes" (260) from the clash of "o venym" with "anothir" (258), he implicates them in the mass of "filthes" (262) who prey on men and cannot always be distinguished from their betters. As Ellis points out, Hoccleve uses the courtly term "daunger" (257) with reference to female villains. (25) The demeaning language that he employs here and elsewhere (26) goes against the Epistre's assertion that all women, even those who have sinned, ought to be treated with respect (205-16, 341-47). (27)
Whereas Christines vitriol is demure in comparison with Hoccleve's, other parts of the Epistre make a surprisingly risque suggestion that finds no echo in the Middle English Letter. Cupid repeatedly implies that homosocial fraternizing of the kind practiced in literary coteries is ever in danger of evolving into more than mere friendship. As he sees it, misogynist discourse hardly revolves around flesh-and-blood women. On the contrary, its practitioners "ont compains de leur male afiance" ("have fellows in their wicked [pun: male] alliance"; 109), the nature of whose conversation is such that "trop plus / Qu'ilz n'ont de bien, se vantent" ("the less they obtain, the more they brag"; 111 -12) of their sexual conquests:
Les compaignons ce dient es tavernes, Et les nobles font leur parts et leur cernes En ces grans cours de noz seigneurs les dues, Ou cheus le roy, ou ailleurs espandus. Et la tiennent de tieulx piais leur escoles! Plusieurs y a qui deussent leur paroles En bons contes drecier sans bourderie A raconter pris de chevalerie; Mais aux grans feus a ces soirs, ou sur couches La rigolent fun l'autre, et par reprouches Sentredient[.] (117-27)
[Fellows say this in taverns and noblemen hold their private and insider events in the great courts of our lords the dukes, or at the king's, or wherever else. Of such talk are their schools made up. Many are those who should have rather harnessed their words to good stories with no chicanery, telling of the worthy deeds of knights. Instead, whiling away the evening in front of a good fire or on couches, they poke fun at each other and exchange taunts.]
By equating courts and schools with taverns, Christine stresses that her critique applies equally to educated as it does to cruder forms of male chauvinism. Both share a common social flaw that underlies the poetic conventions governing the expression of the former. (28) Misogynists establish ties of love--or rivalry--that marginalize the whole of womankind by reducing it to a token of their mutual relations. According to Cupid, a man who behaves in this way "se desnature" ("goes against his nature"; 181), a ubiquitous term in polemics against same-sex intercourse. (29) Lacking an external object, antifeminist conversation is a closed system that can only represent and reproduce itself ad infinitum with little relevance to reality:
Et ainsi sont les femmes diffamees De plusieurs gens, et a grant tort blasmees Et de bouche et en plusieurs escrips; Ou qu'il soit voir ou non, tel est le cris. (553-56)
[And thus are women defamed by many people and most wrongfully blamed, both in speech and in numerous writings. Whether true or not, such is the talk.]
By contrast, the heteronormative God of Love supports companionate marriage and debunks some of the commonplaces of antifeminist lore, from Medea and Dido's violent reaction to betrayal (431 -60) to Eves behavior in the Garden of Eden (604-16). Thanks to his genuine commitment to female dignity, he is able to offer a fresh and truthful reinterpretation of pagan and biblical texts, culminating in a marvelous homily on the importance of women to Christ (557-90). If the literary culture of France were founded on such principles, Christine implies, it would cultivate men like Hutin de Vermeilles and Oton de Grandson--valiant knights and defenders of women, according to Cupid (223-44)--rather than ineffectual "parleurs" ("blabbers"; 163).
At this stage of his career, Hoccleve does not appear to share Christine's view that antifeminism is detrimental to both genders and must be confronted by men as well as women. Instead, he treats misogyny as though it were a safe platform to display his wit and stake a place in the poetic canon alongside Ovid, Jean de Meun, and Chaucer. One might imagine the author of the Letter joining the homosocial banter criticized by Christine and, for originality's sake, taking up the case for women while throwing in a few conventional insults for good measure. To quote Christine, he is the kind of writer who "En excusant celle nomme et accuse, / Et fait semblant de celer et couvrir / Ce qu'i lui plaist a dire et descouvrir" ("Names and accuses a woman even as he excuses her (30) and pretends to conceal and cover that which it pleases him to say and uncover"; 138-40). (31) Try as he might, Hoccleve neither corrects nor transcends his French source. Instead, he brushes off its relevance to himself as a man, on the one hand, and an aspiring poet, on the other.
I conclude my discussion of the Letter with an unnoticed allusion to Chaucer that sheds further light on Hoccleve's poetics around 1402. Having retold the story of Adam and Eve more or less along the lines of the corresponding passage in the Epistre, he adds:
Wytith the feend and his be the maugree, And for excusid haue hir innocence, Sauf oonly pat shee brak obedience. Touchynge which, fui fewe men ther been-- Vnnethes any, dar we saufly seye, Fro day to day, as men mowe wel seen-- But fiat the heeste of God they disobeye. This haue in mynde, sires, we yow preye. If pat yee be discreet and resonable, Yee wole hir holde the more excusable. (376-85)
Despite the palpable differences between the two cases, I believe Hoccleve's apologia for Eve is partly modeled on Chaucers pardoning of Criseyde, who betrays her lover Troilus after being sent from Troy to rejoin her father in the Greek camp:
But trewely, how longe it was bytwene That she forsok hym for this Diomede, There is non auctour telleth it, I wene. Take every man now to his bokes heede, He shal no terme fynden, out for drede. For though that he bigan to wowe hire soone, Er he hire wan, yet was ther more to doone. Ne me ne list this sely womman chyde Forther than the storye wol devyse. Hire name, alias, is publysshed so wide That for hire gilt it oughte ynough suffise. And if 1 myghte excuse hire any wise, For she so sory was for hire untrouthe, Iwis, I wolde excuse hire yet for routhe. (5.1086-99)
In both instances, the absence of prior textual or moral authority prompts the speaker to make a bold stand for a fallen if otherwise worthy heroine. In the Troilus, this act constitutes Chaucers appropriation of narrative authority from his spurious source Lollius--or rather from Boccaccio's Filostrato, where no such intervention takes place. Going against the grain of history, he lays claim to agency by rewriting Criseyde's reputation, which even she had feared would be tarnished beyond repair (5.1054-64). (32) This is one of the few passages in the entire work that are not rendered null and void when Chaucer disowns it at the end of book 5 and prays to Christ with "al" his "herte of mercy" (5.1861). Only in his next poetic endeavor, the Legend of Good Women, does he subvert this noble sentiment by having Cupid and Queen Alceste misread the intention of the Troilus in different ways (G. Prol. 264-66, 340-48) and charge him with putting together a collection of stories that celebrates womens loyalty and patience in atonement of his sins (G. Prol. 427-31).
The passage from Hoccleve's Letter combines the high seriousness of its epic parallel, where Chaucer for once sheds his ludic persona, with the reclaimed playfulness of the Legend of Good Women. This it does by maintaining Eve's innocence with Christine and, in turn, casting doubt on it. Hoccleve first adds the clause "Sauf oonly pat shee brak obedience"--the offense that is commonly attributed to her--and then excuses her twice as though she were guilty after all. Imitating Chaucers contention with a misogynist source, he lays claim to authorship over against a profeminist writer. Though ingeniously contrived, this paradoxical move falls through. First, I have argued, he omits to answer and thereby invalidate her critique of the rhetorical ploys brought into play in the Letter. Second, as opposed to Chaucer's successful contention with Boccaccio/Lollius, Hoccleve also submits to his master's yoke even as he pretends to assert his own voice at Christine's expense. Only later in his career does he forge a truly revisionary poetics.
Seth Lerer has criticized the generation of followers that succeeded the Ricardian poet for their infantile worship of an idealized father figure. (33) His argument draws mainly on quotations that refer explicitly to Chaucer and his works. The present analysis of the Letter has foregrounded both the sophistication that Hoccleve achieves by dint of subtle intertextual engagement and the limitations it places on his art. Whereas intertextuality helps Christine radically confront the social conditions that enable misogyny, the same device prevents the young Hoccleve from coming to terms with the reality of his literary production. The Letter may contain some remarkable arguments in favor of women, in a few instances surpassing even the Epistre. Shortly after forgiving Eve, for example, his Cupid introduces the doctrine of felix culpa--the happy fault that eventually brought about the Incarnation--in order to exculpate our first mother once again while establishing an implicit link between her and the Virgin Mary, who gave birth to Christ the Redeemer and herself intercedes on our behalf (393-420). (34) Yet the very brilliance of these stanzas is the end, rather than the means, of the Letter.
Skipping nearly two decades to Hoccleve's Series, one is startled to discover just how much has changed and how much remains the same in his poetics. Like the Letter and to an even greater extent, this work resonates with echoes of Chaucer both when handling themes familiar to his readers and when introducing concerns that are distinctly Hocclevean. More than ever before, close attention to Hoccleve's appropriation of Chaucer becomes crucial to appreciating the full range of meanings he evokes. However, unlike the case of the earlier poem, such Chaucerian moments permit the Series to embrace negotiation in a political climate that discouraged this practice. (35)
Fascinated though Hoccleve might have been in "The Address to Sir John Oldcastle" (1415) and similar productions with the possibility of championing a monologic worldview sanctioned by the Lancastrian dynasty that usurped the English throne in 1399 and started burning heretics in 1401, (36) his desire to emulate Chaucer and to partake of his authority is manifested in the increasing presence of dialogue in his verse. I employ this term in the broadest sense of the word, comprising the interplay of different voices, genres, and ideologies, as well as the exchanges between the author-persona and his characters or readers that are the hallmark of Hoccleves later work. Consequently, whereas the Letter employs intertextuality to construct an autonomous literary universe sealed off from external challenges after the fashion of the misogynist discourse that Christine tackles in the Epistre, the same device prompts the speaker of the Series to reexamine himself and his relations with his surroundings. (37)
A third aspect of Hoccleves mature poetics, which at once depends on and departs from Chaucer, is a highly developed authorial persona who stands at the center of the poem. On the one hand, manipulating verbal reminiscences from his forebear's works enables Hoccleve to maintain the presence of this persona throughout the Series even when it takes on the role of third-person storyteller or translator. (38) On the other, such intertextual games do but supplement the unprecedented wealth of autobiographical detail that Hoccleve pours into his mature writings. Though Chaucer's narrators admittedly draw attention to themselves on a regular basis, and some are identified explicitly with their creator, there is surprisingly little biographical information to be gleaned from his oeuvre, with the exception of a few short passages from the House of Fame. (39)
The Series, conversely, as well as some earlier poems like La male regle and the disproportionately long prologue to the Regiment of Princes, teem with references to Hoccleve's life. Whatever their factual accuracy, (40) they serve to establish a closer link between the flesh-and-blood author and his work than any other English poet had previously attempted. (41) Of course, compared with the near breakdown of the author-persona distinction preached and practiced by Christine in a number of her writings, the speaker of the Series remains an elusive figure. Yet the salient point of the Epistre--that ideas have real consequences for those who express them, that literature can be the author's ruin or redemption--is one that Hoccleve, having glossed over it in the Letter, is now committed to exploring in the Series. The nexus of gender, authorship, and intertextuality in the latter work therefore calls to be analyzed in light of the central insight of the Epistre.
Let us take a closer look at these issues by focusing on Hoccleve's engagement with the Clerk's Tale, one of the seminal texts of Chaucerian and post-Chaucerian poetics, where Chaucer via the voice of the Clerk defines his relation to Petrarch, the alleged mentor who "taughte" it to him (40). The Tale knits together a number of concerns: literary distinction and human transience in the Prologue; female virtue, endurance, and conjugal and political obedience in the story proper; and the shifting moral of the conclusion, which switches rather abruptly from advocating "vertuous suffraunce" (1162) to offering a tongue-in-cheek vindication of domineering wives of the kind that Christine objects to in the Epistre and Hoccleve practices in the Letter.
The Series unravels the different strands of this narrative and lets them emanate, as though naturally, from the author's situation. I begin with an early passage from the first poem, titled "My Complaint":
Almy[??]ty God, as liketh his goodnesse, Vesitep folke alday, as men may se, With los of good and bodily sikenesse, And amonge othir, he for[??]at not me. (36-39)
This sentence paraphrases the conclusion of the Clerk's Tale:
[God] preeveth folk al day, it is no drede, And suffreth us, as for oure excercise, With sharpe scourges of adversitee Ful ofte to be bete in sondry wise[.] (1155-58)
Towards the end of "My Complaint," the personified figure Resoun comes full circle by harking back to the same passage in her words of consolation to a suffering Everyman figure who bears a strong resemblance to Hoccleve: (42)
Biholde howe many a man suffrith dissese, As greet as pou and alaway grettere, And pou[??] it hem pinche sharply and sese, [??]it paciently thei it suffre and here. ... Of pi dissese the wei[??]te and pe peis Bere li[??]tly, for God, to prove the, Scourgid pe hath wip sharpe aduersite. (344-47, 360-62)
These Chaucerian moments not only broach the subject of heaven-sent trials but also tackle the hierarchy of writers and their role models. As Chaucer before him, Hoccleve reorients his source and multiplies its meanings. Whereas the Clerk, following Petrarch, draws a universal moral from the story of the patient wife Griselda (which he then subverts), Hoccleve reverses this order by proceeding from the general to the particular: namely, from the human condition to his condition. At the same time, he restores Griselda as a concrete heroine who elicits identification across the gender divide rather than interpretation that rises above her femininity or parody that undermines its claim to virtue. Like her trials, his tribulations come to convey a lesson to all readers. Unsurprisingly, Hoccleve soon reveals his intention of publishing the "Complaint" so as to edify others, despite the risk of casting a further shadow on his reputation for madness ("Dialogue," 57-98). He thus both follows in Chaucers footsteps and revises his poetics by making himself the author, scribe, and protagonist of a story of grave affliction overcome. His progress from illness to convalescence parallels a common trajectory of Chaucer's narrators--witnessed in the Clerk's Tale and, we have seen, Troilus and Criseyde--from subservience to their source to wresting control of its meaning.
Having concluded the account of his mental and physical disease, his recovery, and the exclusion he then suffered on the part of his former companions, Hoccleve reports a conversation with an unnamed Friend who pays him a visit and tries to dissuade him from exerting himself in "studie" (379). The poet goes to great lengths in order to convince his interlocutor that he is well enough to resume his vocation. On all these levels--mental, social, and professional--he struggles to advance from a state of fragmentation to one of cohesion, where language is anchored in a proper social order and correctly expresses the subject's place within it. (43) Viewed from the gendered perspective offered in the Epistre, the speaker of the Series oscillates between a male and female position. (44) Cured of the inner split from reality that Christine believes is endemic to misogynist discourse, he now finds himself, like her, the victim of various misconceptions, which he must overcome by proclaiming his true nature.
Admittedly, one might argue that loss of status and restitution are not distinctly female experiences. Many a medieval hero follows the same path: St. Eustache, King Horn, Bevis of Hampton, and so forth. Nevertheless, in spite of his desire to find favor with Humphrey, the all-too-virile Duke of Gloucester (526-619), Hoccleve does not tell such a story, perhaps for lack of a respectable Chaucerian model. (The closest parallel would be the Knight's request, after interrupting the Monks Tale, to hear a narrative of this sort [2774-79], which the Nun's Priest fulfills only in part.) Instead, the third installment of the Series recounts the adventures of a Roman Empress who survives multiple betrayals and sexual harassments, a false incrimination, and numerous years in exile, only to be reunited with her husband at the end of the day. (45) Hoccleve's treatment of this story from the Gesta romanorum follows the previously outlined paradigm of inserting himself into the Chaucerian moment he creates. While one would be hard-pressed to read the Clerk's Tale as touching upon Chaucer's life, the "Tale of Jereslaus's Wife" invites such an interpretation, elicited by the ample information the author-persona of the Series provides about his trajectory and the fact that he has modeled it on that of a female character in "My Complaint."
As the frame narrative of the Series reports, Hoccleve embarked on his translation of "Jereslaus's Wife" at the instigation of a Friend who had urged him to make amends for his past offense against womankind in the Letter of Cupid. This witty exchange, occurring at the end of "A Dialogue," offers a rare moment of comic relief in an otherwise somber work. Paradoxically, even as he solicits a palinode to the Letter, in which, he claims, Hoccleve has of women "so largeliche said / That they been swart wrooth and ful euele apaid" (755-56), the Friend nevertheless revives its blend of irony and literary allusion. "Bewaar lest thow be qwyt" (668), he says, both echoing a pregnant Chaucerian phrase (46) and recalling one of the most antifeminist passages of the Letter, which expatiates on the acts of vengeance taken by such irate women.
Hoccleve both pleads innocent by insisting that, on the whole, the Letter favors women and makes things worse by ascribing its objectionable parts to the original author, who, we know, is Christine (757-80). This apology borrows liberally from the prologues to the Legend of Good Women (G. Prof 340-52), the Canterbury Tales (725-42), and the Miller's Tale (3167-75). Like the homage to Chaucer's excusing of Criseyde discussed above, it boils down to little more than a derivative reflex. Taking her cue from this passage, Karen Winstead has argued that Hoccleve's attitude to women in the Series is the same as it had been in the Letter. (47) I would like to suggest a different assessment: by rehearsing his earlier gimmicks, Hoccleve makes the next poem in the sequence all the more startling and novel. Whereas the Clerk's Tale concludes with a hilarious praise of the Wife of Bath and women who follow her dubious example in tormenting their husbands, "Jereslaus's Wife" is preceded by such a carnivalesque moment, which likewise calls upon the authority of this matron ("Dialogue," 694-96). Although the story that ensues is not free of clerkly irony, (48) this misogynist stance loses its prominence as the narrative progresses. Instead, there emerges a new conception of women and the author's relation to them. Even as Hoccleve continues to draw on the Letter and the Clerk's Tale, he recasts their poetics. In so doing, he comes as close as he ever has to facing the lessons of Christine's Epistre.
The connection Hoccleve establishes with Chaucer in "Jereslaus's Wife" goes beyond its surrounding frame. Several passages within the narrative proper adapt Chaucer's techniques of authorial revision, for which the Clerk has a particular flair. By intervening in the story (53-55), commenting upon its characters (455-62), and eventually standing its "traditional" meaning on its head (1163-212), the Clerk distinguishes himself from Petrarch and, as David Wallace has argued, from Petrarch's "absolutist" ideology as well. (49) A skeptical reader might object that Hoccleve draws on Chaucer's contention with the Italian luminary to support his own contention with a less worthy rival, the Gesta romanorum. Nevertheless, apart from several instances where Hoccleve criticizes the holes in the plot of his source ("Jereslaus's Wife," 57-60, 190-96, 428-30), (50) most of his interventions are clearly directed at the Chaucerian tradition.
Of special interest to Hoccleve is the battle of the sexes staged in the Clerk's Envoy to his Tale. Whereas the Clerk apostrophizes "noble wyves, ful of heigh prudence" (1183) and later "Ye archewyves" (1195), whom he urges to rebel against their husbands, Hoccleve's narrator turns rather to "yee Jnat seyn wommen be variant / And can nat sad been if they been assaillid" (484-85) (51) and "Yee men, whos vsage is, women to greeue" (722). The first of Hoccleve's appeals begins by defending the Griselda-like "Constance" (488; cf. CIT, 668,1008,1047) of female "nature" (490) and, reviving the ironic stance of the Letter, ends by admitting more exceptions to the rule than those who follow it (491-97). In other words, the burden of this pseudo-vindication does not differ much from that of the Clerk. The end-rhyme "aillid," used in the first of its two stanzas (485,487,488), echoes the rhyme "aille" that rings throughout the Clerk's Envoy (esp. 1180), thereby making this Chaucerian moment all the more resonant.
Hoccleve's second appeal echoes the Clerk more faintly and departs more radically from the poetics of the Envoy:
Yee men, whos vsage is, women to greeue, And falsely deceyue hem and bytraye, No wondir is thogh yee mishappe and cheeue. God qwyte yow wole and your wages paye In swich wyse fiat it yow shal affraye. Let Goddes wreches hensfoorth yow miroure, For, but if yee do, yee shul bye it soure. (722-28)
There is no final turn of the screw in this stanza, no sudden (or not-so-sudden) reversal of tone. Instead, Hoccleve admonishes the men who have mistreated the Empress and now come to her seeking a cure for the disease God has inflicted upon them in retribution. These villains, he suggests at one point, are unsuccessful practitioners of the Ovidian Art of Love (482-83): a claim that seems to be inspired by the Letter of Cupid or its French original. Endowed with miraculous powers of healing, the Empress, disguised as a nun, makes her adversaries confess their sins before forgiving them, restoring them to health, and revealing her identity. The idea that God has "qwitte"/"qwyte" (721, 725) deceptive men, whereas their victim has cured them, recasts the Friends humorously Chaucerian warning in "A Dialogue" that Hoccleve should "Bewaar lest" he "be qwyt" by infuriated women, as described at length in the Letter. Could it be that, having suffered divine punishment like Ovid and his followers, he longs to perform true penance and receive true absolution? Does he address the plea "Let Goddes wreches hensfoorth yow miroure" (727) to himself as well as to others? Or perhaps he sympathizes with the calumniated Empress as he does with Griselda and, taking her example, desires to emerge triumphant from his afflictions? Finally, do the multilayered reflexivity of the Series and its authorpersonas ability to identify with both male and female experiences result in a reformed attitude to women in the spirit of the Epistre?
There are no definite answers to these questions because the Series is an open-ended work. It neither begins with a binding statement of purpose nor ends with a revelation, conversion, edifying moral, denouement, or structural closure. The fact that Hoccleve dedicated one of its copies to Joan Beaufort, countess of Westmorland, does not solve the ambiguities that characterize his representation of women. (52) Nevertheless, a quick glance at the rest of the sequence may place this scene in perspective. The allegorical moralizado that Hoccleve appends to his translation, again following the bidding of his Friend, signals a turn away from questions of gender but-contrary to the opinion of some critics (53)--does not invalidate the literal meaning of the foregoing narrative. (54) Nowhere does the Series invoke the notorious fruit/chaff distinction that might warrant such an interpretation. Rather, according to the Friend, the "moralyzynge" found in most copies of the tale is "parcel" (i.e., "part") of the whole (972). The next poem in the Series, a devout treatise on the art of dying, is likewise unconcerned with male-female relations and so will not be considered here in detail. Suffice it to point out its persistent concern with the raising of awareness in a world that never ceases to distract us from the ineluctable fact of death. (55)
The final installment, another tale from the Gesta romanorum, recounts the ruinous love of a naive prince for a courtesan who tricks him out of his heirloom. Likewise commissioned by Hoccleves Friend in order to serve as a warning for his son, this story risks sullying the poets reputation, painting him once more as inconsistent and disrespectful of women. When Hoccleve makes this objection, his Friend insists that reporting the crimes of a single double-dealing heroine need not imply that every member of her gender is so (60-63). Only a reader who "hath trade hir shoo amis" would interpret the narrative in this way (64-67). By contrast, a "vertuous womman good and benigne" would appreciate its admonitory function (68-70). Tellingly, Christine's Epistre also supports, at least in theory, whoever "blasmast seulement les donnees / Aux grans vices et les abandonnees, / Et conseillast a elles non suivir ... Sans diffamer toutes generaument" ("would blame abandoned women alone and those given to great vices and advise against following them ... without defaming all women in general"; 341-43, 347). Though she would never have chosen to retell the "Tale of Jonathas," it does not contradict her belief in female dignity and the poetics she formulates to express it.
Two conclusions may be drawn from this exchange. On the one hand, the encounter with the Empress in the "Tale of Jereslaus's Wife" did not transform Hoccleve into a second Christine intent on singing womens praise. On the other, the powerful alternative to literary misogyny that it conveys remains intact. Both he and his Friend realize the limitations of a discourse centered on blanket generalizations about gender, whether negative or, for that matter, positive. Even as Hoccleve deepens the reflexive and intertextual engagement of his poetry, he strives to break the confines of self-referential literariness and to explore the ability of writing to change the life and mind of its author and his or her audience.
Following the Emperors death, which sets the plot in motion, the narrator of "Jonathas" distinguishes between the "excesse" mourning of normal widows (143) and the more prudent attitude of "wyse wommen" (144) taken by the monarch's wife. Elsewhere Hoccleve comments that "sum womman othir whyle atte beste / Can lye and weepe whan is hir lykyng" (248-49)--but he refrains from offering a general rule. By the same token, the Empress cautions her son to avoid "Vnhonest wommen" (266), not all women. Jonathas sings a different tune: "Swich is wommannes inconstant nature, / They can nat keepe conseil worth a risshe" (192-93). Appropriately, the sweeping cliche that he hurls at his mistress does not keep him from being deceived by her. Taking a one-sided view of women, he is unable either to note the difference between good and bad consorts or to "be waar / Ne take ensample of the deceites tweyne / hat shee dide him beforn" (400-2). All he can do is reiterate this platitude (453-55) and, having finally "qwit" Fellicula (575; cf. 601), hasten "hoom to th'emperice his modir" one last time (669) despite the fact that at one point he wishes she had never "conceyued" him (473).
Even though we are told that Jonathas spends the rest of his life "in ioie and in prosperitee" until "his dyynge day" (670-71), Hoccleve's conclusion "And so God vs graunte (rat we do may!" (672) hardly dispels the darkness that lurks beneath his last poem. Its protagonist never fully recovers from his involvement with Fellicula: there is no indication that he resumes his studies, founds his own family, or even outlives the Empress. Returning to his mother's house, he comes full circle to a state of stunted growth: that of a self-centered youth who cannot become a man. His trajectory mirrors the circularity of his thinking, which is unable to advance beyond its premises and to create something new, much like the antifeminist banter criticized in the Epistre. It takes a fair amount of allegoresis to reinterpret this homecoming as the soul's journey to the "regne of heuene" (731). At any rate, as in the case of the first Gesta narrative, the prose moralizado that does so is not concerned with questions of gender. For all of these reasons, one should be wary of identifying Jonathas's views on the issues dealt with in the present study as the final statement of the Series. (56) Instead, he exemplifies the kind of reader who has failed to undergo the transformative experience dramatized in this sequence.
Mandel Scholion Center, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
A significant part of this essay was completed during my stay as a Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania in 2013-14, where I had the privilege of presenting an earlier version at the Medieval-Renaissance Seminar of the Department of English. I am grateful for the careful and generous feedback I received from its participants, as well as for the additional comments offered by David Wallace and Kevin Brownlee.
(1) References to the Letter of Cupid and Series are from Thomas Hoccleve, "My Compleinte" and Other Poems, ed. Roger Ellis (U. of Exeter Press, 2001).
(2) The significance of the Epistre for this debate is outlined in Poems of Cupid, God of Love: Christine de Pizan's "Epistre au dieu d'Amours" and "Dit de la Rose", Thomas Hoccleve's "The Letter of Cupid"; Editions and Translations, with George Sewell's "The Proclamation of Cupid", ed. and trans. Thelma S. Fenster and Mary Carpenter Erler (Leiden: Brill, 1990), 3-7. All quotations of the Epistre are taken from this edition and henceforth cited parenthetically.
(3) For the sake of convenience, I use the anglicized editorial title of Hoccleve's poem in order to distinguish it from its French source.
(4) John V. Fleming, "Hoccleve's 'Letter of Cupid' and the 'Quarrel' over the Roman de la Rose," Medium Aivum 40 (1971): 21-40, claims that Hoccleve preserves the gist of Christine's profeminist argument. While critical of Christine's other Middle English translators, Dhira B. Mahoney offers a similar assessment of Hoccleve in "Middle English Regenderings of Christine de Pizan," in The Medieval Opus: Imitation, Rewriting, and Transmission in the French Tradition, ed. Douglas Kelly (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1996), 405-23. For the opposite view, see especially Diane Bornstein, "Anti-Feminism in Thomas Hoccleve's Translation of Christine de Pizan's Epistre au dieu d'amours" English Language Notes 19 (1981): 7-14; Karen A. Winstead, "'I am al othir to yow than yee weene': Hoccleve, Women, and the Series," PQ 72 (1993): 143-55. According to Anna Torti, since "the text that started the 'Quarrel of the Rose' is in the nature of a literary exercise ... [i]t is not so much that [Hoccleve's] choice of episodes and his reworking of Christine's poem show him up as antifeminist, as that the conventional nature of the themes lends itself to ironic treatment." See "Hoccleve's Attitude towards Women: 1 shoop me do my peyne and diligence / To Wynne hir loue by obedience,"' in A Wyf Ther Was: Essays in Honour of Paule Mertens-Fonck, ed. Juliette Dor (Liege Language and Literature, Departement d'anglais, U. de Liege, 1992), 265. Roger Ellis, "Chaucer, Christine de Pizan, and Hoccleve: The Letter of Cupid," in Essays on Thomas Hoccleve, ed. Catherine Batt (Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Queen Mary and Westfield College, U. of London, 1996), 52, argues that Hoccleve "endorses" Christine's position but flattens out the complexity of her argument, thereby "reinstating the very courtly positions ... which both [she] and her translator had understood to be another form of male fiction designed to deny the idealized female a voice and the capacity of action."
(5) E.g., Fleming, "Hoccleve's 'Letter of Cupid'"; Stephanie A. Viereck Gibbs Kamath, Authorship and First-Person Allegory in Late Medieval France and England (Cambridge: Brewer, 2012), 101-37.
(6) Fleming, "Hoccleve's 'Letter of Cupid.'" A more sensitive treatment of Christine's negation and simultaneous appropriation of the Roman de la Rose in order to authorize her own poetics is offered in Kevin Brownlee, "Discourses of the Self: Christine de Pizan and the Romance of the Rose," in Rethinking the Romance of the Rose: Text, Image, Reception, ed. Kevin Brownlee and Sylvia Huot (U. of Pennsylvania Press, 1992), 234-61.
(7) A notable exception is Ethan Knapp, The Bureaucratic Muse: Thomas Hoccleve and the Literature of Late Medieval England (Pennsylvania State U. Press, 2001), 45-75. See also Brownlee, "Discourses of the Self."
(8) Was Christine a (proto)feminist? For two contrasting perspectives, both of which insist on the historical validity of this category, see Beatrice Gottlieb, "The Problem of Feminism in the Fifteenth Century," in Women of the Medieval World: Essays in Honor of John H. Mundy, ed. Julius Kirshner and Suzanne W. Wemble (London: Blackwell, 1985), 337-64; Sheila Delany, '"Mothers to Think Back Through': Who Are They? The Ambiguous Example of Christine de Pizan," in Medieval Texts & Contemporary Readers, ed. Laurie A. Finke and Martin B. Schichtman (Cornell U. Press, 1987), 177-97.
(9) A different analysis of the ways in which Hoccleve "redefine [s] the basis of defense" offered by Christine "possibly in imitation of Chaucer's Legend of Good Women" appears in Glenda K. McLeod, "A Case of Faulx Semblans: L'Epistre au Dieu d'Amours and The Letter of Cupid," in The Reception of Christine de Pizan from the Fifteenth through the Nineteenth Centuries: Visitors to the City, ed. Glenda K. McLeod (Lewiston, NY: Mellen, 1991), 11-24.
(10) Except where noted, all modern English translations are my own. In Christine's case, however, I have consulted and occasionally adopted some turns of phrase from Fenster and Erler s bilingual edition, as well as The God of Love's Letter, trans. Kevin Brownlee, in The Selected Writings of Christine de Pizan: New Translations, Criticism, ed. Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski, trans. Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski and Kevin Brownlee (New York: Norton, 1997), 274-97, 15-29.
(11) The importance of motherhood for Christine's vision of collaboration between men and women, both poetic and social, is further explored in Lori Walters, "The Woman Writer and Literary History: Christine de Pizan's Reconfiguration of the Poetic Translatio in the Epistre au Dieu d'amours," French Literature Series 16 (1989): 4, 10-12. See, however, Renate BlumenfeldKosinski, "Christine de Pizan and the Misogynistic Tradition," Romanic Review 81 (1990): 285-89, on this author's ambivalent relationship with her own mother, who had stood in the way of her education.
(12) For another take on Christine's "deconstructjion]" of the "antifeminist position" by "demonstratjing] that the two sexes are not simple opposites of each other," see Ellis, "Chaucer, Christine de Pizan, and Hoccleve," 33. Several arguments that he makes, especially with regard to Christine's alleged failure to "consider the way mens imaginations can trigger their relationships" (50) or her "uncomplicated view of homosocial bonding" (51), are contested in the present discussion.
(13) As Linda Burke argues, Ovid's and Jean de Meun's reputation as consummate misogynists is to a large extent due to Jehan Le Fevres polemical Livre de Leesce, an important source of influence on Christine. See the introduction to The Book of Gladness/Le Livre de Leesce: A 14th Century Defense of Women, in English and French, by ]ehan Le Fevre, trans. Linda Burke (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2013), 8-14, 18-19.
(14) See also Walters, "The Woman Writer," 4-6, on the "double identity of the speaker" in this poem.
(15) The Harley manuscript is accessible at http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/ record.asp?MSID=8361. A related visual in Paris, Bibliotheque nationale, MS fr. 835, foi. 45r, is very similar in composition to its Harleian counterpart but displays a more masculine if still baby-faced figure. See http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btvlb8449047c.
(16) Fleming, "Hoccleves 'Letter of Cupid,"' 35.
(17) Different versions of this argument appear in Lee Patterson, "'What Is me?': Self and Society in the Poetry of Thomas Hoccleve," Studies in the Age of Chaucer 23 (2001): 450-53; Knapp, The Bureaucratic Muse, 51-56. For Christine's account of the affair and criticism of the Lancastrian regime, see Christine de Pizan, Le livre de TAdvision Cristine, ed. Christine Reno and Liliane Dulac (Paris: Champion, 2001), 3.11.31-56. English translation in The Vision of Christine de Pizan, trans. Glenda McLeod and Charity Cannon Willard (Cambridge: Brewer, 2005), 3.11.106-7.
(18) Ellis, "Chaucer, Christine de Pizan, and Hoccleve," 44-45. See also Fleming, "Hoccleves 'Letter of Cupid,"' 30-32; Mahoney, "Middle English Regenderings," 416-18; Kamath, Authorship and First-Person Allegory, 114-17. Fleming and Kamath document Hoccleves extensive reliance on the Roman de la Rose.
(19) All quotations from Chaucer follow The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson, 3rd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987) and are cited parenthetically. A few scholars raise the possibility that Christine had access to the Wife of Bath's Prologue. See, for example, Ellis, "Chaucer, Christine de Pizan, and Hoccleve," 39-40; Mahoney, "Middle English Regenderings," 414.
(20) Knapp, The Bureaucratic Muse, 70-75, underscores though perhaps overstates this distinction.
(21) By contrast, in Hoccleve, Letter, 274-80, misogynist ideas are more clearly attributed to the wicked men who express them.
(22) For Lydgates use of antithesis to establish himself as an author in this play, see Jonathan Stavsky, "John Lydgate Reads The Clerk's Tale," Studies in the Age of Chaucer 34 (2012): 237-38.
(23) John M. Bowers maintains that "Hoccleve ... shows very little direct knowledge of Chaucer's poetry--[He] seems to have known the man, his literary reputation, and even some ringing phrases, but not much of the works themselves." See "Thomas Hoccleve and the Politics of Tradition," The Chaucer Review 36 (2002): 354. For an excellent critique of Bowers that draws on Hoccleves allusions to Troilus and Criseyde, see Nicholas Perkins, "Haunted Hoccleve? The Regiment of Princes, the Troilean Intertext, and Conversations with the Dead," The Chaucer Review 43 (2008): 103-39.
(24) See, for example, Christine de Pizan, La Citta delle Dame, ed. Earl Jeffrey Richards, trans. Patrizia Caraffi (Rome: Carocci, 2007; orig. published in 1997), 1.3.3, 2.12.2, 2.13.2. English translation of the same edition in Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies, trans. Earl Jeffrey Richards, rev. ed. (New York: Persea, 1998).
(25) Ellis, "Chaucer, Christine de Pizan, and Hoccleve," 48-49.
(26) Further instances are listed in Jane Chance, "Gender Subversion and Linguistic Castration in Fifteenth-Century English Translations of Christine de Pizan," in Violence against Women in Medieval Texts, ed. Anna Roberts (U. Press of Florida, 1998), 169.
(27) See, however, lines 289-90 of the Epistre, where Cupid is less gracious towards "non valables."
(28) Hence, while I agree with Brownlee, "Discourses of the Self," 240, that Christine "detached" the "auctores ... from their texts and judged" them "as human beings in specific historical circumstances," I argue that for her the "self-enclosed and self-sufficient" nature of the "courtly system" she endeavors to reform does not produce "a male desiring subject who" addresses "a silent female object both of desire and of discourse" (234) but is rather produced by such subjects.
(29) As Ellis, "Chaucer, Christine de Pizan, and Hoccleve," 34, remarks, Christine employs the verb "se desnature [r]" with reference both to men who defame women and to debauched women who fail to act in accordance with their nature (678). I would add that this parallelism strengthens the illicit sexual connotations of misogynist speech in the passage cited above.
(30) As opposed to Fenster and Erler and Brownlee, I take "celle" as the object both of "excusant" and "nomme et accuse."
(31) A comparable instance of concealing and revealing in the Regiment of Princes is discussed in Catherine Batt, "Hoccleve and ... Feminism? Negotiating Meaning in The Regiment of Princes" in Batt, Essays on Thomas Hoccleve, 67-69.
(32) Compare an earlier passage where Chaucer defends Criseyde by invoking previous authorities (4.1415-21).
(33) Seth Lerer, Chaucer and His Readers: Imagining the Author in Late-Medieval England (Princeton U. Press, 1993).
(34) In another passage, Hoccleve expands Christines argument regarding men's indebtedness to their mothers (169-89). Nevertheless, his idiom "A wikkid tree good fruyt may noon foorth brynge" (176) assumes new significance when he calls Eve "our firste modir" (351).
(35) The phrase "Chaucerian moments" is used by scholars to denote various things: Chaucers impact on literary history; a quintessentially Chaucerian passage in Chaucer's works; and, as here, a passage in the works of another poet that draws on typical vocabulary and stock phrases from his oeuvre in order to restage an iconic Chaucerian episode. For the last of these usages, see, for example, Seth Lerer, Courtly Letters in the Age of Henry VIII: Literary Culture and the Arts of Deceit (Cambridge U. Press, 1997), 38, 196; Stephanie Trigg, "Chaucer's Influence and Reception," in The Yale Companion to Chaucer, ed. Seth Lerer (Yale U. Press, 2006), 317.
(36) The chief exponent of this view is Paul Strohm, England's Empty Throne: Usurpation and the Language of Legitimation, 1399-1422 (Yale U. Press, 1998). The masculinist bent of Hoccleve's Lancastrian agenda is discussed by Ruth Nisse, '"Oure Fadres Olde and Modres': Gender, Heresy, and Hoccleve's Literary Politics," Studies in the Age of Chaucer 21 (1999): 275-99.
(37) The interplay of monologue and dialogue in the first two poems of the Series is thoroughly analyzed in Eleanor Johnson, Practicing Literary Theory in the Middle Ages: Ethics and the Mixed Form in Chaucer, Gower, Usk, and Hoccleve (U. of Chicago Press, 2013), 202-13.
(38) For Hoccleve's frequent recourse to Chaucer when constructing his persona in the Series, see A. C. Spearing, Medieval Autographies: The T of the Text (U. of Notre Dame Press, 2012), 171-207.
(39) Jerome Mitchell discusses Hoccleve's possible indebtedness to the House of Fame in Thomas Hoccleve: A Study in Early Fifteenth-Century English Poetic (U. of Illinois Press, 1968), 9-10.
(40) This vexed question is addressed by Mitchell, Thomas Hoccleve, 1-19; J. A. Burrow, "Autobiographical Poetry in the Middle Ages: The Case of Thomas Hoccleve," Proceedings of the British Academy 68 (1982): 389-412; Patterson, "Self and Society"; Spearing, Medieval Autographies. All of these scholars insist, in different ways, that Hoccleve's autobiographical passages should neither be accepted literally nor be dismissed as "mere" products of convention.
(41) John Burrow suggests that Hoccleve's autobiographical voice may also be influenced by Guillaume de Machaut, Jean Froissart, and Eustache Deschamps. See "Hoccleve and the Middle French Poets," in The Long Fifteenth Century: Essays for Douglas Gray, ed. Helen Cooper and Sally Mapstone (Oxford: Clarendon, 1997), 43-49.
(42) In his note on line 309, Ellis points out that whereas the nonholograph manuscripts "carefully distinguish the speakers in the ... dialogue" between "racio" and "homo," a marginal gloss by John Stowe in Durham, Durham University Library, MS Cosin V.iii.9 identifies the latter with "Thomas."
(43) According to Patterson, "Self and Society," Hoccleve fails to achieve such cohesion on account of his ambivalent relation to Lancastrian power, whose ideology his open-ended poetry subverts. See also Sebastian James Langdell, '"What world is this? How vndirstande am I?': A Reappraisal of Poetic Authority in Thomas Hoccleves Series," Medium TEvum (2009): 281-99.
(44) For Hoccleve's "feminization" in the Fall of Princes, see Batt, "Hoccleve and ... Feminism?" 60-61.
(45) A similar tale follows the story of Griselda in Christine's Cite des Dames (2.51), which also includes two additional examples of the motif of the virtuous calumniated heroine (2.37,3.12), a locus classicus of debates on the moral stature of women. More to the point, "Jereslaus's Wife" expands Hoccleve's Chaucerian frame of reference by evoking, alongside the Clerk's Tale, that of the Man of Law, allusions to which are pointed out in Ellis's notes on lines 12-13, 15, 246-66, 282-85,465-69,950-52. Despite the structural resemblance between the Gesta narrative and the Man of Law's Tale, I retain my focus on Hoccleve's engagement with the Griselda story owing to its significance for understanding the Series as a whole.
(46) CT, I.3119, I.3127, I.3864, I.3916, III.422, III.425, III.483, III.1292, IX.293.
(47) Winstead, "Hoccleve, Women, and the Series," 144.
(48) In addition to the passage discussed below, see "Jereslaus's Wife," 386-99, where the narrator holds a minor female character to be "excusable" of dubious behavior along the same lines as the Letter and its Chaucerian intertext.
(49) David Wallace, Chaucerian Polity: Absolutist Lineages and Associational Forms in England and Italy (Stanford U. Press, 1997), 261-98.
(50) In one case, Hoccleve's editor Ellis believes this criticism harks back to the Clerk's Tale. See Hoccleve, "My Compleinte" and Other Poems, note on "Jereslaus's Wife," 190-96.
(51) The source of line 484 is, of course, Mercury's words to Aeneas: "varium et mutabile semper / femina" ("A fickle and changeful thing is woman ever"). Text and translation quoted from Virgil, vol. 1, trans. H. Rushton Fairclough, rev. G. P. Goold, Loeb Classical Library 63 (Harvard U. Press, 1999), Aeneid, 4.569-70. Christine likewise objects to it in the Epistre: "elz ne soient mie si variables / Comme aucuns dit, n'en leur fais si muables" ("they are hardly as fickle as one says they are, nor so changeful in their deeds"; 405-6). Line 484 is a possible allusion to Griselda's enduring sadnesse in the Clerk's Tale (220, 293, 452, 552, 564, 602, 693, 754, 1047, 1100).
(52) Pace Nancy B. Black, Medieval Narratives of Accused Queens (U. Press of Florida, 2003), 161-62, 164-66. More complex discussions of this dedication include Patterson, "Self and Society," 450; Winstead, "Hoccleve, Women, and the Series," 152.
(53) E.g., Winstead, "Hoccleve, Women, and the Series," 147-48.
(54) I similarly disagree with Johnson, Practicing Literary Theory, 219, that Hoccleve's ethical stance in the versified tale makes its "blatantly Christian" prose moralizado seem redundant. On the contrary, the last stanza of "Jereslaus's Wife" prepares us for this transition by concluding, like the Man of Law's and Clerk's Tales, with the death of its protagonists (950; cf. MLT, 1156-59; CIT, 1134), a fate reserved to all human beings ("Jereslaus's Wife," 951-52). Incidentally, the line "And what God list, also dye shul we" (952) borrows a phrase from the Clerk's lament for Petrarch: "and alle shul we dye" (38).
(55) In a forthcoming study I deal with several Chaucerian moments in "Learn to Die" and their relevance to the rest of the Series.
(56) Pace Winstead, "Hoccleve, Women, and the Series," 150-52, who quotes the same passages.
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|Title Annotation:||Thomas Hoccleve|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2014|
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