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The Experience of PoetryFrom Homer's Listeners to Shakespeare's Readers$
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Derek Attridge

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198833154

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198833154.001.0001

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Chaucer, Gower, and Fifteenth-Century Poetry in English

Chaucer, Gower, and Fifteenth-Century Poetry in English

(p.228) 10Chaucer, Gower, and Fifteenth-Century Poetry in English
The Experience of Poetry

Derek Attridge

Oxford University Press

By the end of the fourteenth century, a sizeable audience for poetry in English among the gentry and the commercial classes had emerged. Chaucer wrote for this readership, and his poetry shows a successful absorption of French and Italian models. This chapter scrutinizes his work for evidence of the manner in which it was performed and received. Throughout his oeuvre, Chaucer appeals to both hearers and readers, using images both of books and of oral performers. His invention of the English iambic pentameter made possible a fuller embodiment in verse of the speaking voice, unlike Gower, who chose to write his major work, Confessio Amantis, in strict tetrameters. In the fifteenth century, the changing pronunciation of English made writing in metre a challenge, as is evident in the work of Hoccleve and Lydgate. The chapter ends with a consideration of the Scottish poets Henryson, Dunbar, and Douglas.

Keywords:   Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde, frontispiece, Canterbury Tales, iambic pentameter, Gower, Confessio Amantis, tetrameter

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