Chaucerian Dreams Essay

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Chaucerian Dreams
A dream vision is a literary device in which a dream is recounted for a specific purpose. The dream vision was particularly popular in the Middle Ages, and follows a structure whereby a narrator recounts his experience of falling asleep, dreaming, and waking. The story or poem always concludes with the narrator waking up, determined to record the dream in a poem. Popular literary examples of this are Chaucer’s, “Parliament of Fowls”, “The Romaunt of the Rose”, and “House of Fame”. In Chaucer’s “The Book of the Duchess”, the dream is critically important because: it is prompted by events in the dreamer’s life, the dream vision addresses certain concerns of the dreamer, and a resolution is provided.
First, the dream in “The Book of the Duchess” is prompted by events in the dreamers waking life in the beginning of the story. In the dream, the narrator finds a sorrowful knight dressed in black who has lost the love of his life. Lisa J Kiser, argues that the beginning of Chaucer’s “passage acts as a legendary digression instead of a true prologue to the poems issues.” Chaucer’s introduction to the poem, describing the restless poet does not show events being taken in the dream. “Dreams are supposed to be metaphors for the activities and results of the poetic imagination in medieval courtly work” (Kiser, 2). On the contrary, instead of showing the events of the dreamer’s life in the dream, Chaucer shows them in the book the poet reads about Alcyone and Seys. The dreamer can relate to Alcyone because she is restless and mournful of her lost husband at sea. Therefore, the narrator’s sleeplessness must mean something deeper to Chaucer since it was excluded from the dream.
Next, the dream vision addresses certain concerns of the dreamer. As stated in the previous paragraph the dream relates to Alcyone’s restlessness. Subsequently, Chaucer’s character the Black Knight, in the poets dream, is a reflection of his patron John of Gaunt. “The Book of The Duchess” is an elegy, honoring Lady Blanche, the wife of John of Gaunt, death. The Black Knight is depressed and suicidal because of the loss of his love Lady White. Chaucer links the dream vision of the poet to concerns of his patron John of Gaunt. Kiser states, “Alcyone and John of Gaunt, are given a chance to “see” their dead mates by means of a visionary experience”. Chaucer tries to help his patron by giving him a poetic remembrance of Lady Blanch, while in the dream the dreamer tries to mend the Black Knights pain and suffering as