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The Parliament of Fowls

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by

Sarah Cox

on 21 March 2013

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Transcript of The Parliament of Fowls

Love, Politics, and Social Standing The Parliament of Fowls Summary - The Poet reads Tully on The Dream of Scipio and summarizes it. Summary Continued - Nature allows the female eagle to choose her mate. Background Information - Chaucer's "The Parliament of Fowls" is a dream-vision - The poet then goes to sleep and has a dream related to what he read - In the dream, Dame Nature oversees a large flock of birds who are gathered to choose their mates. - The birds are divided into their appropriate classes and then they have a parliamentary debate as three male eagles try to win over a female eagle. - The female eagle puts off the choice and Nature allows her to wait another year - Nature then matches the other birds to their mates - The dream ends by welcoming the coming spring. _ This dream is classified as somnium animale. - Written before the printing press was invented. - Poem could been written anytime between 1373 and 1385 but it is thought to have been written around 1380. - The date has been disputed and is important in regards to the underlying themes. Relevance of the Date Allegory for King Richard II's Engangement to Anne of Bohemia - The male Eagles could represent the three suitors for Anne of Bohemia (Anne Wenzel) - The Royal Eagle:
Richard II, who is the most powerful. - The Second Eagle:
Friedrich of Meissen, who is a princeling - The Third Eagle:
Charles VI, who is not a royal - This explains why the female eagle does not make a decision by the end of the poem. Bird Species and Social Standing Birds of Prey Seated highest in the court
Symbolic of knights and lords
They are split into categories within their class
The three male suitors are willing to fight for their claim. Worm-Eating Birds Seated next under the Birds of Prey.
Symbolic of selfish curial officials.
Lines 607-608:
"Lat eech of hem be solein al hir live,
This is my reed, sin they may nat accorde" The cuckoo is reprimanded for this remark by the merlin for his gluttony and selfishness. Seed-Eating Birds Seated on the grass Symbolic of clergy or contemplative class
Emphasizes fidelity as the most important
Lines 586-588
"For though she dyde, I wolde noon other make:
I wil been hires til that deeth me take" The clergy finds vows and values the most important way to resolve the conflict. Water Birds Seated lowest in the dale Symbolic of the commoners
The goose speaks on their behalf
Line 567:
"But she wil love him, lat him take another" Later the duck makes another crass statement Love, Politics, and Social Standing. Each of the four different bird species that remarks on the tercel eagles' debate represents their respective social class.
The disputing birds would have reminded Chaucer's audience of their own Parliament
The eagles represent a critique of courtly love. Love, Politics, and Plot in the "Parlement of Foules" In his critical article, Russel A. Peck states, “All that is clear is that Dame Nature continues to rule, allowing man the privilege of choice and compulsion. Life continues on a minimal level in the whirling world, without the clarity of a reasonable perception of why things are as they are, a perception which the narrator earnestly desires. So, although we recognize political failure at the end of the poem, we must also recognize a failure in love, at least in love as Scipio perceived it. Indeed, it is this failure of love which underlies the failure in politics, which, in fact, determines the failure. If that love which Scipio describes resided in the hearts of men, there would be no politics. But it does not, and that is why politics becomes the preoccupation of the poem” (Peck 294). Discussion "My point is that for Jean de Meun, and for Chaucer too, love only begins as love (that "imaginary illness... producing a great desire to hug and kiss"). Under will's jurisdiction it quickly becomes politics" (Peck 296).


Do you agree that love always becomes politics? Bibliography Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Parliament of Fowles. 3. Oxford: 1994. The Online Medieval
& Classical Library. Web. 19 Mar. 2013. <http://omacl.org/Parliament/>. Peck, Russell A. "Love, Politics, and Plot in the "Parlement of Foules"." The
Chaucer Review 24.4 (1990): 290-305. JSTOR. Web. 18 Mar. 2013. "The Parliament of Fowles." PowerPoint Presentation. Accessed through class Blackboard site.
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