Parliament of Foules Interpretive Points
I. P. 385: In the introduction, why use Macrobius' Somnium Scipionis? Macrobius’ commentary on the Somnium Scipionis? It’s not the only dream in classical literature. Establishes Chaucer-the-Narrator persona with a peculiar “usage, what for lust and what for lore” (desire and learning, pleasure and knowledge, delight and instruction—Horace’s Ars poetica). Setting classical models of thinking about knowing and the afterlife as norms for both pleasure and wisdom. Effects on later narrative with allegorized pagan gods.
P. 386-7: “Affrycan”’s message to Tullius, paraphrased, emphasis on “commune profyt” (ll. 47 and 75) as the key virtue to insure good live and afterlife “Know thyself eternal” so even pagans share the belief in an afterlife w/o Gospel. This “gate” sets up all that follows within the frame of fleeting life and eternal space/time (Intro stanzas!). Soul flight (later given to Troilus!) reveals “the lytel erthe that here is” (l. 57) cosmic vision vs. earthly pursuits which are tiny by comparison, plus establishes a ground of interpretation for seeing all things as “types” or “allegories” of their deeper significance.
II. P. 387: Passage into Dream of Court of Venus—why is GC not able to go through those gates? Affrycan says it’s because he is not a lover (ll. 155-66) but why adopt that stance (also in lyric poems, intro of the Troilus—what’s GC’s game re: his audience?)?
III. Pp. 388-89: How does the pagan pantheon of Venus’ court get slipped into the Christian poet’s work? Back to that Macrobius/”SS” introduction and the soul flight—we’re all dealing with abstractions, pagans and Christians, on a little earth in a big cosmos. Esp. How does GC use the mythic figures with allegory as ideas even when they’re “gods”? (“Cupide, oure lorde” l. 212; “the god Priapus” l. 253—sets up “Love as lord” convention as normal for sonneteers like Wyatt [“The Long Love”]) Also rewards the close reader with classical learning—ll. 286-94—all died because of love (vs. love as a “joyous” thing—ambiguous/fused/complicated ordinary ideas become interesting, difficult (Marie’s intro) and instructive to interpet.
IV. Pp. 389-94: The Birds’ Debate—is it supposed to generate a conclusion or is it supposed to do something else? Roughly second half of the poem—so the Dreamer-Intro plus Macrobius paraphrase plus Venus-Court is half the poem, all frames for the Nature’s Court and Birds’ Debate—are they birds or abstractions? Serious or comic? Both? How would birds debate, were they to hold a parliament? (Parler, to speak/converse)