The Book of Duchess: Details, Structure, Characters and Summary of the Poem

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The Book of the Duchess

The Book of the Duchess

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  • Introduction

  • Details of the poem

  • Structure of the poem

  • Characters of the poem

  • Summary of the poem

  • Questions

Chauncer's Life and Family

Chauncer's Life and Family

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Details of the Poem

  • Written in 1368 or between 1368 and 1372.But published in 1532 in William Thyone’s collection.

  • Other titles- “The Death of Blanche”, The Dream of Chaucer”

  • To commemorate the death of Blanche of Lancaster, wife of Sir John Gaunt(Chaucer’s friend and patron)

  • Dream vision/dream allegory

  • 1334 lines, Octosyllabic rhyming couplets.

Structure of the Poem

  • Total lines in this poem 1334 Poem lines 1 - 290 Dream Lines 291 – 1334

  • It is also a Long Narrative Poem

  • ‘Lady White’ refers to Blanche

  • ‘Long castle’ refers to House of Lancaster

Characters of the Poem

  • Narrator: Dreamer: Poet : Chaucer

  • Says (Calyx): King

  • Alcyone : Queen

  • Juno: Roman Goddess

  • Morpheus: God of Sleep

  • Black Night: Idealized version of John of Gaunt

  • Lady White : Representation of the Duchess Blanche

  • Fortune : Allegorical Representation

Summary of the Poem

  • Says-on sea voyage-never returns(drowned and died)

  • Alcyone prays to God Juno- her prayer is answered in her dreams

  • Morpheus(God of sleep)-fetches say’s body from the sea & shows him in Alcyone’s dream-Says reveals her, He is dead.

  • Alcyone too dies of grief in 3 days

Narrator’s Dream

  • May morning-hunting with Emperor Octavian & a group

  • Dream chamber Stained glass paintings-Trojan war Wall paintings-’The Romance of the Rose

  • Narrator follows a small hunting dog-to dark forest

  • Black night, under a huge oak tree- reciting poetry

  • The Knight curses Fortune for spinning her wheel and made her beloved die

  • The knight lost his ‘White Queen’ to Fortune in the game of chess.

  • The narrator tries to console him by saying examples from history

  • Wisdom of Socrates .Medea Jason .Dido & Aeneas Samson Delilah.

  • But the knight is not consoled

  • He says, he was serving the god of love’ before he met Lady White

  • He wooed her for 1 year and married her

  • She was so beautiful & gentle in character

  • Lady White is dead now.

  • The narrator exclaims sadly,

  • The hunting party returns poet wakes up from his sleep

  • The poet decides to write his dream as a rhyme (poetry).


1. Who is the god of sleep is the Book of Duchess?

Answer: God Morpheus

2. Name the King and Queen who come in the Ovid’s book noted in poem, Book of Duchess.

Answer: Says and Alcyone

3. The knight lost his ‘White Queen’ to Fortune in the game of

Answer: Chess.