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

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The Book of the Duchess
  • Introduction
  • Details of the poem
  • Structure of the poem
  • Characters of the poem
  • Summary of the poem
  • Questions
Chauncer՚s Life and Family

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.

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