Legend of Good Women

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Written by Chaucer between 1372 and 1386, is based on such works as Ovid's Heroides, and Boccaccio's De Claris Mulieribus and Vitae Virorum et Feminarum Illustrium. The prologue is more admired than the stories which make up the body of the poem. This prologue occurs in two forms, the dates and order of precedence of which have been disputed. It opens with some famous lines in praise of the daisy (conforming to the tradition of ‘Marguerite’ poems in French) and continues with a description of the rebuking of the sleeping narrator by the god of love because of the things he had written in dispraise of women. Chaucer vows to make amends by composing this work in praise of women celebrated for their fidelity in love, as directed by the queen of love, Alceste. The poem (which is unfinished) contains nine stories of famous women: Cleopatra, Thisbe, Dido, Hypsipyle and Medea, Lucrece, Ariadne, Philomela, Phyllis, and Hypermnestra. The poem is significant, as well as for the charm of its prologue, for the fact that it is the first attested use of the heroic couplet in Chaucer (and, as far as is known, in English poetry).

Subjects: Literary Studies (Early and Medieval).

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