week 7: Confessio amantis - Apollonius in context

Due: Sunday, 22 November 2020, 12:00 PM

week 7: Confessio amantis - Apollonius in context

Number of replies: 10

I would like to ask you to compare the selected passages from Gower's version of the Apollonius tale with their counterpart in the Latin Historia Apollonii and see how they are transformed.

Focus on

a) what I would call "patterning for a specific message"> 
In the last online session, when discussing the unfair treatment Antiochus' daughter received in the original tale we noted that the narrative was more concerned with familial relationships than with love per se, and that it used Antiochus and his daughter to provide a contrast for the relationship between Archistrates and his daughter and Apollonius' own family.
I'd like to ask you to look at how Gower organizes his account, through recurrent motifs, highlighted themes and narratorial comment, to endow it with specific (moral?) significance.
Think how it relates to the Confessio Amantis framework.

b) what I would call "cultural translation" >
Again, previously we discussed how the Old English translator dealt with elements in the story that were unfamiliar in his cultural context. Gower adapts the story in a much more radical fashion.
I'd like to ask you to note such instances, whether they concern the representation of specific incidents, the characterization of the protagonist(s) or the portrayal of the social context.
Look for points of contact with the texts we have read previously (= the chivalric romance).

Don't try to cover everything: choose what you consider most important / conspicuous / of special interest to you and comment on that.

In reply to First post

Re: week 7: Confessio amantis - Apollonius in context

by Adéla Zeimannová -
Gower highlights his understanding of love through the contrasting portrayal of familial/marital relationships. The main contrast is put on Antiochus and Apollonius. On one side stands Antiochus who is a bad husband/father, cruel, lustful, unfaithful, and deceitful, on the other side, Apollonius, the good husband, and father, honest, compassionate, faithful, etc. Gower’s understanding of what he calls “honest love” in contrast to the “unnatural love” is portrayed by the repeated demonstration of these qualities that the characters possess; he emphasizes the qualities of a good spouse/parent and those of the bad one. Positive qualities like honesty, compassion, mutual counsel, fidelity, are emphasized.

Apollonius cares about his daughter and wife, grieving after he learns of their death and being very joyful when they are reunited. He also stays faithful to his wife during their separation as does his wife, in general they seem to have a good marriage. He shows compassion for the starving people of Tarsus. The only time he is secretive is when he hides his identity, but even then, it is not to deceive but it rather allows him to demonstrate his kindness and virtue. Antiochus stands in stark contrast, demonstrating an unnatural love that should be avoided, his incestuous relationship with his daughter leads to cruelty, deceit, loss of compassion and unfaithfulness.

Gower shows by this repeated demonstration of these contrasting qualities that it is only the “fruitful” love that should be developed, the unnatural one will be punished. A love based on the good qualities is the proper virtuous love. His moral epilogue seems to only highlight this thought and connect this idea of love with the prologue and the whole text. Gower contrasts Nature and Reason, proper marriage and honest familial relationships (honest love) seem to be the best defense against lustful desire (unnatural love).
In reply to First post

Re: week 7: Confessio amantis - Apollonius in context

by Jáchym Hájek -
What came as a striking difference to me at the very beggining of the tale is the attention given to Antiochus's rape of his own daughter - maybe it is the poetic form, but it seemed to go into more detail about his being consumed with carnal lust and all, and also much more damning towards Antiochus - first, he did not really make any attempt to tame his desires, he seems to be completely consumed by them, the daughter seems much more a victim, as a lot of attention is also given to her being deflowered and her despair afterwards, Antiochus's crime being repeatedly seen as truly monstrous and foolish. In that way, then, the fear Antiochus's daughter has of her father is emphasised, her silence about his crime being ensured by the fear of what could happen if she talked.
In contrast to that there is Artesthrates and his daughter, who, at the first mention of her, fulfils her father's request not only because she is bound by custom, but also because she wants to make her father glad. She also finds genuine interest in Apollonius, so her father's request is not only something she must fulfil, but also something that feeds her own curiosity. It should also be noted that Artisthrates still has a wife and they seem in a harmonious enough relationship.
Apollonius himself, then, is even better than that - truly a loving father, protective (shown in his taking Thaisa in his hands) and with the moral he is put directly in contrast with Antiochus - a wile man who betrayed his own daughter. The right sort of relationship, then, is portrayed by putting it in contrast with Antiochus, also from a structure point of view - we begin with Antiochus and his crime and end with Apollonius and his family. Furthermore, the qualities and vices are emphasised by repetition - as is the case of Antiochus - but also direct action or situation (the aforementioned trust between Artisthrates and his daughter).
In reply to Jáchym Hájek

Re: week 7: Confessio amantis - Apollonius in context

by Zuzana Šindlerová -
I completely agree with your remark about the striking difference of the depiction of the rape scene in Gower, in contrast to a more lukewarm depiction in the Old English version.
I fell too, that the writer pays much more attention to the psychological suffering of the daughter, her trauma is described in more details. We learn that she feels ashamed, scared, horrified and completely miserable and true to the feelings of many other victim rapes, she thinks there is no escape - the idea that is supported by the nurse who has no remedy, no solution for her situation.
The King Antiochus is drawn in a very distinctive negative light. I fell like his character is abusing his power, enjoying his dominant position and never questioning or doubting his actions. There are basically no redeeming qualities in his character.
In reply to First post

Re: week 7: Confessio amantis - Apollonius in context

by Valeriia Kliuieva -
What I found interesting, in the Latin version the reader is given a look into a head of Antiochus, so to say: he struggles with this desire of him, he struggle with this madness, he tried to fight it, but then he gave up on it and took her by force. Later, after the act of the rape, she considers killing herself, and the nurse it talking her out of it. Those both moments are not present in Confessio Amanti. I suppose, the first one is not there for reason not to try to anyhow give Antiochus a human face: he committed a terrible thing, after all, and there can be no excuse. The second one is probably absent, because nurse literally talks this girl into agreeing to anything her father would want to do with her.
Both of the daughter are doing as their fathers want them to, which is interesting to me. Both are described beautiful and modest and pretty similar, I guess, they could be just the same person (I might be missing something out, though). Maybe it is also good for the contrast.
Gower is pretty much concentrating on the vurtues, as Adéla already mentioned, he goes into detail sometimes to point out at the particularily great virtue and praise it even more, which reminded me of Cretien (a lot), one thing I might probably add would be that Gower not only tells the reader "unnatural love" is viced, but also he points out at the fact of the rape, both physical and psychological violence here.
In reply to First post

Re: week 7: Confessio amantis - Apollonius in context

by Liana Marie Ellegate -
I agree with many of the points already made - especially that in Gower's version there is a greater emphasis on Antiochus being fully controlled by carnal desires ('unnatural love' - which gives him a very one-dimensional presence as someone corrupted to the very core by a sinful love) and the emphasis on familial love/familial virtues (honor, loyalty, protection). Expanding upon that, though, Gower shows how this unnatural persuasion corrupts the entire family unit - in Gower's social context a daughter is the property of the father and must submit to his commands. On the other hand, a father is expected to protect and honor his daughter. In this case, Antiochus dishonors his daughter by engaging in a sinful act with her and thus he corrupts her in sin - "Whan thing is do, ther is no bote, So suffren thei that suffre mote". The daughter is a victim, yes, but her father decides her fate by succumbing to his carnal desires, and Gower emphasizes the tragedy in that with the description of both father and daughter's emotions/reactions to the deed. In contrast, we have the examples of Artesthrates and his daughter, and then Apollonius and his family. Artesthrates demonstrates what the proper role of a father and daughter would be - for the daughter to follow her father's wishes, and the father to act in the best interests of his daughter; especially by finding her a caring husband that will assume the role of protector and role model. When that task is passed, Apollonius becomes the perfect example of a father/leader figure, remaining loyal to his wife and family even when he believes the worst has befallen them, and continuing to maintain an upstanding presence in society by applying the same familial virtues of love, honor, and loyalty to his interactions with the community.
In reply to First post

Re: week 7: Confessio amantis - Apollonius in context

by Ivana Turusová -
I cannot but disagree with Jáchym's point that Apollonius is the best of the three fathers that we have encountered. It is quite hard to determine that from the Old English version because a significant part of the text is missing and we only see the aftermath when Apollonius and his daughter have found each other. He confesses to the priestess (his wife) and describes his situation as following: "I then clothed her with a royal robe, and, with gold and a letter, laid her in a coffin, that he who might find her should worthily bury her, and committed this my daughter to a most wicked man to support. I then journeyed to the land of Egypt fourteen years in mourning: when I returned, they told me that my daughter was dead, and my pain was all renewed to me." Apollonius casually says that he has given his daughter to the most wicked man but where is the reason for that? It feels to me that he simply abandoned for and left for 14 years. That is not the father of the year.

In the Latin version, we peek into greater detail about Apollonius and Tharsia's relationship, and it would seem that he really loves her because she is the only thing left after hiw wife's death. Yet, again, he abandons his daughter, saying: "I shall become a merchant. So, most worthy hosts, I entrust my daughter to you,..." So the daughter is the only thing left and his priority is to become a merchant and leave her behind. Later in the text Dionysias mentions that for 14 years, Apollonius hasn't written a single letter neither to them nor Tharsia. It is strange to see a man who claimed his undying love for Tharsia to suddenly not care about her at all. What's more, when Tharsia visits Apollonius on the ship, not only that he doesn't recognize her (which is pretty suspicious to me, I think you could tell the person is your child by the similar features, but nevermind then) he pushes her so hard to the ground that she starts bleeding from her nose, and Apolonius doesn't apologize for that even after he finally understands it is his daughter. Again, not a great portrayal of a father figure.

In Confessio Amantis, again we meet with this "manifestation" of parental love. Apolonius once more commits physical violence to Thaisa (even if he didn't know it's his daughter, it says something about him as a person). We don't see much about their relationship overall but Thaisa mentions she was being brought up without him and that she didn't know whether she should seek for him ("Mi fader ekeI/not wher that I scholde him seke")- which again confirms he has never reached out to her. Gower is not that expressive here concerning their interactions but I believe with the whole text there could be more examples.

I'm being torn about this view on Apollonius because he does express genuine father feelings to his daughter on several occasions (unlike the lover feelings felt by Antiochus to his daughter, that are in all three version described as sinister and dooming for the daughter) and I believe them completely, yet his actual behavior hints something else. For me, the best portrayal of father-daughter relationship is shown through Arcestrates and Arcestrate where I see respect from both sides, genuine love and unconditional support. We might argue that he has not heard from his daughter for 14 years and didn't do anything, though, but I see that he was not being the central figure of the narrative and thus pushed aside.
In reply to Ivana Turusová

Re: week 7: Confessio amantis - Apollonius in context

by Danila Gudkov -

I also happen to agree with Ivana regarding Apollonius and would like to add that both he and Antiochus make equally bad fathers but in opposite ways. Antiochus seems to be a decent father right up until his daughters becomes  of marriageable age, as nothing in both stories indicate otherwise and he felt the need to pretend to be a responsible father after the rape, which he probably needed not were he abusive before that. In a way it makes him resemble a tragic character, though in varies between the versions. Apollonius, on the other hand, is an absentee father for 14 years for an undisclosed reason (though maybe in some way he blamed his daughter for the death of his wife or was mad with grief?), though he had a presence of mind to ensure his daughter's later filial obedience. The only reason Tharsia, who was raised as a daughter to Strangluillio, even knows about the connection is her old nurse, yet Apollonius just waltz in and expects a heartwarming reunion, demonstrating the even greater lack of sense than usual. One can say that there is too much Antiochus in his daughter's life while Tharsia has too little Apollonius in hers. As a result, both men are narratively punished with death and end of bloodline for the former and grief for the latter. Though I wonder why Arcestrates, who seems to be the better father,  never tried to visit his granddaughter or raise her himself?

In reply to First post

Re: week 7: Confessio amantis - Apollonius in context

by Simona Sailerová -
I agree with the comments already made about the more negative description of Antiochus in Gower but in contrast with that, he is given more attention in Gower's version before the incest. In the Latin version, no wife is even mentioned. Gower initially describes him in neutral terms, even respectfully and with sympathy when he mourns the loss of his wife. And also his daughter is first mentioned as a source of consolation, at least he has the daughter left when he has no wife, which still seems quite neutral. The Latin is more sympathetic afterwards and even mentions his falling in love and being overcome by love. In Gower, a mention of love in this context would be unacceptable.

There is a structural similarity with Perceval: in both, a parent, having lost their spouse, develops an unhealthy attachment to their child. Perceval's mother maintains her parental role but in the English version, the (very general) theme of child as replacement-spouse is present throughout the narrative because it elaborates on the story of Perceval's father and the similarities/connections with Perceval junior (name, appearance, Arthur's court, fighting his father's enemies. In both cases, it ends with a quest/adventure but Antiochus' daughter, being the passive victim with hardly any agency, is only an indirect cause of Apollonius' adventure rather than herself the hero. (Funnily enough, Chrétien's Perceval meets the Fisher King and Apollonius meets a fisherman and a king.)

When describing Antiochus' sinful desire, Gower mentions wealth as a corrupting influence, making it a general statement and a moral lesson rather than connecting it specifically to Antiochus. His sin goes even further in this version because "such delit he tok therinne, | Him thoghte that it was no sinne" [345-6]. But this might actually make his choice of riddle slightly less baffling.

The Latin Apollonius is more artistic and philosophical, Gower's shifts towards the natural sciences and only plays (and tunes) the harp, no theatrical performance.

Contrasted with the Arthurian romances, the hero's agency is diminished here, especially by (the narrator's repeated mentions of) Fortune. In a way, that is part of the moral. In the storm in the Latin, Neptune (and Triton) are just part of the scenery, an impersonal personification of natural phenomena. In Gower, Neptune is more active, deliberate, aiming specifically at the ship. But Fortune interferes and saves Apollonius from drowning.

The most striking example of cultural translation is the gymnasium scene. The narrator emphasizes the cultural distance by repeatedly mentioning in a short space that it was THEIR custom. While in the Latin, Apollonius is clearly at home in all that, in Gower he is not really part of it, is something of a stranger, just knows a bit of every game. The massage and bath would probably be too exotic, as well as the idea of king's participation.

An interesting difference is in portrayal of Archistrates' daughter. In the Latin, when she falls in love with Apollonius, she responds by taking action that gradually leads to him staying in the palace and teaching her. In Gower, Apollonius himself suggests he would teach her play the harp and the accommodation is the king's idea. And she is made even more passive in the description of her being in love, more strongly reflective of patriarchal society: "wher sche wole or noght, | Sche mot with al hire hertes thoght | To love and to his lawe obeie" [839-41].
In reply to First post

Re: week 7: Confessio amantis - Apollonius in context

by Michaela Válková -
I completely agree with Jáchym that Gower pays much more attention to the initial rape scene. In the Latin version, the scene is just told to have happened but in Gower, it is described as it was happening and with much greater attention and detail: “Defende, and thus sche hath forlore / The flour which sche hath longe bore. / It helpeth noght althogh sche wepe, / For thei that scholde hir bodi kepe.” Gower also highlights the struggle and despair that the daughter was feeling during the act. Whilst I also admit that the emotional difference might be due to the poetic form, I believe that if the Latin version wanted to emphasise the emotional trauma, it could have done so in the prosaic form as well.

However, I also agree with Ivana that Apollonius is also not exactly the best fatherly figure. As he is a protagonist, we are much more likely to forgive him for some of his actions, but the reunion scene was quite difficult for me to digest. It suffices to say that Thaisa calls Apollonius “a savage” based on his behaviour when he did not know who she was.

I am not completely sure how to generalise these two scenes/points, but I might argue that Gower’s version is more emotionally raw and protects the readership less from some of the unpleasantness of the story.
In reply to First post

Re: week 7: Confessio amantis - Apollonius in context

by Helena Znojemská -
I'll try to formulate a comprehensive response to all your observations.

The debate mostly revolves around the patterning of the story in Gower, and your reactions seem to suggest that, while the narratorial commentary imposes a clear scheme of contrasts (honest [Apollonius] vs. unnatural [Antiochus] love - Adéla), the plot itself doesn't quite sustain it. Or rather, the scheme covers only part of what the story shows - the heightening of the horrors of Antiochus' unnatural lust fits the pattern perfectly, but Apollonius, who should be the ultimate good guy, is (for Ivana and Danila at least) overshadowed in the role of a model father by Archistrates. I'm curious how those of you who see Apollonius as the model husband and father would respond to that?
It has to be said that Gower's version introduces a strong emotional bond between Apollonius and Thaisa at the moment when they haven't recognized each other yet (ll. 1702-1731; not in the Latin) - this seems to be what Ivana has in mind when she mentions Apollonius' showing "genuine father feelings to his daughter". But then again, this is what we are told, while Apollonius' apparent lack of active interest in the wellbeing of his daughter stands against it - or not? What do you think? Can you see a way the two aspects can be reconciled and still sustain the moral?

As regards "cultural translation", this is a theme covered much more sparsely in your responses, so I'd like to return to that in the online session.
Valeriia and Simona note a decidedly diminished agency on the part of the daughters (especially Archistrates' daughter, who is first an obedient daughter and then a demure damsel in distress).
Simona further notes a "cultural distancing" of the gymnasium scene - I am curious how the rest of you read that? All in all, the whole sequence after Apollonius' shipwreck is especially rich in instances of "cultural translation" of various sorts, so if you could perhaps revisit that with this focus in mind?