Framing devices

Charles Butler hannibal at
Thu Apr 3 15:02:47 EST 2003


> has a lot of incomplete frames. This is explained by the theory that
> elaborate beginnings are more important than endings.

I find that a convincing theory. But how many incomplete frames does Chaucer
have, in fact? Some of his poems are incomplete simply by virtue of being
unfinished (Canterbury Tales, House of Fame, Legend of Good Women, Romaunt
of the Rose), but others, like the Book of the Duchess and the Parliament of
Fowls, do return to the dreamer at the end, even if only for a line or two -
and I think the same is true of Langland's Piers Plowman, btw (a DWJ
favourite as we know). Formally their frames are complete, even if all the
effort has been lopsidedly put in at the beginning, like one of those
escritoires where the front is marquetry and twirly bits and the back hasn't
even been varnished.

Troilus and Criseyde is a different case, though, because you could argue
that its use of the envoi ('Go, litel bok,' etc) introduces a new frame -
the frame of the writer acknowledging his own existence as the poem's
author - which is there at the end but wasn't at the beginning.

Chaucer was certainly an early master of the segue, mind! Troilus's vision
of the earth from heaven is a lovely one.


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