The Medieval societies fascination with dreams and their meanings lead to a direct result of authors employing dream visions as allegoric literary tactics, which in turn became a genre that was significantly unique to the Medieval period. Dream visions were favored by Medieval poets, such as French poet Guillaume de Lorris, who became influential on other poets, Geoffrey Chaucer and Boethius. Through the examination of three specific Medieval works, it extremely apparent that all dream visions contain particular common features to attain their end goal in representing the limitations of dream visions.
Although this concept may seem arbitrary, a close examination of The Romance of the Rose, Troilus and Criseyde, and The Consolation of Philosophy will prove otherwise. Ultimately, readers of these three works are able to effortlessly recognize the dream vision concept discussed above. Ultimately, dream visions were a conventional device utilized by many authors during the Middle Ages. Many poets, such as Guillaume de Lorris, Geoffrey Chaucer, and Boethius advocated this method because it successfully engaged and conveyed their intended messages to their audience.
In The Romance of the Rose, the author undeniably employs the popular medieval topic of dream visions. The first half of the poem written by Guillaume de Lorris, reveals an exemplary utilization of an allegoric approach which is associated with courtly love. The author creates a complex storyline that thoroughly guides his audience to achieve an insight on the romantic relations between the Lover and the Rose. The poet states: Some say that there is nothing in dreams but lies and fables; however, one may have dreams which are not in the east deceitful, but which later become clear … whoever thinks or says that it is foolish or stupid to believe that a dream may come true, let him think me mad if he likes; for my part 1 am confident that a dream may signify the good and ill that may befall people, for many people dream many things secretly, at night, which are later seen openly. (1. 10-20) The author shrewdly employs a free play of allegory, which in turn leads to a demonstration of the limitation of visions.
The Rose itself is an evident representation of the Lady and her sentimentalities to attain love, the dreamer endures a harsh quest to reach the Rose. The entirety of the poem is based on the poet “recount[ing] the dream in verse” and the quest is a mere account of the poet’s dream, “In my twentieth year, at the time when Love claims his tribute from young men, I lay down one night … [a]s I slept, I had the most beautiful and pleasing dream, but there was nothing in the dream that has not come true, exactly as the dream told it” (1. 21-6).
Falling asleep initiates this adventure that is exclusively existent in his dreams. De Lorris writes, “When I had gone a little further, I saw a large and extensive garden, entirely surrounded by a high, crenellated wall, which was decorated on the outside with paintings and carved with many rich inscriptions” (1. 116-19). The dreamer encounters a garden of love, situated in an odd place and begins to wander in search of love. During his search, the dreamer “gazed intently on [the] images [of] … ” Hate, Covetousness, Avarice, Envy, Sorrow, Old Age, Religious Hypocrisy, and Poverty.
By the bewilderment of these images, the dreamer is intrigued by the beautifully situated garden and becomes eager to enter: Then the gate, which was made of hornbeam, was opened by a most lovely and beautiful maiden, her hair shone fair … her flesh was more tender than a young chick, her forehead radiant and her brows arched, her eyes not set too close … her eyes as bright as a falcon’s … she has sweetly scented breath, a pink and white face, a little, full-lipped mouth, and a dimpled chin (1. 525-31). Upon his rrival, the dreamer becomes erotically drawn to the rose, the dreamer is forced to endure hardships as he is constantly attacked by the arrows named Beauty, Pride, Simplicity, Independence, Companionship, Fair Seeming, Faithlessness, Shame, Despair, and Villainy. Although these arrows may resemble an arbitrary concept, the author intentionally introduces this concept to account for the limitations of visions. The God of Love then constantly attacks the dreamer who, “… moaned and sighed for [his] pain was growing worse and [he] had no hope of cure or relief” (2. 1829-30).
Conclusively, the entire poem is solely based on a mere vision and it becomes clear that the account of the dream vision is an in-depth representation of courtly love and its associated obstacles. Inevitably, the style of the French poet, Guillaume de Lorris, heavily influenced many other poets, such as Geoffrey Chaucer. Through a close reading of their works, it is evident that both authors explored and insightfully utilized an allegoric approach of dream visions. In the late 14th century poem, Troilus and Criseyde, Chaucer accounts for two pivotal dream visions of the two doomed lovers in Ancient Troy.
Even though the framing device of a dream vision has been a long utilized tool for medieval poets, Chaucer’s innovative poem not only demonstrates a new depth within the characters of his poems, but it also grafts a supplementary level of psychological and dramatic depth for the audience. Essentially, Troilus and Criseyde embodies the constant battle between love and war, a concept that was very prevalent during the Middle Ages. Chaucer writes: Whan al was hust, than lay she stille and thoughte / Of al this thing; the manere and the wise / Keherce it nedeth nought, for ye ben wise. A nyghtyngale, upon a cedir grene, / Under the chambre wal ther as she ley, / Ful loude song ayein the moone shene, / Peraunter, in his briddes wise, a lay / Of love, that made hire herte fressh and gay. / That herkned she so longe in good entente, / Til at the laste the dede slep hire hente. (2. 915- 31) The initial portion of this excerpt demonstrates that Criseyde hears the love song from the nightingale and quickly associates it with the voice of Troilus; basically, she imagines that Troilus is singing in her ear.
As she is in a deep sleep, her dream vision continues: And as she slep, anonright tho hire mette / How that an egle, fethered whit as bon, / Under hire brest his longe clawes sette, / And out hire herte he rente, and that anon, / And dide his herte into hire brest to gon, / Of which she nought agroos, ne nothyng smerte; / And forth he fleigh, with herte left for herte. (2. 925-31). Criseyde’s dream of the eagle is among the most overwhelmingly evocative passages in the poem. The dream reveals that her heart has been ripped out by a white eagle who in turn places its own heart within her chest.
When the claws of the eagle enter Criseyde’s body, Chaucer intentionally attempts to portray this as a sexual notion. It may also further reveal that the eagle is a representation of Troilus himself, as an aggressive, sexual male. Ultimately, the poem depicts that Criseyde is not fully vested in her relationship with Troilus and she is more willing to abandon the relationship, based on the mere fact that she identifies more with logic and reason. Chaucer demonstrates the limitations of dream vision by Criseyde’s actions, as she never fully allows herself to be in love, which is also portrayed by her lack of response to the dream vision.
Similar to the style of Guillaume de Lorris, and a majority of medieval works, the topic of courtly love and relationships is thoroughly employed by the allegoric use of dream visions in Troilus and Criseyde. Some later poets also adapted the utilizations of the dream vision in their works. Similar to Chaucer’s text, The Consolation of Philosophy, written by Boethius, consists of a narrative which is depended upon a discussion between the narrator and Lady Philosophy. Throughout the story line, it is evident that the narrators’ pessimistic and depressed perception is contradicted by Lady Philosophy.
In turn, she offers ways of overcoming the narrators’ hopeless state of mind with the use of reason. Even though narrators in Chaucer’s texts are not equivalent to Lady Philosophy in The Consolation of Philosophy, the audience can still readily familiarize themselves with the sense of common Medieval works, where two figures are at odds with each other. Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy can be perceived as a prominent dream vision. Boethius writes: Even so the clouds of my melancholy were broken up.
I saw the clear sky, and regained the power to recognise the face of my physician. Accordingly, when I had lifted my eyes and fixed my gaze upon her, I beheld my nurse, Philosophy, whose halls I had frequented from my youth up. ‘Ah! why,’ I cried, ‘mistress of all excellence, hast thou come down from on high, an entered the solitude of this my exile? Is it that thou, too, even as 1, mayst be persecuted with false accusations? ‘ ‘Could I desert thee, child,’ said she, ‘and not lighten the burden which thou hast taken upon thee through the hatred of my name, by sharing this trouble? III. 13). During this time, the narrator is placed in exile based on “false accusations” and evidently, he has lost complete faith and hope. During his dream vision, he recounts of a conversation with Lady Philosophy, who provides him with reason and hopes that he can regain faith and resilience. Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy continuously demonstrates the allegoric concept of dream visions and its limitations, alongside its intended meaning during Middle Age texts.
Conclusively, the fascination of dreams and their meanings opened up an extensive pathway for Medieval poets to employ a brilliant literary tactic to engage readers within their society. It is evident that authors, such as the aforementioned ones, seemingly followed in each other’s footsteps and altogether employed dream visions as an allegoric method in successfully writing considerably intriguing works, which would be eventually be studied thousands of years to follow, such as today.
Dream visions were not only a path of insight into the authors’ mind or a form of entertainment for the readers, but it also became a genre that was prominent in the Middle Ages. The authors of The Romance of the Rose, Troilus and Criseyde, and The Consolation of Philosophy successfully engaged readers while conveying their intentional messages. Ultimately, this particular literary tradition presented during the Middle Ages is a concept that can no longer be replicated, but rather extensively explored and ultimately, enjoyed by its audience.