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House of Fame

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An unfinished dream‐poem by Chaucer, composed between 1374 and 1385. There are three books, in 2,158 lines of octosyllabics.

After the prologue on dreams and the invocation to the god of sleep, Bk I says the poet fell asleep and dreamt that he was in a Temple of Glass where he saw depicted Aeneas and Dido; the dream moves on to deal more briefly with other parts of the Aeneid. The poet sees an eagle who alights by him and is his guide through the House of Fame. The eagle explains, philosophically and at length, how Fame works in its arbitrary ways. The eagle departs and Chaucer enters the Palace of Fame (Rumour) where he sees the famous of both classical and biblical lore. Eolus blows a trumpet to summon up the various celebrities who introduce themselves in categories reminiscent of the souls in Dante's Divina Commedia. Towards the end of the poem comes a vision of bearers of false tidings: shipmen, pilgrims, pardoners, and messengers, whose confusion seems to be about to be resolved by the appearance of ‘A man of gret auctorite…’; but there the poem ends.

Reference entries

Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343—1400) poet and administrator