Geoffrey Chaucer’s House of Fame (c. 1 378) is a dream-vision poem in three books. In the first book, the dreamer/narrator (‘Geffrey’) finds himself in the Temple of Venus, which is made of glass and has the story of Virgil’s Aeneid depicted on its walls. In the second book, the dreamer ventures outside into a desert and is picked up by a talking eagle, who takes Geffrey to the House of Fame. In the third book, Geffrey explores the House of Fame itself: he sees many famous authors standing on pillars and watches as the goddess Fame distributes good, bad and indifferent reputations to nine groups of suitors. Finally, Geffrey is taken to see another edifice, variously referred to by critics as the House of Rumour or House of Tidings, in which hordes of people run around telling, embellishing and falsifying stories. The poem ends abruptly when a ‘man of gret auctorite’ appears and the rumour-mongers flock towards him. Several aspects of Chaucer’s poem, including the eagle and the invocations to each book, are borrowed from or heavily influenced by Dante Alighieri’s Commedia (c. 1321). In the Commedia, the narrator travels through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise before finally seeing God. The poem is divided into three sections, or cantiche (singular: cantica), commonly known as the Inferno, the Purgatorio and the Paradiso. The Commedia is, among other things, an allegory of the Christian soul’s progress from sin through repentance and penance to salvation.
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