Discuss allegory and satire relevant to the character of Chaucer's poem The Parliament of Fowls.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Parlement of Foules, or Parliament of Fowls, has been much debated over time. No consensus has ever been reached. Some see it as satire on courtly love. Some see it as allegory for love and marriage. Some see it as social and political satire with various social classes represented by different fowl. It is a dream vision poem that is framed as a dream the narrator has. As such, the story in the poem can reasonably take on any level of strange particulars.

Since the story, in brief, is about whom an eagle should choose to wed, the bickering and quarreling amongst the assemblage of esteemed birds can very easily be seen as satire that mocks and ridicules the peerage of the day as Parliament had zealously debated the betrothal of a young Richard II to an even younger Princess Anne. In this view, the Fowls use their own bickering words to satirize the customs of the tradition of courtly love. The allegorical interpretation indicates that love and marriage are being allegorized. In this view, the eagle allegorizes Anne of Bohemia (1381) (or perhaps an earlier event involving an attempted betrothal to Marie of France (1371)) and a pure view of love, while each of the eagle’s three fowlish suitors allegorize a view of marriage.

I saw Beautee, withouten any atyr,
And Youthe, ful of game and Iolyte,
Fool-hardinesse, Flatery, and Desyr,

In somewhat of a change in focus, some view the poem as a satire solely targeting political and social groups. In this view, the various classes of birds represent the various factions of political parties or various social classes and the kinds of individual found therein:

The drake, stroyer of his owne kinde;
The stork, the wreker of avouterye;
The hote cormeraunt of glotonye;
The raven wys, the crow with vois of care;