The Legend of Good Women is a collection of stories written by Geoffrey Chaucer. It is the third-longest of Chaucer’s works, after The Canterbury Tales and Troilus and Criseyde. It is difficult to date the poem. It is perhaps the earliest work of Chaucer in which he uses Iambic pentameter or decasyllabic couplet form, the staple of The Canterbury Tales. It is also a dream poem. The poet, in a dream, is tried in a pastoral court of love as one sinning against the God of Love. The interference of a good woman of legend named Alceste, helps the poet, who promises to do penance for his literary misdeeds by writing a work composed of exemplary stories of good women who are true lovers. The poet intends to write a massive poem about the legendary good women but unfortunately, nine are extant. These are stories of Cleopatra, Thisbe, Dido, Hypsipyle and Medea, Lucrece, Ariadne, Philomela, Phyllis, Hypermnestra.
The Legend of Good Women seems a slight piece with his brief narratives of the unhappy fate of these women. This poem is influenced by the work of French love vision poets (especially Guillaume de Machaut), Vincent of Beauvais, Guido delle Colonne’s Historia destructionis Troiae, and Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Heroides. Thisbe’s story is perhaps the best. Maybe, Chaucer planned to make The Legend of Good Women his masterpiece, spending many valuable years of his life writing about the famous women who were true to love. But perhaps being sick of the theme of the stories or the plan of The Canterbury Tales growing in his mind he abruptly renounced it and started working on the prologue to The Canterbury Tales.
Also read; The Boke of Blanche, the Duchesse [The Book of the Duchess] by Geoffrey Chaucer
Also read; Discuss the character of the Parson in Chaucer’s Prologue to the Canterbury Tales