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Abstract

The first three chapters of the sixth book of the Vox Clamantis (lines 1-248) comprise a harsh critique of the many avaricious lawyers who, in Gower’s opinion, have come to dominate their profession to the disadvantage of English society in the late fourteenth century. Driven exclusively by their appetite for possessions, they have forgotten the biblical model presented in Psalm 14 that specifies the obligation of the good man to assist without recompense his neighbor’s search for justice. Falsely claiming to be men of law and inheritors of the biblical model of the good man, the causidici (as Gower calls his lawyers) are in reality the sons of error and have abandoned charity for cupidity. Weaving a dense fabric of legal argumentation based upon Roman-canon, common, and customary law, Gower shows how his contemporaries in the legal profession have committed themselves to the world’s false values and lost sight of the most important Law, whose protection they have accordingly forsaken.

Acknowledgments

I wish to thank Mark Riley for his patient guidance with Gower's Latin, Jon Rose for wise counsel about legal history, Don Webb, Robert Yeager, and Ian Short for generously sharing with me their thoughts about Vulneratur karitas, the anonymous reviewers for Accessus for their insightful suggestions for revision, and Georgiana Donavin for her encouragement and assistance at every stage of the essay's evolution.