John Skelton is a transitional poet. He is perhaps the last practitioner in the visionary forms of the English fifteenth century, and he is an early practitioner in the secularized poetry to which those old forms give way. Many scholars regard Skelton's allegorical poems, especially, as experiments in secularity, as adaptations of allegory's visionary energies to the social and institutional secularization of early modern England. But in one poem, The Bowge of Courte, Skelton remakes allegory not just as an idiom of social and institutional analysis but also, much more powerfully, as an idiom of reflexive consciousness. He explores the moment at which social secularity emerges in private neurosis. And he discovers, in the structures of medieval allegory, the germ of a new sort of allegorical poetry, a poetry marked by solitude, paranoia, melancholy, and hallucinatory self-regard.

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