Chaucer's Troilus And Criseyde Essay

2583 words - 10 pages

Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde is a very widely applauded work of poetry. His works, which include the extensive Canterbury Tales, have a history of being appealing to a variety of people, from the members of the Court to the lesser population. This, some would say, would probably be because Chaucer chooses to direct his writings at all types of characters through the medium of language topical issues and style, but Troilus and Criseyde is a work vastly culminating towards a fairly restricted audience. As it is, it talks of the Trojan war, which only a select crowd or elite would know about, and also, we cannot forget that Chaucer was a favourite at Court ; Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde is based to a large extent on Boccaccio's Il Filostrato, but he made quite a lot of changes to the way the protagonists are portrayed. Chaucer's art rests in the way he describes rounded characters and not really types as some might have thought. The two main characters have been dealt with in such an astute and crafty manner that the reader asks himself whether Troilus as the hero is the main character or is Criseyde the more appealing of the two.


Indeed, Troilus is the mythical, legendary hero in all senses of the word. Troilus's appearance itself demarcates him from the whole crowd of `knyghts' who follow him and for whom he is responsible. Troilus at the very outset is the epitome of heroic splendour and magnificence, a state which will amplify as the story goes on. He is this `fierse and proud knyght' (Bk1, 225)


But wel he wist, as far as tongues spaken,

Ther nas a man of gretter hardinesse

Thanne he, ne more desired worthinesse

(Bk1, 565-67)


As per the definition of `hero', Troilus is by every means what one would call the knight in shining armour, as seen by his valour and courage. The description of him riding by, in the temple, his pride itself sets him out as being the eternal handsome `knyght' worthy of praise, admiration and love, but Troilus in his `hardinesse' is cast somewhat in a negative light because he angers the god of love with his lack of respect and devotion- `He would smyle and holden it folye'(Bk1, 194)- to God's gift to one and all:


In hevene and helle, in erthe and salte see

Is felt thi myght, if that I well descerne,

As man, brid, best, fissh, herbe, and grene tree,

Thee fele in tymes with vapour eterne.

God loveth, and to love wol nought werne,

And in this world no lyves creature

Withouten love is worth, or may endure

(BkIII, 8-14)


Ironically, he shows disdain towards lovers, while he will become one not long after. Here the idea of Fate/Fortune is brought forward with the image of the wheel of Fortune so ever-present in tragedies:


This Troilus is clomben on the staire,

And litel weneth that he moot descenden

But alday faileth thing that fooles wended


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