Troilus and Criseyde
These Strange Greeks Or the Essence of the Troilus and Criseyde
The proverb that I decided to go with is one that goes along the lines of, “Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”. To begin, the first step is to understand what exactly this proverb means, or is referring to. Basically, this phrase is saying, you shouldn’t be so quick to criticize others on a certain trait or behavior when you exhibit the same or similar characteristics. This proverb can be interpreted by people in a few different ways, depending on the individual, but this definition seems to be the most common and understood. The proverb is also quite similar in meaning to other popular phrases such as, “pot calling the kettle black”, or “you can dish it but can’t take it”. The overall meanings are quite similar. However, that particular saying about glass houses can be traced all the way back to a book, written in the year 1385, called “Troilus and Criseyde”. It was again made popular much later on by George Herbert, who in 1651 wrote something similar. The proverb was first cited in the United States by an author in 1710. In my own readings and research, I’ve come to believe that the theory behind the saying is quite true and effective. To test my proverb, because it’s more about thinking, feeling, and saying, I decided to use myself in the method of testing it. I will admit that because of the different interpret meanings this proverb can have, it could be portrayed in different ways with probable different results, but this is what I decided to do.
The method was simple, something that I am sensitive to criticism or remarks about are the few scars that I have from a medical procedure. I’ve always been quite self-conscious about them and because they are a flaw and I know how I would feel if someone made remarks about them, I thought it would be a good example. So, I got together with a friend of mine one day who also has some scarring from a similar experience and after she agreed to take part in my experiment, we began. My role was to “cast the stones”, or in other words, comment and criticize her scars. This all of course we talked about before-hand, we knew this wasn’t personal and it was for the sake of testing my hypothesis. She was to respond naturally, how she would if I was a stranger saying this for real. And basically, her response was to throw my own scars back at me, pointing out that I’m not perfect either, that I don’t like being called out for the same thing, thus, proving what I assumed all along. Which was that the point of this proverb is basically saying those that are sensitive to an issue or criticism shouldn’t point out or ridicule others for the same, or else it’s going to come right back at you and reflect on you. Similar to how a person in a glass house shouldn’t throw stones because sooner or later that glass is going to break and come shattering right back at you. The experiment was simple and easy to do, a mere exchange of words, but it proves my thoughts to be true, and the proverb to be as well.
An Image of Lady Fortune in Troilus and Criseyde by Geoffrey Chaucer
Lady Fortune: Friend or Foe? The face of Fortune in Chaucers Troilus and Criseyde
Lady Fortune and her wheel are two of the most enduring symbols in mankinds history. Witness the popular game show, Wheel of Fortune. While it may seem silly, it proves that something of this concept has stayed with in our psyche, even today. The question of fortune is paramount is Chaucers Troilus and Criseyde. Chaucer gives the reader characters with completely conflicting ideas of Lady Fortune and her affect on their lives. By examining Boethiuss Consolation of Philosophy, the reader can hope to find an answer for these differing views on fortune. Firstly, Boethiuss influence on Chaucer and the persona of Fortune that he presents must be examined. Once this is established as a benchmark, the reader can fully understand the misconceptions Troilus has regarding fortune. Troilus clings, as Boethius does in his Consolation of Philosophy, to the memory of his faithful service to Fortune. Finally, the character of Pandarus must be addressed. He, of all Chaucers chara!
cters, has a firm grip on the reality of the Lady Fortune and her ever-changing nature. In fact, a close examination of the text of Troilus and Criseyde will show that Chaucer gives Pandarus a very similar role to that of Lady Philosophy in The Consolation of Philosophy.
Boethiuss Consolation of Philosophy
Boethiuss work deals with the universal experience of suffering. He finds himself imprisoned and under threat of execution. As Boethius begins to expound his sorrows and blame fickle Fortune (p. 35), he finds himself comforted by none other than Lady Philosophy. Their discussion is presented at length for the reader to pass judgment on. The section particularly confronting Boethiuss misconceptions of Fortune and is of interest to this argument is found mainly in Book II. Lady Philosophy points out to Boethius exactly what the root of his problem is at the beginning of this section. You are wasting away in pining and longing for your former good fortune, she tells him (p.54). This is because he has forgotten the true nature of Fortune. Once he comes to an understanding of Fortune and how she works as an instrument of God, he will be healed of his sickness of depression.
Boethius then moves the conversation to a face to face discussion with Fortune. B.L. Jefferson, in his book Chaucer and the Consolation of Philosophy of Boethius, claims that Boethius was the first to visualize Fortune in this most personal way (p. 49). Boethiuss discussion about fortune makes three different points. Firstly, that change is the very nature of Fortune. This mutability is pointed out by Lady Philosophy, Change is her normal behavior, her true natureYou have discovered the changing faces of the random goddess, she tells Boethius (Consolation, p. 55). No man can stop her wheel from turning; it goes against Fortunes very nature to do so. She can turn her face away from a man as quickly as she turns it to him. Jefferson characterizes the argument in this way, Absolutely without sympathy, [Fortune] cares no more for one man than another (50).
Next comes the defense of Fortune by herself. Her argument is simple: I have only taken back what was mine in the first place. Inconstancy is my very essence, she says, it is the game I never cease to play as I turn my wheel in its ever changing circle, filled with joy as I bring the top to the bottom and the bottom to the top. Yes, rise up on my wheel if you like, but dont count it an injury when by the same token you begin to fall, as the rules of the game will require (Consolation, p. 57). Boethius has no grounds for his complaints because everything he has ever had was given to him by Fortune. If she decides to take it back, it is her prerogative. This should not send him to the pits of despair. Indeed, my very mutability gives you just cause to hope for better things, Fortune tells Boethius (58). Just as the wheel has borne him down, so can it bear him back up to better things.
Lastly, Lady Philosophy instructs Boethius in Fortunes deeper significance, as a servant of God. Jefferson again, Of a connection with Providence, Fortune herself does not seem to be aware, for she works blindly and wantonly. But behind her and governing her, is the all-wise Providence. Through the adversities of Fortune, Providence creates in men what we now call character. In Fortune [Boethius] saw the instrument of God (50). This made what Boethius was doing a very serious matter. It was all very nice to talk about the whims of fortune, but to tie it logically and directly to the providence of God was a completely different matter.
Boethiuss Influence on Chaucer
It is from these points of argument with Fortune that we can see how Boethius influenced Chaucer, especially in Troilus and Criseyde. Most of the literature on Troilus seems to support this claim as well. The Boethian theme of Fortune dominates Troilus and Criseyde, and Chaucer even incorporates direct borrowings from the Consolation of Philosophy, says Martin Camargo (214). Jefferson says that the Consolation had more influence on Troilus than on any other long poem of Chaucers (120). It seems, however, that Chaucer did not just use Boethius randomly in this text. He very carefully dealt with the same fundamental issues of Fortune and Gods providence that Boethius did in his Consolation.
That is why Pandarus sounds just like Lady Philosophy when he speaks to Troilus in Book 1
Than blaestow Fortune
For thow art wroth; ye now at erst I see.
Woost thow nat wel that Fortune is comune
To everi manere wight in som degree?
And yet thow hast this comfort, lo, parde,
That, as hire joies moten overgon,
So mote hir sorwes passen everecho.
For if hire whiel stynte any thyng to torne,
Than cessed she Fortune anon to be.
Now, sith hire whiel by no may sojourne,
What woostow if hire mutabilite
Right as thyselven list wol don by the,
Or that she be naught fer fro thyn helpynge?
Paraunter thow hast cause for to synge (I.841-54).
The same points of argument are reiterated here in Chaucers own words. Pandarus is saying the exact same things as Lady Philosophys argument. Fortune is the same to every man. The joys she brings may pass away, but so will the sorrows. Her wheel cannot stop. She would cease to be fortune. The reader can see the direct correlation between Boethiuss work and Pandaruss words.
Fortune in Troilus and Criseyde
Chaucer gives Pandarus a clear understanding of Lady Fortune. It is his character who leads Troilus and instructs him, as Lady Fortune did Boethius. Camargo insists that it was important for Chaucer that his readers see the correlation between the opening of the Consolation and the opening of Troilus and Criseyde. Because it was important to Chaucer that his readers recognize the analogies between Troilus and Boethius and Pandarus and Philosophy from the outset, he took special pains in Book I to recall the Consolations vivid opening scene (Camargo, p. 215). Just as Lady Philosophy found Boethius under the sway of the muses, so Chaucer begins this scene with Troilus singing alone in his room. He also comes to him and upbraids him for his confusion about Fortune as noted in the passage from Book I cited above. However, Pandarus is truly an opportunist when it comes to Fortune. He tells Troilus and Criseyde to take the opportunity presented to them by this love. By!
turning Lady Philosophys lesson into a veiled carpe diem, Pandarus demonstrates his enthusiastic acceptance of the transitory gifts of Fortune, Joseph Salemi writes. Pandarus encourages Troilus by saying that Fortune must be smiling on him, and tells Criseyde that this is an good aventure (II.288).
In Book IV, Pandarus again counsels Troilus on Fortune. However, now Fortune has turned her face away from Troilus. He says:
Who woulde have wende that in so litel a throwe
Fortune oure joie wold han overthrowe?
For in this world ther is no creature,
As to my dom, that ever saugh ruyne
Straunger than this, thorough cas or aventure.
But who may al eschue, or al devyne?
Swich is this world! Forthi I thus diffyne:
Ne trust no wight to fynden in Fortune
Ay propertee; hire yiftes ben comune (IV.384-92).
He grasps that the very nature of Fortune is to take what she has given. No one can understand her fickle nature, except to know that she changes. Pandarus goes on to tell Troilus that he should seek a new love. Surely Fortune will smile on him in the form of a new ladylove! This is truly a Boethian philosophy. As Fortune spins her wheel, eventually the wheel will bring prosperity again (Consolation, II. Pr 1).
Troilus has a completely different view regarding Fortune. He is much more like Boethius. He [Troilus] and Pandarus represent two equally distorted views of Fortune: that of the opportunist and the fatalist, says Joseph Salemi (219). Jefferson also agrees that Troilus is the kind of fatalist that Boethius was in the Consolationin the role which he assumes for himself in contrast to his consoler, Dame Philosophy, the man who cries out against Fortune, who cannot reconcile to his misfortunes (123). So Chaucer has cast his Troilus in the role of Boethius. Troiluss question at the beginning of his song in Book I does indeed echo that of Boethius:
If no love is, O good, what fele I so?
And if love is, what thing and which is he?
If love be good, from whennes cometh my woo?
If it be wikke, a wonder thynketh me,
When every torment and adversite
That cometh of hym may to me savory thinke,
For ay thurst I, the more that ich it drink (I, 400-06).
He is questioning the very nature of Fortune and the events surrounding him. Boethius, while recounting his downfall to Lady Philosophy, asks her where evil comes from if there is a god, and where good comes from if there isnt (Consolation, I, Pr. 4).
The problem is that just as Boethius is wrong regarding Fortune, so is Troilus. Take Troiluss lament in Book IV as a clear example of this misconception regarding Fortune and as a prime example of his fatalism:
Fortune, allas the while!
What have I don? What have I thus agylt?
How myghtestow for routh me bygile?
Is ther no grace, and shal I thus be spilt?
Shal thus Criseyde awy, for that thow wilt?
Allas, how maistow in thyn herte fynde
To ben to me thus cruwel and unkynde? (IV, 260-266).
When he continues, the true nature of his distress is revealed. Have I the nought honoured al my lyve,/As thow wel woost, above the goddes alle? (267-68). Troilus has devoted himself to the service of Fortune, but like Boethius, can not yet grasp her true nature. Chaucer uses this misconception to make even clearer that the true nature of Fortune is constant change. Troiluss fatalism and misinterpretation of the favors of Fortune show up in sharp contrast to the opportunism and understanding of Pandarus.
Troilus reacts with even greater fervor in Book IV when he thinks Criseyde has died. O cruel Jove and thow, Fortune adverse, he cries (IV, 1192). Salemi says that Troiluss frantic despair is a text book example, according to Boethian principles, of how not to react to adverse Fortune (218). Troilus has just told the reader he had served Fortune all his life. How can he ask Fortune to be something she is not? By calling her adverse Troilus clearly shows once again his misunderstanding. Fortune is neither adverse or good. She merely spins her wheel. As Pandarus points out, joy will surely come again if you just wait for her wheel to turn again.
Where does Criseyde fall in all of this? Is she representative of Fortune in Chaucers work? Salemi seems to think there are grounds for such an association, although he admits it would be difficult to maintain. He says that Pandaruss role as an advisor who tells Troilus about how to deal with a certain woman reinforces the suggested affinity of Criseyde with Fortune (214). The narrator also makes the association of Criseyde with Fortune in the Prologue to Book IV. The narrator tells the reader that Fortune From Troilus she gan hire brighte faceAnd on hire whiel she sette up Diomede (IV, 8, 10). What Fortune has done is exactly what Criseyde will do. While this is a plausible argument on the surface, Criseyde does not seem so much to serve as Fortune but to understand her better than most. She has a firm grasp on the inconstancy of Fortune. Indeed, when Chaucer introduces her, the reader is struck by the fact that she does not blame Fortune for her sorrows. She!
is widowed, abandoned by her father and has had to throw herself at the feet of another in order to save herself. Even in the end, she merely bewails the bitterness of worldly joys (Jefferson, 126). She knows they can not bring happiness. And what is billed as her faithlessness to Troilus in Book V merely shows the acceptance of the hand she has been dealt by Fortune. The narrator says in Book V,
Retornying in hire soule ay up and down
The wordes of this sodeyn Diomede,
His grete estat, and perel of the town,
And that she was allone and hadde nede
Of frendes help; and thus bygan to brede
The cause whi, the sothe for to tell,
That she took fully purpos for to dwelle (V, 1023-29)
While it may have been Fortunes doing that Criseyde is apart from Troilus, she understands at once the gravity of the situation she is in and takes steps to rectify it. This shows that she understand that the world is inconstant.
The theme of Fortune in Troilus and Criseyde springs right from the pages of Boethiuss Consolation of Philosophy. This text obviously influenced Chaucer greatly. He drew from it frequently, almost casting his characters in Troilus and Criseyde into the roles in the Consolation of Philosophy. The result is powerful and moving for the reader. Chaucers audience could work through the same issues presented in the Consolation and see how the are dealt with in a classic story. And even today, modern readers can draw the same conclusions from this timeless tale of love and fortune.
Images of Lovers in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde
One of the most striking elements of Troilus and Criseyde is the difference in Chaucer’s presentation of the two lovers. Whereas Troilus is certainly the better person of the two, I intend to show that the reader ultimately finds it easier to identify with and believe in the character of Criseyde, since she is by far the more credibly human in her actions and thoughts.
One of the most essential factors in how the reader views the two characters is due to the narrator himself – from the first scene, the reader feels as though they know Troilus and the way in which he thinks. This is not difficult, since Troilus is, as soon as he sees Criseyde during Palladion’s festival, almost unable to think straight with love. The reader feels sympathy for his situation – consumed by a love so intense he can do nothing but lie in his bedchamber. However, the reader also feels a certain annoyance at Troilus’ inability to act on his feelings, as well as at his self-absorption. It is not until the final act – when Troilus begins to take some responsibility for his own actions – that he truly fills his citation as the play’s ‘hero,’ and in his realisation is reconciled with the reader.
What exactly do we mean by ‘hero?’ The word has two connotations in this instance. The first is that laid out in Aristotle’s definition of classical tragedy, on which Troilus and Criseyde relies. Troilus is a tragic hero in every sense since he possesses all the relevant traits. These are, “having a high social position, not being overly good or bad, being persistent in their actions, arousing pity in the audience, a revelatory manifestation, and having a single flaw that brings about their own demise and the demise of others around them.” Troilus possesses all of the above attributes. His ‘tragic flaw’ is his inability to see past his love for Criseyde. However, it may be argued that this is not valid as a flaw, as his all-encompassing love is meted out by the god of love, rather than being a result of any fault of Troilus’.
It is also an aspect of the tragic hero to become reconciled with one’s flaw in the dying moments of the tragedy. Troilus is no exception; as he dies and makes his ascent to heaven, he laughs at his tragedy, and the folly of human obsession with earthly passions. Indeed, Chaucer closes the poem with a discourse on turning to God:
“O yonge, fresshe folks, he or she,
[…] of youre herte up casteth the visage […] to thilke God”
Troilus learns, albeit after his death, that the agonising of humans is insignificant in comparison with the love of God.
Troilus is certainly less appealing to the reader than is Criseyde, though this is not the case throughout the poem. As the poem opens, Troilus is ‘hitte atte full’ by love’s arrow, and becomes a nervous wreck; unable to speak of or act on his love for Criseyde. The reader feels sympathy for his plight – Troilus is, to a certain extent, a victim of fate. However, we also feel somewhat exasperated by Troilus; unlike his friend Pandarus, Troilus finds himself completely incapacitated by the effect that his love for Criseyde is having on him. It is fair to say that without Pandarus’ influence, Troilus would have simply pined away without confessing his love.
Pandarus acts as the mediator or ‘middleman’ between the lovers; another classical Aristotelian device. However, as the story progresses, Pandarus finds himself less and less involved in the exchanges between his best friend and his niece. Towards the end of Book IV, as Criseyde is to be exchanged for Antenor, Troilus gains the ability to control his actions. It is a refreshing change to read that, instead of simply lamenting his bad fortune, Troilus seeks to resolve matters himself. He rides out to see the exchange take place, and gives his love a brooch, which she later gives to Diomed. Troilus is undoubtedly still very much in love with Criseyde, but he appears to have learnt to put his emotions aside and think rationally. It is at this point that the reader begins to genuinely feel for Troilus; now a far more valiant and appealing character than the one who fainted when in Criseyde’s presence. In the opening verses of Book V, the reader learns that Troilus ‘…gan his wo ful manly for to hide,’ a stark contrast to his earlier conduct.
If the reader gains esteem for Troilus as the poem progresses, then the opposite may be said to be true of Criseyde. We are introduced to Criseyde at the same time as we are Troilus – at Palladion’s feast. However, we are only told of her beauty and her widowhood. It is only when Pandarus visits her early in Book II that we learn anything of her true character. As Pandarus explains Troilus’ affections, and attempts to woo her in his stead, the reader’s impression is of a thoughtful and sensible woman. Whereas the narrator demonstrates Troilus’ thought processes in his actions, we are given two entirely views of Criseyde. We see her through her actions – always carefully planned out and fitting for a woman of her social standing and position. The narrator also furnishes the reader with a view of Criseyde’s thoughts, such as in the aforementioned expository scene:
“And if this man here sle himself – allas! –
In my presence, it wol be no solace.
What men wolde of hit deme I kan nat seye;
It nedeth me ful sleighly for to pleie.”
It should be noted when citing this extract that the word ‘sleighly’ is not the direct antecedent to the modern word ‘slyly,’ but is closer to ‘shrewdly’ or ‘adroitly’ . Nevertheless, this is an excellent example of the manner in which Criseyde always has one eye on how events will reflect on herself. This device of contrasting Criseyde’s actions with her thoughts, which are often more rational and occasionally self-serving, lends her character an extra facet, and adds to her credibility.
Criseyde is certainly the most convincingly human character in the poem. She is far from perfect, and could certainly be construed as selfish, despite the narrator’s perpetual efforts to present her in a more charitable light than the accounts of ‘Troilus and Criseyde’ that Chaucer used as his references; particularly Giovanni Bocaccio’s ‘Il Filostrato,’ in which ‘Criseida’ is a far more vindictive and selfish type than Chaucer’s character. Chaucer’s reader of is led to the belief that Criseyde truly loved Troilus.
The narrator’s approach to presenting Criseyde in a generous light is not entirely convincing. Whilst a great show is made of her love for Troilus and her bewailing of the romance’s end, the narrator chooses to play down her betrayal of Troilus, telling the reader that ‘Swich is this world.’ In the opening to Book IV, Chaucer tells us that;
“Allas, that [writen folk] sholde evere cause fynde
To speke hire harm! And if they on her lye,
Iwis, hemself sholde han the vilanye.”
The verb ‘lye’ can, in this case, be equated with the modern ‘slander.’ Why should the narrator seem so keen to give a more generous account of Criseyde? Perhaps Chaucer is seeking to make the romance more tragic by lending more credibilty to the passion between the two lovers.
The narrator’s regular self-deprecation serves to make the reader feel more omniscient in the story, and the generous presentation of Criseyde has the same effect: the reader finds he is able to recognise the narrator’s patent efforts to give a kinder impression of Criseyde. Once these are recognised, they are called into question. This ingenious contrivance allows Chaucer to give the reader distinct impressions of his characters whilst apparently holding them from his narrator.
We have established, then, that Criseyde is not a perfect character, but to what extent can and does the reader admire her? Certainly her composure is commendable – Pandarus’ speeches place her in numerous potentially compromising situations, all of which Criseyde manages to evade. She appears to have a capability for finding working compromises, whilst always ensuring that nothing occurs without her express consent. At first glance, it may appear that in the bedroom scene of Book III, Criseyde is coerced by Pandarus into sleeping with Troilus. Indeed, Pandarus’ scheme is typically intricate, but the narrator again takes pains to demonstrate Criseyde’s integrity. As Pandarus leaves the two in bed together, Troilus tells Criseyde to ‘yelde yow, for other bote is non,’ to which she replies:
“Ne hadde I er now, my swete herte deere,
Ben yolde, ywis, I were now nought heere!”
Criseyde is, evidently, the mistress of her own destiny, and is the most ‘in control’ of the three main protagonists, despite the fact that Pandarus engineers most of the lovers’ meetings. Though she cannot control Pandarus’ schemes, she is always able to dictate matters when the two meet. The reader’s impression is that nothing transpires against Criseyde’s will.
This does not remain the case; whereas the only protagonists in the first three books are Troilus, Pandarus and Criseyde, the fourth and fifth books see the advent and effect of outside influences. The siege of Troy acts as ‘fate’ in the tragedy, and intercedes in the romance. Criseyde’s loss of control over events can be equated with Chaucer’s loss of the ability to direct the narrative in any way other than its inescapable conclusion. The sense of the inevitable pervades the whole poem, but is felt the most strongly when the exchange of Criseyde for Antenor is announced. Chaucer even cites this inability to control events – both for his own position, and for the hopelessness of his characters’ plights. Chaucer bemoans the predestined nature of the rest of his story in the opening of Book IV:
“And now my penne, allas, with which I write,
Quaketh for drede of that I moste endite.”
The reader’s sympathy for Criseyde increases as her situation becomes more helpless – particularly since it is clear that she genuinely loves Troilus, and is grief-stricken upon having to leave him. However, Criseyde does not appear in a good light at the end of the story – she has betrayed her lover, and has incurred the hate of her uncle. It is inescapable that, in spite of all the narrator’s efforts, Criseyde’s very role in the poem means that she cannot be ultimately an admirable character: again, the theme of inevitability is illustrated. However, the reader may still find her to be the more appealing, since her humanity makes it easier to sympathise with her position.
In conclusion, it is clear that the reader’s impression of the two lovers is by no means constant. Whilst Troilus begins the poem with a number of exasperating characteristics, we see Criseyde as an astute and sensible woman. At the poem’s close, however, Troilus appears to have gained some perspective on life as it relates to his passion, whereas Criseyde has fallen from grace in our eyes. The reader is doubly sympathetic towards Troilus, since even in the face of Criseyde’s blatant infidelity, he not only still loves her, but always has her wellbeing foremost in his mind. When debating to himself during the exchange of Criseyde whether he should fight Diomed, his first thoughts are for her safety:
“He hadde in herte always a manere drede
Lest that Criseyde, in rumour of this fare,
Sholde han ben slayn; […]”
Troilus’ love and how he deals with his passionate feelings are his defining features in the poem. Criseyde’s love never feels fully convincing; the impression is that her love is something she has decided on and learnt to accept, as opposed to than the thunderbolt with which the god of love strikes Troilus.
The reader certainly finds that Criseyde is more credible a character than Troilus. She is far more grounded and human than Troilus, who always seems too romantic and idealistic to be plausible. Criseyde is pragmatic and self-regarding, but is far more appealing to the reader than Troilus, who is valiant and true, but does not wash as a believable character. Perhaps in this respect the pairing could never have lasted; “Criseyde is a person and will not, cannot, be Troilus’s ideal. ” – It is significant that at the end of the book Criseyde is still alive in the world of the practical, whereas Troilus’ classically romantic spirit has ascended to paradise.
Theme of Tragic Love in Romeo and Juliet, Troilus and Criseyde and the Great Gatsby
To what extent, in Troilus and Criseyde, Romeo and Juliet and The Great Gatsby, is love shown as a ‘futile pursuit doomed only to cause suffering’
The nature of the love depicted in Troilus and Criseyde, Romeo and Juliet and The Great Gatsby is key when considering whether it is indeed futile and doomed only to cause suffering, or whether the feelings of love make the consequences of it worth the endeavor. Whether the love is reciprocated and the degree to which the love itself was unobtainable, or forbidden is also significant: arguably, arduous circumstances willingly undertaken are rather indicative of the strength of love than of the futile nature of it.
In Troilus and Criseyde, Troilus offers himself up as a Petrarchan lover, using ‘recurrent superlatives, absolute commitments, and extended monologues’ ; these are traits which characterize medieval love poems, such as Petrarch’s Il Canzoniere and Guillaume de Lorris’ Roman de la Rose, indicate a strength of love willing to endure suffering. Indeed, Taylor argues that ‘Chaucer reworks Boccaccio’s poem to emphasize these traits’, making Troilus more committed than the lover in Il Filostrato Chaucer’s source- Boccaccio’s Troiolo; Troilus uses twenty nine statements of commitment, compared to Troiolo’s seven and he expresses his love in absolute terms: ‘That yow, that doon me al this wo endure, / Yet love I best of any creature’. Given the woe that Troilus admits to enduring, he is in line with the conventional way for a lover to respond in the medieval period in which suffering was central to the concept of courtly love: he cannot eat, he cannot sleep and ‘doun upon his beddes feet hym sette/ And first he gan to sike, and eft to grone’. Moreover, that Chaucer has Troilus constantly refer to being ‘cured’, suggests that he sees love as a form of illness, but his certainness that he ‘wol deye’ is indicative of the strength of his feelings. Given that he fulfills the role of the lover as set out by French fourteenth century love poets – who focused on the ‘pathetic tone of the poems’ we might conclude that his love for Criseyde was truly worth suffering for and not futile after all.
In Romeo and Juliet, initially Romeo, like Troilus, ‘appears as a Petrarchan lover’ , with his monologues and absolute commitments. In the beginning we see Romeo suffer, unlike Troilus who begins by mocking lovers, as even initially when he is in love with Rosaline he ‘locks fair daylight out,/ And makes himself an artificial night’ just as Troilus does in relation to Criseyde. Perhaps he suffers because his love is not reciprocated, which is a deliberate juxtaposition of his relationship with Juliet; as the Friar notes, his love for Rosaline ‘did read by rote and could not spell’. Indeed, ‘the stylized expressions and attitudes of the Petrarchan tradition were… frequently under attack in the Renaissance’ ; we see this when Juliet rejects Romeo’s Petrarchan performance of ‘swearing by the moon’. Unlike in the medieval period, Petrarch has become a symbol of ‘feigned passion’ , which Mercutio so rightly mocks, when he ‘particularizes the characteristics of the conventional lover…as patterned artifice’ . Therefore the significance of the change in Romeo’s language is crucial, as it shows maturity and acceptance of the true meaning of love; Romeo no longer speaks in metaphors and conceits when he talks of his love for Juliet: ‘She whom I love now/ Doth grace for grace and love for love allow;/The other did not so’. Here Romeo also acknowledges the need for reciprocated love; indeed Juliet offers Romeo a love that to some extent is more real. Where Romeo wishes to swear ‘by yonder blessed moon’, Juliet prefers to express her love plainly: ‘I gave thee (my faithful vow) before thou didst request it./ And yet I would it were to give again’. In the Renaissance, ‘ideas about romantic love were exclusively associated with women’ . Also, unlike Romeo there is no evidence to suggest that she had ever been in love, whereas she is Romeo’s second, albeit true, love. The true nature of their love highlights a love that is worth suffering for and is therefore not futile.
Though Gatsby is unlike Troilus and Romeo, as he doesn’t use Petrarchan conceits, he still manages to express his love for Daisy. The reoccurring image of ‘the green light’… ‘minute and far away’, used over ten times and in the instance when Nick first sees Gatsby, is symbolic of the unobtainable, yet ever hopeful, nature of Gatsby’s love for Daisy – a married woman who lives across town. To Gatsby, Daisy becomes an idol and his image of her grows so fondly in his mind, that the Daisy of reality then falls short of his expectations: ‘there must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams’. Daisy is no longer just Gatsby’s ideal love, but she has in some ways become another object which he must attain to feel fulfilled. Gatsby’s need to buy a big house and host elaborate parties highlights the materialistic nature of his love for Daisy. This suggests that his love is not entirely true and is therefore not worth any suffering, hence it is a futile pursuit.
However, in comparison to the men in Troilus and Criseyde and The Great Gatsby, Criseyde and Daisy do not seem to reciprocate the same level of love as their respective partners – a distinction set up by Chaucer and Fitzgerald to call into question the futility of their love. Jay stands ‘every evening’, reaching out, but his love is never returned – ‘Gatsby has attained the momentary attention of his lost love…But he also did not have it’ . Even after all the visits to Gatsby’s mansion and the elaborate parties, Daisy is still unable to reciprocate Gatsby’s love, and even if she does it is never to the extent to which Gatsby had dreamed of or hoped for. This lack of reciprocation indicates the futile nature of Gatsby’s pursuit. One may argue that to some extent this lack of reciprocation is as a result of her already being married to Tom Buchanan; she is unable to respond to his advances because she already belongs to someone else. This is similar to the way in which Criseyde belongs to her father; indeed she is, as Frandenberg notes ‘powerless to affect her reputation’ . Criseyde doesn’t reciprocate this same level of love for Troilus as Chaucer says that ‘she so lightly loved Troilus’, with emphasis being on the word ‘lightly’. As Gravdal remarks, ‘this society gives every sign that it values female life less than male’ . However, in spite of this convention, in their first meeting Criseyde takes matters into her own hands as she ‘gan hym kisse’, showing her confidence and perhaps her willingness to show interest in Troilus. There is also a small chance that Daisy does want to be with Gatsby, as when she is drunk she indirectly rejects her marriage to Tom: ‘Take ’em down-stairs and give ’em back to whoever they belong to. Tell ’em all Daisy’s change’ her mind’. However, there is a sense of ambiguity in the statement, which is compounded by her lack of sobriety. The inability for the women to fully reciprocate the love which they receive highlights that the love is indeed a futile pursuit.
The problems that provide an obstacle for the lovers shows that they are willing to undertake arduous circumstances for one another which in fact proves that their love isn’t entirely futile. Booker notes that the fact that Gatsby’s love for Daisy is doomed is, in part, inevitable as it is used to indicate the fictionality of the American myth of ‘upward mobility’ – Gatsby, despite his wealth and like many of his contemporaries, failed to bridge the class-based gap. Gatsby spends his entire life trying to impress Daisy with his wealth, he even bought his house ‘so that Daisy would be just across the bay’. In chasing the material, it is as if Gatsby forgets to chase the sentimental, so much so that he almost rises above Daisy and can no longer easily communicate with her: ‘He had been full of the idea so long… now, in the reaction, he was running down like an over-wound clock’. Daisy only realizes that everything he has done, is because of her when he shows her the silk shirts, when she cries ‘It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such- such beautiful shirts before’; there is a great sense that she is talking about the amount of love she has been shown. Whereas the love that Romeo and Juliet have for each other is not so much a class-based gap as it is a civic crisis: ‘my only love sprung from my only hate’. Hence, Romeo and Juliet’s love is controlled by a concatenation of circumstances outside of their own control: ‘my name, dear saint, is hateful to myself/ Because it is an enemy to thee’. This is also similar to the situation in Troilus and Criseyde whereby Criseyde is the daughter of a man who has betrayed Troy: ‘Calkas traitour fled and allied/ With them of Grece, and casten to be wroken’. Romeo and Juliet’s warring families act as an obstacle for their love to flourish, but this similar situation seems to have little or no effect on Troilus and Criseyde’s love, until the end. The fact that their love is forbidden shows that their love is strong, as they have to oppose that which is naturally required of them.
Perhaps the commitment inherent in marriage indicates a strength of love which forgoes the feeling that making a sacrifice for the person you love is ever futile. In the case of Romeo and Juliet, for instance, it is true that they fall in love at first sight and that this may be considered “superficial” and therefore not worth the final sacrifice however their marriage, in comparison to the other texts, is arguably symbolic of a deeper, more meaningful love than that which is found in The Great Gatsby and Troilus and Criseyde. Romeo and Juliet’s ability to love and wed in spite of their societal circumstances proves that their love is not futile. The inclusion of the Friar in all things important and for all forms of advice makes their secret marriage more founded. Of course, in the Great Gatsby written 400 years later, the importance of marriage is downplayed. There were things that were of more importance such as wealth and status, this was all part of a grand scheme to keep growing and becoming more successful, with equal opportunities for everyone: the ‘American Dream’. The marriages, which do exist in The Great Gatsby, can be said to be faulty and failing- with Tom cheating on Daisy with a married woman- and perhaps this shows just how insignificant and insecure nuptials were. ‘In a society in transition… Gatsby feels ‘married’ to Daisy but he tries to break up Tom’s marriage’ . This is another one of Gatsby’s dreams, or is perhaps his ultimate dream. The nature of Gatsby’s feelings on marriage is linked to the transitional time period and ‘the shifting definitions of masculinity and femininity’ . So although it is true that Gatsby and Daisy never get married, it is not necessarily indicative of their lack of love for each other or Gatsby’s ability to commit nor does it prove that their love is a futile pursuit.
Troilus and Criseyde, written nearly 600 years prior to The Great Gatsby, with chivalric love and the Laws of Capellanus in place, love was to be taken seriously. However, our eponymous hero at first did not seem to understand love’s true importance, until he was forcefully struck with love by Venus- as punishment for making fun of it: ‘The God of Love gan loken rowe/ Right for despit, and shop for to ben wroken’. His love for Criseyde perhaps was not strong enough for a normal marriage to come of it. However in the 12th Century there was such a thing as a clandestine marriage, so although they may not have been married according to modern conventions, they were considered to be married during medieval times. Maguire describes the nature of medieval ‘clandestine’ marriage as ‘valid and fairly common in Chaucer’s day’ , although not performed in church and claims that the relationship between Troilus and Criseyde is such a marriage. The suggestions of clandestine marriage in Troilus and Criseyde include Chaucer’s focus on marital ‘trouthe’ and the attitude and words of Pandarus. So, Troilus and Criseyde’s commitment in ‘marriage’ suggests that their love was not entirely futile.
The recurring theme of death in all three texts suggests that their love, albeit short, was not entirely futile though it does convey a sense of suffering. Yet this is really dependent on whether we consider their love to be of a ‘true’ nature – we might conclude that their death shows the great sacrifice that they have made for their love or, if their love was not genuine, that their death was futile. Either way it is perhaps not the ‘love’ itself which is doomed only to cause suffering but in fact false love. In the case of Romeo and Juliet, death is offered as an escape from reality but then inadvertently becomes their reality; by agreeing to feign death in order to avoid marriage to Paris, Juliet catalyzes the tragedy set up for her in the beginning. ‘The prologue to Romeo and Juliet firmly subordinates the idea of doomed love to civic crisis from the beginning’ , in the prologue we are warned of Romeo and Juliet’s fate as we are told by the chorus, ‘a pair of star-crossed lovers take their life’. It is true that although their love is not destined to last, this is not as a result of their love being doomed but rather that the civic crisis stands in the way of their love flourishing, a problem which they try, but fail to overcome. Once the lovers discover that they are from rivaled families they immediately realize that their love is condemned, this framing is continued throughout the body of the play, Shakespeare has Juliet utter, before she is married, the almost prophetic: “my grave is like to be my wedding bed” and later, post-consummation, she also foresees Romeo’s death when she describes him “as one dead in the bottom of a tomb”. The use of dramatic irony here hints at how Juliet has unknowingly ‘married’ death- she has agreed to a contract that leads to her demise. Yet, in spite of their love ending in such a sudden and tragic death, the long-term rivalry between their families is at once settled and their love serves as a symbol to remind their families that love can overcome all obstacles. Thus, in Romeo and Juliet, though their love ends in death, it leads to a greater good rather than only causing suffering and therefore also shows that it is far from futile. In spite of their deaths, Romeo and Juliet’s were not doomed because of their love, but rather because of their familial crisis.
For Troilus and Criseyde, there seemed to not have been as many obstacles as Romeo and Juliet had to face, yet, in a similar way to Romeo and Juliet, the opening to Troilus and Criseyde immediately warns us of ‘the double sorwe of Troilus’. In this love story, Fortune plays a big part in the affair; when Troilus cries, ‘For wel fynde I that Fortune is my fo’, he hints at the unfortunate ending of a love that is yet to begin. Through the rest of the poem, he cries out ‘cruel fortune’ over three times showing that ‘Troilus… is far more insistent about his unique and special fate… than most lovers’ . Troilus’ death is shown as being a result of him loving Criseyde: ‘Swich fyn hath, lo, this Troilus for love’. ‘Troilus wishes to indicate that he is not responsible for the present disaster, but he wishes to do so piously’ . Unlike Romeo and Juliet, this death is not sacrificial, but is rather as a result of his ‘sufferynge’ from the loss of his love. Thus showing that Troilus’ love was doomed only to cause suffering.
The Great Gatsby offers an alternative view of love- with Gatsby’s pursuit of a married woman- hence we are not surprised that Gatsby’s love comes to nothing; with divorce not being an option, because Tom had lied that he was ‘a devout catholic’, one could say that Gatsby and Daisy’s love was doomed from the start just like the aforementioned couples’. Even when they first reunite, Nick opens the door to a Gatsby that is ‘pale as death’ – it is ironic that when Gatsby should be the happiest, because he is finally meeting Daisy, all the life is drained from him. Unlike Romeo and Troilus, Gatsby isn’t a Petrarchan lover so he doesn’t ‘moan’ and ‘groan’ as Troilus did. However, there is a sense that he still suffers because of his love because he cannot help but link his true love to an unreachable ‘green light’; despite the ‘green’ suggesting hope, there is also a sense of dissatisfaction and disappointment; the light is close, yet far away and Gatsby cannot overcome this distance similar to the way in which he cannot overcome the distance between Daisy and him. His death comes as a surprise, but we can see that Gatsby takes the blame for something that he did not do in order to protect Daisy. Like Romeo, he dies for his lover though for different reasons and thus shows that his pursuit of love wasn’t entirely futile.
In conclusion, the reciprocation of love in all three texts has been mainly central in the consideration of whether the love is indeed a futile pursuit. So, as hitherto discussed, Troilus and Criseyde present love as a futile pursuit as Troilus’ love was not completely reciprocated, similarly in The Great Gatsby, Daisy does not reciprocate Gatsby’s love. However, Romeo and Juliet seem to be the only ones whose love is mutual and is therefore not futile. Furthermore, with regard to whether the love is doomed only to cause suffering, it is clear that Chaucer’s Troilus was doomed to suffer as he sought only to fulfill conventions. Whereas, Gatsby’s death shows a willingness to sacrifice for one’s love. On the other hand, Romeo and Juliet’s death do not indicate suffering but rather act as a symbol of hope and restoration.
Allusions in Chauser’s and Langland’s Books
Both Chaucer in Troilus and Criseyde and William Langland in The Vision of Piers Plowman make frequent allusions to other texts in their works. Troilus and Criseyde uses mythological figures and tales to foreshadow events and highlight characters’ flaws in Chaucer’s own story, whilst Langland adeptly uses the Bible to drive the tale of Piers Plowman and ensures to romanticise central characters to make them more appealing to his audience. This essay will explore the ways in which both authors allude to secondary texts and the role that each of the discussed allusions plays in their texts.
Pandarus plans to head to his niece Criseyde’s house to tell her about Troilus, a great warrior who has fallen in love with her. Pandarus intends to set the two up. Initially, the reader is told that it is “May, that moder is of monthes glade” (50) and a month that is generally associated with love and new beginnings. However, Pandarus is reminded of his past, in which he had “a teene / In love” (61-2) and tossed and turned in his bed all night. This already highlights the negative impact love has on the characters’ lives. Furthermore, Pandarus is awoken by “the swalowe Proigne, with a sorowful lay.” This is in reference to the Greek myth of Procne, who was married to King Tereus. Her sister, Philomela, came to visit the couple but was raped by Tereus, who ripped out her tongue. In revenge, Procne killed her son and cooked him as a meal to her husband, who only found out what had happened after he had finished his meal. Tereus chased after the sisters in a fit of rage, so Procne and Philomela prayed to the gods to be turned into birds in order to escape Tereus’s wrath. Procne was turned into a swallow and Philomela, a nightingale. Chaucer’s brief allusion to this myth is debated, although it seems that the swallow Proigne sings to Pandarus to warn him. As Elaine Tuttle Hansen points out in Chaucer and the Fictions of Gender, modern readers are quick to believe that Criseyde is a victim of the men in her life, including her uncle and her lover; I would argue that she is, in fact, independent of these men and in no way victimises herself, as it would be so easy for her to do—instead, she declares “I am myn owene woman, wel at ese” (750). In the end, it is Criseyde who takes advantage of these men, betraying them for her own desires. Proigne singing to Pandarus is a warning of the wrath of women: Troilus—and Pandarus, for that matter—will be his own hamartia, whilst Criseyde flitters away in pursuit of her own fate.
William Langland alludes to the story of the Crucifixion in Piers Plowman. In Passus XVIII, Will has a dream-vision in which he sees Jesus riding “barefoot on an asse” (11). By comparing Jesus to Piers Plowman and the Samaritan, Langland suggests that Christ manifests Piers’s humility (riding on a mule) and the Samaritan’s empathy and generosity. The Biblical reference continues in the passus, when Jesus is “nailed […] with thre nailes naked upon the roode” (51). Will continues on to explain that everyone present at Jesus’s crucifixion “were unhardy […] / To touchen hym or to tasten hym or taken hym down of roode” (83-4) except for a “blynde bacheler” (85), Longeus, who is spoken about in the gospel of John. Langland refers to the only gospel in the Bible in which Jesus is pierced after he has been crucified—John. The lance links to Jesus because the poem reveals that he has come to “juste in Jerusalem […] / And fecche that the fend claymeth.” (19-20) Of course, Jesus, as he appears in the Bible, is a non-violent figure; the Jesus of Wills’ dream-vision becomes a knightlike figure, embodying something of a redemptive character. The concept of Jesus as a knightly character is also echoed in the line of Longeus, “this blynde bacheler, that baar hym thorugh the herte.” (85) By consciously referring to the only gospel that mentions Jesus being pierced, Langland ensures that his Jesus becomes a romantic, tragic figure, one that has died of a broken heart.
Another mythological figure Chaucer alludes to is Helen of Troy, who is used as a symbol to amplify Criseyde’s female sexuality and the hold she has over Troilus. Helen, who is actually featured in Chaucer’s tale, is a woman renowned for her beauty—so renowned, in fact, that there was a competition amongst her suitors for her hand in marriage. King Menelaus of Sparta eventually emerges victorious and they marry; however, after a period of time, she leaves Menelaus for Paris of Troy. Accounts differ over whether she eloped or was abducted. Interestingly, Ovid associates the killing of Procne’s son with the manic Bacchanals. Virgil, in Aenid, also relates some of Helen’s actions with that of the Bacchanals. Bacchus is the god of religious ecstasy and ritual madness, and is thought to originate in Thrace, whose king was Procne’s husband. These symbolic women are both linked to Criseyde, and it could be said that the carnage the Thracian women celebrate in is something Criseyde is affiliated with. Valerie Ross contends that Chaucer is deliberately “anti-misogynist” and that his “reconstruction […] of Criseyde […] radically departs from his source-texts” and whilst it is true that Chaucer’s Criseyde differs from Boccaccio’s Criseida in Il Filostrato, the inspiration for Troilus and Criseyde, Chaucer is not constructing strong female characters who are seen in a positive feminine manner. In fact, Criseyde, whilst strong, MONOLOGUE ABOUT MEN is certainly not the heroine of the story. THE NIGHTINGALE COMFORTS HER I would argue that she is portrayed as something of a femme fatale; she does not approve of domineering men and uses them herself to her own end. By alluding to her own Bacchic tendencies with the association of both Procne and Helen, Chaucer subtly portrays her as manic; and by setting her against Helen of Troy and the story of Philomela, her feminine sexuality is seen as a weapon. It can be argued that these attributes are that of a strong female character who does not need the men in her life to dictate her autonomy; however, it can equally be argued that being written as a manic, confused succubus is not an accurate representation of the work of an “anti-misogynist” author.
Further into Will’s dream-vision, he descends into Hell with Jesus, where he is met by “a wench” by the name of Mercy and her sister, Truth. Mercy explains that “man shal man save thorugh a maydenes helpe” (139), referring to Jesus coming to rescue the “patriarkes and prophetes” (138) that had preached about him. Truth rejects Mercy’s explanation, crying that it is “but a tale of waltrot” (142) and insists that Hell is a permanent place, referring to the book of Job 7:9 in the Bible: “For that is ones in helle, out cometh it nevere.” (148) Whereas Truth turns to the Old Testament to back up her argument, Mercy relies on an old Latin hymn to explain to Truth that Jesus has come to defeat Satan: he will “bigile the gilour,” (161) and will overcome death. Mercy using a hymn suggests that she already knows the significance of the crucifixion of Christ and understands that he has come as a redemptive figure to save the patriarchs and prophets from Hell. This links to the idea of Jesus being a knightly character, and something of a romantic symbol. Christians believe that Jesus is the way to save one’s soul and enter heaven, so by romanticising him in Piers Plowman, Chaucer almost inadvertently makes Christianity an attractive and appealing way of life as his audience comes to see Jesus as a heroic and loving symbol of the religion.
Chaucer’s Troilus & Criseyde: The Frivolity of Femininity
To be female is to be frivolous and inconstant. This is the position that Geoffrey Chaucer takes in his love poem, “Troilus and Criseyde”. The lovely Criseyde, with whom Troilus falls madly in love, is the epitome of frivolity and inconstancy, in her actions as well as her thoughts. Criseyde’s own uncle, in reference to the wavering woman’s heart, says that “keeping is as hard as winning [it]” (book3.verse234). Chaucer also uses symbolism: the moon parallels Criseyde’s actions; it is ever-changing, like a woman’s prerogative. Chaucer also reflects on the role of Fortune, who, having a feminine character, is constantly subject to whimsy and change. Chaucer’s negative view of the female gender can clearly be seen throughout this tale.
Criseyde is the most significant example of Chaucer’s perspective, and by far the most straightforward. She promises Troilus with many heartfelt words that she will forever be true to him, swearing to God that she will never stray: “For I am yours, by God and this true oath” (3.216). She makes these vows with honesty in her heart: “All she said was said with good intent, / …she spoke just what she meant” (4.203). While this may appear to prove that she does not deceive her love when she leaves him for Diomede, in truth, it only shows how fickle and frivolous a woman can be. When Criseyde chooses to leave her “love”, Troilus, it is for very shallow reasons. She does not leave Troilus because she loves another:
The sayings of this sudden Diomede,
His high position and the sinking town
…[which] thus began to breed
The reason why…she made it her intention to remain
Criseyde chooses not to return to her beloved, as she promised time and again that she would. Criseyde is portrayed as quite petty; she leaves Troilus based on extremely superficial motives. To make matters worse, rather than immediately feeling sorrow towards Troilus or remorse for what she has done to him, she laments what her actions will mean for her own well-being. She thinks to herself that “no good of me, to the world’s end, / will ever now be written, said, or sung / …alas that I should suffer such a fall” (5.152). Chaucer rips away any pity that one might feel towards Criseyde by emphasizing her vanity and her inconstancy. She causes Troilus, a character that Chaucer has given readers no reason to dislike, such pain that he is “defeated and so woebegone” (5.175). Troilus is faithful to his promise of love until his death, while Criseyde’s feelings change dramatically.
Chaucer uses moon imagery to foreshadow the fact that Criseyde’s heart will indeed change. The moon is frequently found in Chaucer’s poem, and most often in a context that parallels Criseyde’s decision. He uses phrases such as “change of the moon” (3.79), and “bent was the moon” (3.90) to weave in the idea that the moon is in a constant state of flux. He connects it to Criseyde’s actions in order to show that she is also in constant transformation. Troilus “…every night rose up to see the moon/to say ‘Yet moon, the night your horns renew/I shall be happy – if all the world is true’” (5.93). He watches the moon to keep track of when Criseyde might return to him, but as the moon changes, so does his sweetheart’s mind. Chaucer hints at this when he writes, “in heaven still the stars were to be seen, / although the moon was paling, quickly too” (5.40). This symbolizes the fact that while Criseyde still loves Troilus, her love will soon fade, and then disappear entirely. The moon, linked to femininity through its association with Criseyde, is constant changeing.
Another significant female character in the poem is “Fortune, to whom belongs the permutation / of things under the moon” (5.221). Fortune, a female, is portrayed as quite fickle and mean-spirited. Her negative qualities far more obvious than Criseyde’s; Chaucer refers to her as “Fortune the Inconstant” (4.241) and rarely shows her being kind. The fact that she is feminine only adds to the negative light shed on women in this poem. Like Criseyde, she changes her mind, “for she began to turn her shining face / away from Troilus, took of him no heed, / and cast him clean out of his lady’s grace, / and on her wheel she set up Diomede” (4.2). She is both cruel and frivolous, wont to toy with the hearts of men for her enjoyment. Chaucer believes that “Fortune had planned to dupe them, for her laughter” (5.162). Not only is Fortune cruel, but she is cruel with a wicked degree of constancy, even though her very nature suggests a tendency towards continuous change: “For if her wheel should ever cease to turn/Fortune would then no longer Fortune be” (1.122). With such negativity infused into both of the major female characters, it is clear that Chaucer has a remarkably negative opinion of women.
The events that made Chaucer despise women and believe them to be so fickle and inconstant are impossible to know. Chaucer’s beliefs are, however, repeatedly expressed throughout the poem in statements both brazen and subtle. The negative portrayal of women persists to the very end, when Troilus dies and Criseyde is left alive with her new lover. The story is touching enough to bring one to tears; one can relate to Troilus and his lost love. Chaucer writes, in conclusion, that one should “give your love to [God]… / Since He is best to love… / What need is there in a feigning love to seek” (5.264)? Because of the frivolity and inconstancy that Chaucer associates with femininity, he advises men to avoid love altogether.
Fortune in Troilus and Criseyde
As a poem that presents tragedy within love as inevitable, in Troilus and Criseyde, Chaucer also explores the forces that control this downfall: Fortune, the planets and free will. These can be separated in to two categories, those that exist in the human world, and those that are of a higher power. However, Boethius’ ‘Consolation of Philosophy’- a key text in Chaucer’s process of writing- states that “the free exercise of the human will is part of destiny”. This definition renders the distinction between free will and fortune as inaccurate if human will is seen as part of a greater scheme. This is portrayed through Chaucer’s work in that human intervention in the form of Pandarus occurs and still Troilus is thrown from the wheel. Therefore, Troilus and Criseyde explores not only the effects of tragedy in love but the cause of both the fortune and misfortune that is bestowed upon the characters.
Within the poem, Fortune is viewed as the traditional symbol of a wheel. Whilst the associations with Fortune are good, Chaucer specifies that “cessed she Fortune anon to be” if she were unable to set another on the wheel in her favour. This suggests that in order for the idea of Fortune to exist in Troilus and Criseyde, it must be a force with the ability to induce pain as well as pleasure. This is evident from Book I, which provides a suggestion of inevitable failure in love in the verses to come: “how his aventures fellen/ From wo to wele, and after out of joie” (Chaucer, Book 1: l.6-7). Structurally, the sentence echoes the overall structure of the five books; the ‘happiness’ of good fortune characterises approximately the first three books, whilst the last two are encompassed by the ‘wo’ of bad fortune. This translates to a wheel in that Troilus is put in good favour for almost the same amount of time he is in bad favour, presenting the idea of an equilibrium. In order for there to remain a balance in not only Troilus’s fortunes but the rest of the human world, the good must be offset with the bad and vice versa. It also suggests a self-fashioning in Chaucer’s writing, suggesting a further theme that Fortune is not so arbitrary through displaying it as symmetrical. However, the focus cannot be on the two experiences as separate entities but coming together “out of joie”; love is the unifying factor, suggesting that you cannot love someone without also feeling pain. This encompasses also the medieval idea of courtly romance in that during a courtship, there is an intense feeling of love sickness. Yet the repetition of differing forms of ‘wo’ presents the idea not only of a love sickness, but a mourning of a loss of love, thus echoing the symbolic death and ‘twynnyng’(Chaucer, Book IV, l.1302) of lovers in Book IV. Additionally, it can also be seen not only how Fortune must exist as a wheel but also that the control of the wheel lies above the earthly sphere. This suggests an undeniable element of tragedy within the romance in that whether Fortune is an arbitrary force or not, Troilus and Criseyde are unable to control where they are placed on the wheel. Furthermore, whilst Fortune is portrayed as a wheel that humans have no control over, Chaucer does suggest at a certain amount of control within the human sphere in the way that each individual responds to what they are given. Whilst Troilus mourns Criseyde until his death, she tries to make the best out of a bad situation. Therefore, Chaucer sees Fortune as not a way of bringing good luck, but as a balance; in order for good to occur in the world, there must be a balancing of evil.
Once Chaucer establishes Fortune as a force that is out of human control, there continues to be an exploration of whether it is tailored to each individual or whether it is a force common to all. This also explores whether Fortune is a completely arbitrary force or if the fortune it bestows is in direct correlation to the actions of the individuals. And when a wight is from hire whiel ythrowe, Than laugheth she, and maketh hym the mowe.” (Chaucer, Book IV, l.6-7) From the beginning of Book IV, Fortune is portrayed as a force that individually targets Troilus as opposed to being random. This is emphasised through the patriarchal use of language- ‘hym’- that suggests that Fortune is not only tailored to individuals, but Troilus alone. Yet the tragedy does not occur to Troilus alone; a romance typically denotes man and woman. Criseyde is omitted from not only this sentence, but from almost this entire process of grief. This malicious behaviour is emphasised by her action of laughing, suggesting that as a wider force Fortune cares little for the consequences of the events she causes in only one person’s life. Additionally, the grimace she induces provides one of the many mirroring acts within Troilus and Criseyde. Similarly to how Troilus experiences pain through love sickness throughout Book II, he now experiences pain through the loss of this love. Yet, the treatment of Fortune here is dualistic in that it appears as an arbitrary force also. Despite previous references to Troilus as an individual, the impersonal phrase ‘a wight’ presents this statement as a wider comment as to the fortune of all men. Furthermore, the phrase ‘and when’ suggests that being thrown from the ‘whiel’ is simply inevitable; if there were a chance that man could exist with only good fortune, Chaucer could have simply used ‘if’. The use of pronouns in this Book is especially important as Fortune is personified as ‘her’, suggesting that human intent imbues every actions she takes. Mann suggests that in capitalising Fortune to the goddess Fortuna, human beings can deceive themselves in to thinking the force as independent from themselves. This is supported by the traditional image of Fortuna as blindfolded, suggesting that even she is controlled by chance when she bestows the good or bad. This proceeds to the conclusion that perhaps the nature of Fortune has not changed over the course of the three books; it remains about perspective. At the beginning of Book IV, Troilus remains in the grips of grief and therefore sees Fortune as not an arbitrary force but one specific to pushing him to tragedy. To view it from Diomedes perspective, his fortunes at this point turn for the better. Additionally, from Criseyde’s perspective, tragedy has occurred yet she understands that through lack of choice she must find another lover for protection. Thus, Chaucer’s treatment of Fortune, whilst fixed, does change through perspective of the character and does not occur ‘without a reason’. Therefore, it can be argued that whether Fortune predestines one’s futures or if it occurs by chance, it remains not about controlling the fates but the human reaction to what it given out to each of us.
Whilst Fortune plays an important part in the romance of Troilus and Criseyde, Chaucer also acknowledges Fortune as only one of the non-human entities that control human lives. The planets such as Venus and Mars feature as having a certain influence when in the right alignment; their influence depends on what each planets represent and how this corresponds to the occurrences on Earth. Through tracing the influence of Venus throughout the books, we can see where the planets also have an influence. A crucial section within Book II displays how Fortune and Venus work in unison: “And also blisful Venus, wel arrayed […] To helpe sely Troilus of his woo” (Chaucer, Book II, l. 673-683) Through positioning the influence of Venus within the initial courtship of Criseyde and Troilus, it suggests that the planet of love aided them in coming together. This is emphasised through the use of ‘also’, suggesting that Fortune alone may not be sufficient in encouraging the love affair. Yet it is also implied that Venus works separately from Fortune through the description of Troilus ‘of his woo’, insinuating that he is destined for tragedy through being at the mercy of fortune alone. Even with this implication, the planets are still seen as a secondary influence to Fortune. To support this, the Ptolemaic structure of spheres must be referred to as it presents planetary alignment as a higher power than Fortune. Through Fortune controlling earthly events, it remains at an almost human level whilst Venus remains in a sphere of light above earth. This suggests Venus remains as perfect and incorruptible, whereas Fortune presides in an area where it can be corrupted. It can also be seen as a higher power in that Venus remains unchanged in its support of love whereas Fortune is changeable through the symbol of the wheel. This constancy can be seen in the alignment of the planets being apparent in the romance between Diomede and Criseyde: “brighte Venus folwede and ay taught/ The wey.” (Chaucer, Book V, l.1016) The phrase ‘folwede’ suggests that whenever the planets are in alignment, they influence human action. Through encouraging love for Diomede also, it suggests that planetary alignment is not as specific as Fortune is portrayed to be towards Troilus; it remains a force higher than this in influencing whoever is in the right situation. Therefore, Chaucer treats Fortune as only one of higher powers that influence human situation. Yet, Fortune is seen as more prominent in that it deals directly with human affairs, instead of being a secondary aid as Venus is seen as throughout Book II especially.
Fortune is not only used in the aspects of love, but must be viewed as a wider force capable of penetrating all areas of life. Whilst Chaucer primarily uses Fortune within romance, he also uses wider events such as the Trojan siege to suggest its influences in other matters. Through the siege in the background, it also connects this idea of Fortune as a wider force yet also influencing individual fates. Through his name alone, Troilus is inextricably linked to the fate of Troy, alluding to the Troilus as a symbol of premature death. Also, through using the inevitable downfall of Troy, it suggests how Fortune is an arbitrary force that can control the lives of many. Troilus therefore becomes a symbol of the fate of Troy, linking the fates of all men and his fate within his romance with Criseyde. Therefore, Fortune is treated both as a wider force and one individual to certain men; it is only through the genre of romance and the intimate focus on Troilus that we see it predominantly as a force specific to certain people.
Bibliography Boethius, ‘Consolation of Philosophy’ in The Cambridge Companion to Chaucer, ed. by Jill Mann (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003)
Chaucer, G. Troilus and Criseyde, ed. by Barry Windeatt (London: Penguin Books, 2003)
Mann, J. ‘Chance and Destiny in Troilus and Criseyde and the Knight’s Tale’ in The Cambridge Companion to Chaucer, ed. by Jill Mann (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003)
Chaucer’s Troilus & Criseyde: The Frivolity of Femininity
To be female is to be frivolous and inconstant. This is the position that Geoffrey Chaucer takes in his love poem, “Troilus and Criseyde”. The lovely Criseyde, with whom Troilus falls madly in love, is the epitome of frivolity and inconstancy, in her actions as well as her thoughts. Criseyde’s own uncle, in reference to the wavering woman’s heart, says that “keeping is as hard as winning [it]” (book3.verse234). Chaucer also uses symbolism: the moon parallels Criseyde’s actions; it is ever-changing, like a woman’s prerogative. Chaucer also reflects on the role of Fortune, who, having a feminine character, is constantly subject to whimsy and change. Chaucer’s negative view of the female gender can clearly be seen throughout this tale. Criseyde is the most significant example of Chaucer’s perspective, and by far the most straightforward. She promises Troilus with many heartfelt words that she will forever be true to him, swearing to God that she will never stray: “For I am yours, by God and this true oath” (3.216). She makes these vows with honesty in her heart: “All she said was said with good intent, / …she spoke just what she meant” (4.203). While this may appear to prove that she does not deceive her love when she leaves him for Diomede, in truth, it only shows how fickle and frivolous a woman can be. When Criseyde chooses to leave her “love”, Troilus, it is for very shallow reasons. She does not leave Troilus because she loves another: the sayings of this sudden Diomede,his high position and the sinking town…[which] thus began to breedthe reason why…she made it her intention to remain(5.147) Criseyde chooses not to return to her beloved, as she promised time and again that she would. Criseyde is portrayed as quite petty; she leaves Troilus based on extremely superficial motives. To make matters worse, rather than immediately feeling sorrow towards Troilus or remorse for what she has done to him, she laments what her actions will mean for her own well-being. She thinks to herself that “no good of me, to the world’s end, / will ever now be written, said, or sung / …alas that I should suffer such a fall” (5.152). Chaucer rips away any pity that one might feel towards Criseyde by emphasizing her vanity and her inconstancy. She causes Troilus, a character that Chaucer has given readers no reason to dislike, such pain that he is “defeated and so woebegone” (5.175). Troilus is faithful to his promise of love until his death, while Criseyde’s feelings change dramatically.Chaucer uses moon imagery to foreshadow the fact that Criseyde’s heart will indeed change. The moon is frequently found in Chaucer’s poem, and most often in a context that parallels Criseyde’s decision. He uses phrases such as “change of the moon” (3.79), and “bent was the moon” (3.90) to weave in the idea that the moon is in a constant state of flux. He connects it to Criseyde’s actions in order to show that she is also in constant transformation. Troilus “…every night rose up to see the moon/to say ‘Yet moon, the night your horns renew/I shall be happy – if all the world is true'” (5.93). He watches the moon to keep track of when Criseyde might return to him, but as the moon changes, so does his sweetheart’s mind. Chaucer hints at this when he writes, “in heaven still the stars were to be seen, / although the moon was paling, quickly too” (5.40). This symbolizes the fact that while Criseyde still loves Troilus, her love will soon fade, and then disappear entirely. The moon, linked to femininity through its association with Criseyde, is constant changeing. Another significant female character in the poem is “Fortune, to whom belongs the permutation / of things under the moon” (5.221). Fortune, a female, is portrayed as quite fickle and mean-spirited. Her negative qualities far more obvious than Criseyde’s; Chaucer refers to her as “Fortune the Inconstant” (4.241) and rarely shows her being kind. The fact that she is feminine only adds to the negative light shed on women in this poem. Like Criseyde, she changes her mind, “for she began to turn her shining face / away from Troilus, took of him no heed, / and cast him clean out of his lady’s grace, / and on her wheel she set up Diomede” (4.2). She is both cruel and frivolous, wont to toy with the hearts of men for her enjoyment. Chaucer believes that “Fortune had planned to dupe them, for her laughter” (5.162). Not only is Fortune cruel, but she is cruel with a wicked degree of constancy, even though her very nature suggests a tendency towards continuous change: “For if her wheel should ever cease to turn/Fortune would then no longer Fortune be” (1.122). With such negativity infused into both of the major female characters, it is clear that Chaucer has a remarkably negative opinion of women.The events that made Chaucer despise women and believe them to be so fickle and inconstant are impossible to know. Chaucer’s beliefs are, however, repeatedly expressed throughout the poem in statements both brazen and subtle. The negative portrayal of women persists to the very end, when Troilus dies and Criseyde is left alive with her new lover. The story is touching enough to bring one to tears; one can relate to Troilus and his lost love. Chaucer writes, in conclusion, that one should “give your love to [God]… / Since He is best to love… / What need is there in a feigning love to seek” (5.264)? Because of the frivolity and inconstancy that Chaucer associates with femininity, he advises men to avoid love altogether.
Why Don’t We Like Troilus?
Chaucer’s ‘Troilus and Criseyde’ opens to the ringing tones of Troilus’s ‘double sorwe’. From the first lines it is ascertained that he is the main character of the poem, no matter how attractive Pandarus and Criseyde appear. Troilus’ heartbreak, explained in 8,000 glorious lines, is the subject of some contention amongst the poem’s various audiences. Criseyde’s guilt, and so Troilus’ worth, has been extrapolated by the likes of Robert Henryson, who described Criseyde’s horrible punishment and eventual death. Here Criseyde becomes the villain of the piece, and Troilus is exonerated. But what of his ramrodding her into confessions of love? Perhaps Chaucer intended him to be no more than a tragic dreamer who had no right to expect from Criseyde the same devotion that he gave. At the end of the poem Troilus is left, feeling rather foolish, mocking and alone, but this is also part of how we seem him. At whom is he laughing? The question of how much an audience ‘likes’ Troilus is as important as that of how Chaucer intended him to be understood. Using Benson as the key text, this issue of our appreciation of Troilus will be the main focus of this essay.Perhaps it is most rewarding to look at Troilus with respect to others’ responses to him as a character. The first charge to be levelled at Troilus, here by the narrator, is that of his blind pride. He is, in his heart, a ‘proude knyght’. He is brother to the famous Hector, prince of the city, and a man for whom love holds no attraction. Initially, he appears haughty, but proud not of his wealth or his birth, his good looks or his strength, but instead of what he conceives as his ability to withstand temptation. Troilus is a man who leads his colleagues in ‘girl-watching’:This Troilus, as he was wont to gideHis yonge kyghtes, lad hem yp and downIn thilke large temple on every side,Byholding ay the ladies of the town. (Book I, 1 83-86)His enjoyment is, as Chauncey Wood suggests, ‘not solely in the aesthetic evaluation of the ladies themselves’ , but more in his resistance to their charms and in the ‘discomfiture of those in his retinue who cannot admire dispassionately, but who become emotionally entangled’. Proleptically as a blind fool himself, he denounces them and adds to it his own endorsement:He gan caste up the browe, Ascances, ‘Loo! Is this naught wisely spoken?His irritating confidence make him a hard hero to love. We can cross-reference this confidence in personal infallibility with what Chaucer has already propounded, for example through what the Parson tells us in the Canterbury Tales:Goodes of grace been power to suffre spiritual travaille … Withstondynge oftemptacioun …Of which forseyde goodes, certes it is a ful greet folye a man to priden hym inany of hem alle.’ (l 455)The parson exposes this phenomenon of self-love as well known to a medieval audience. This pride in one’s own virtues was a common distaste. It is Troilus’ ‘greet folye’ to be such a tempting target for the humbling darts of Cupid, and his suitability as a target is insisted on in this early section of the poem. He is compared to a proud peacock, his pride is said to be caught by the God of Love, he is called a proud knight, the effects of ‘surquidrie and foul presumpcioun,’ (I, 213) are highlighted. Troilus is set for a fall. Most interesting is the immediate analogy with Bayard, who ‘moot endure … horses lawe’ despite his proud prancing. Patricia Kean has interpreted this as a simple link between the horse obeying his law and Troilus obeying also the ‘lawe of kynde’ (I, 238). Thus , she continues, the laws governing Troilus’ character, given to him by (his own) Nature, lead to an inevitability in the development of the story. However, she continues to argue that love ennobles Troilus, which seems at odds with this comparison to a common stable horse. More, it seems, that instead of being ennobled, Troilus is ‘subgit’ to love as Bayard is subject to the Traces and the whip. Bayard is traditionally the name for a blind horse, and the suggestion of the noble prince as a fat, blind horse, does not seem to suggest his elevation by love. Other critics have pointed out that the horse has sometimes been seen as a metaphor for carnal appetite, and this seems to have only complicated this particular debate. It seems Troilus is cursed with love, awakening his sleeping appetites. He is forced, in the end, to be simply a man and to conform to the laws of man and nature. It is important though to notice how Chaucer emphasizes the element of pride in the comparison. Set in the time about which Homer wrote, perhaps proud Troilus too ought to have an honorific epithet.Most distasteful to a modern audience, perhaps, is our understanding that Troilus’s pride is based on a false preconception: he believes he is immune to temptation because he has never faced it. This can been seen when he declares:’I have herd told, pardieux, or youre lyvynge,Ye lovers, and your lewed obervaunces’ (I, 197)Troilus can sneer at lovers because he has ‘heard tell’ of them. He has never been in love, and doesn’t understand what it entails, and we can see this right from the very beginning of the tale. Here Chaucer sets him up for his descent into idolatry. He also hides his love initially, where he ‘softe sighed, lest men myghte hym here.’ This could be due to his total shock and sudden undermining of the foundations of his pride and sense of self worth. However, it seems deceitful and adds to our impression of him, initially at least, as an un-admirable character.Some critics have leaped to Troilus’ defence saying that he is merely an exemplar of courtly love – but how far is this true and vindicable? C. S. Lewis defined the conundrum of courtly love as ‘Humility, Courtesy, Adultery, and the Religion of Love.’ Compare this to Troilus’ initial reflections on his new awakened love:And to the God of Love thus seyde he …Yo thanke I, lorde that han me brought to this.But wheither goddesse or woman, iwis,She be, I not, which that ye do me serve;But as hire man I wol ay luve and sterve. (I, 422, 424-7)Here Troilus shows his obedience to his lady. It has been argued that the idea of courtly love originated in the court of the Countess Marie of Champagne, who was amused by the idea of a world ruled by women where, as Benson says ‘all the handsome young men faithfully served their ladies for the sake of love, rather than their loutish feudal lords for the sake of plunder.’ His humility is now to Cupid, having realised the folly of his pride. But does this make him more loveable?As the poem progresses Troilus is mostly accused of being melodramatic, for example:Yet Troilus for al this no word seyde,But longe he laye style as he ded were;After this with sikunge he abreyde… that in feereWas Pandarus, lest that in frenesieHe shoulde falle, or elles soone die. (I, 722-5, 727-8)Here the language Chaucer uses does seem very emotive, perhaps overly so. Compared to the assured refinement of, for example, Sir Gawain, Troilus seems ill-equipped to cope with the pangs of love. His lack of experience shows in this response to the pressures of unrequited idolatry – he seems to be incapacitated, as is physically evident in his stillness and, more, in the way he takes no action until goaded by Pandarus. Troilus is a curiously passive lover. It is debateable whether he is to be praised for his restraint, or condemned for indecisiveness. He seems weak, however, in that it requires all of Pandarus’ skill even to convince him to, for example, ride past Criseyde’s house. His immediate response to trouble is to go to his room and cry, as when he discovers the news that Criseyde has been traded:To bedde he goeth, and walwith ther and torneth in furie’ (V, 211)This makes him less appealing. However, surely he works in the same way as Othello, who is equally incapable of coping with his Jealousy, or Macbeth who trips over his own ambition? The intensity of the scene is a tool used to show Troilus’ workings and his destroyed naivete. His inactivity is symptomatic of the horror of the moment. Also to exonerate him from undue dramatics, the narrator backs him up by initially explaining the horror of his situation:Forthi ful ofte, his hote fir to cesse,To sen hire goodly looke he gan to presse;For therby to ben esed wel he wende,And ay the ner he was, the more he brende. (I, 445-8)Here we see the narrator explaining the burnings of Troilus’ desire so that we are not tempted to condemn his whining. Troilus is a soul in genuine torment and his endurance is thus an admirable trait. One of the places where a reader is moved most is when Troilus stands on the walls of Troy, waiting all day, hoping to see his love riding towards him. Even though he seems a little foolish in his hopes, an audience can still sympathise with the plight of waiting in hope, of stretching out his hope even unto the closing of the gates of the city, and then the crushing sadness of his rejection. For a while his hope even re-lights anew each morning until he accepts his loss. This Troilus is the evocative hero, hurt and undeserving. It has been argued that the character expects too much of Criseyde to hope for her to fight her way out of the Greek camp and ride across no-man’s land alone and vulnerable to come and visit him for a day. At times in the poem Troilus seems to force himself on Criseyde, paradoxically even whilst vowing to be obedient to her. He threatens her with his own death if she does not show him some sign of affection, and she consents in accord with her own desires. Troilus is a character of war: in the same world of Achilles and Hector there are enemies and foes; he sets about his entrapment of his lady with aggressive self-sacrifice, almost as though she were the city to be conquered. And yet this is a result of Pandarus’ goading; perhaps it is true to say that Pandarus nudges Troilus into reacting in the only way he knows how; as though it were a military problem. His initial inactivity is symptomatic of his inability to deal with the problem as one of naked love.The narrator is important to this poem. As G.T. Shepherd suggests, the narrator is the only fully-developed character in the poem – he is … the only figure who reacts and changes with the sequence of events narrated’. He also goes on to comment interestingly that the narrator is ‘both inside and outside the story’. It is true that the narrator speaks of himself when introducing the story, as well as acting the parts of characters later in the story. He is not always impartial. In the case of Troilus, it is important that the narrator emphasises this ‘lawe of kynde’, as though to highlight that the events are outside of Troilus’ control. But the counterweight to this is the invisible third person exclaiming ‘O blinde world, O blynde entencioun’. The narrator is as duped as Troilus. Shepherd suggests that to an ‘inflammatory’ medieval audience the narrator must ‘maintain throughout something of that initial naivete lest he be help responsible for the calamity.’ Troilus, then, rises and falls on the strength of his own character and is not manipulated by the fallible narrating figure.Troilus does not seem to have the same sense of fun that Criseyde and Pandarus have, and takes himself more seriously than they seem to do. Criseyde returns from her bedroom (where she has been reading Troilus’ initial love letter) to sneak up behind Pandarus, pull his hood, and exclaim ‘Ye were caught er that ye wiste’. As Alfred David says, ‘even such a light moment reveals her essential nature … she regards life as a most enjoyable game.’ This is a somewhat stark contrast to the ‘proude knyghte’ who takes himself so seriously that when he believes Criseyde dead he pulls out his sword and prepares to kill himself. Not all courtly lovers were so dedicated: much later by Shakespeare’s time he slyly remarked ‘Men have died from time to time and the worms have eaten them, but not for love. ‘ Bearing this in mind, Troilus has become more a source of gentle mockery as the centuries have passed and the ideals been lost.The final stanzas of the poem show a curious ‘disembodied laughter’. Alfred David comments that ‘a poem in which the tragic hero’s ghost is permitted to laugh at the mourners of his death … expresses a qualified view of the tragic experience’ and suggests that ‘Troilus’ celestial laughter is also at the expense of the reader’s tragic sensibility.’ More specifically Chaucer ends:And in himself he lough right at the woOf hem that wepten for his deth so faste, And dampened al oure werk that foloweth soThe blynde lust, the which may nat laste.This suggests a bitter mockery on the part of Troilus, rather than a cheerful laughter. Chaucer suggests that he mocks not only those that mourn for him, but all those that are in the thrall of ‘blynde lust.’ Whether this is because he in retrospect believes his love was no more than lust, or that Criseyde’s was, is uncertain. Here he would mock himself and his old foolish heart. Instead perhaps he mocks them because he is certain of the purity of his love and its futile outcome. It is even possible that he finds the antics of the living amusing – whatever the truth, Chaucer’s strange ending to the poem is thought-provoking at the very least and leaves us uncertain of Troilus’ standing. The fact that he goes to the ‘eighth sphere’ and not Tartarus, the Elysian Fields, Heaven, or even Hell is telling. Troilus is not a simple black and white character.Also interesting in this poem is the unusual ‘double sorwe’ structure, rather than just being the tale of Troilus’ fall from grace. Troilus begins on what he believes to be an emotional peak. From here he falls in love and sinks into the depths of unrequited love. Next he gain his love and reaches a new and greater highpoint, and then with news of the swap for Diomedes sinks again to the floor. Only when he dies is he perhaps raised up again, as with his laughter Chaucer attempts to have both a tragedy and a happy ending. This makes a ‘W’ shape. If we compare this to a graph of conventional morality, Troilus starts at the bottom with his pride and lack of self-knowledge. He is raised up by his falling in love to a level of understanding, and yet stoops to sex which is, if not technically adultery, then at least out of wedlock and morally extremely questionable. From here he loses his love and perhaps is raised a little higher as he stops committing this sin and his eyes are more open from the self-deceit he has been practising when he realises Criseyde has left him. At the end he sits in the ‘eighth sphere’ where he was taken by Mercury and laughs at those he has left behind. This would seem to form a very rough ‘M’ shape to complement the graph of his feelings. Troilus is the driving force in the poem and as Malone said ‘movement of the poem conforms throughout to the feelings of its hero’ . Here Troilus seems to ricochet between euphoria and despair, making him a hard character to follow. His emotions are also so extreme that they can be hard to empathies with.Troilus is not a character who immediately yields to interpretation. He is an exponent of courtesy and courtly love, and yet one who seems almost to force Criseyde into her response to him. He cries alone in his room and can take no action without being pushed into it, and yet is a fierce and noble warrior, second only to Hector himself. Criseyde’s unfaithfulness drives him to his death but he does not find peace; instead his mocking laugh echoes throughout the poem. His pride and arrogance are major flaws, and yet he pays for them. He is naive and foolish, and yet none can claim that he doesn’t get his comeuppance, even harder perhaps than he deserved. We are not encouraged to like him, and yet we must find sympathy for one so unhappy. He finds it nearly impossible to cope with the trials of love, and is finally rejected. Perhaps we appreciate him best when we see, just as all Chaucer’s characters, that he is human after all.