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"As she that": syntactical ambiguity in Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde.


The Riverside Chaucer's explanatory notes on Troilus and Criseyde refer twice to the phrase as she that. (1) The notes describe it as a calque on, or morpheme-by-morpheme translation of, the Old French com cil qui, meaning "for she." (2) Stephen A. Barney, editor of the Troilus notes in the Riverside, observes the phrase in Tr 1.95-96: "For of hire lif she was ful sore in drede, / As she that nyste what was best to rede...." Citing J. Kerkhof, Barney refers the reader to Book 5 for a second instance: "And fareth wel, goodly, faire, fresshe may, / As she that lif or deth may me comande!" (5.1412-13). (3) Like Kerkhof, the Riverside mentions only these two occurrences of the phrase; however, many other instances of as she that (along with as he that and as they that) can be found in Chaucer's poetry. (4) As [s]he that appears most frequently--25 times, a large proportion of the total 43 instances I have found in Chaucer--in Troilus and Criseyde. (5) Twenty of these instances are clustered in Books 4 and 5 of the Troilus.

The phrase is sometimes ambiguous, for it is not always clear whether as [s]he that should be understood as a phrasal calque, that is, a phrase translated directly from another language. (6) In several instances in Chaucer as [s]he that can easily be read as a phrasal calque and understood to mean "for" or "because," providing a reason or explanation for an action. (7) However, it can also be read as containing an elliptical clause of comparison and understood to mean, roughly, "like a person who...." Such a clause describes a likeness or resemblance between two things but does not offer a reason for an action, nor does it precisely equate the two items being compared. Because of its ambiguity, as [s]he that sometimes calls what it describes into question; it creates a figurative shadow behind apparently straightforward description, suggesting that there may be only likeness or analogy where the reader's first impulse is to recognize identity or causation. (8) This effect is particularly notable in Books 4 and 5 of the Troilus, which contain some dozen cases in which the phrase is ambiguous. In these instances as [s]he that may be compared to the famous drawing in which one can discern either a goblet's outline or two facing profiles in silhouette. The ambiguity of as [s]he that in Books 4 and 5--the sections of the Troilus most overtly concerned with doubleness and doubt--undermines the reader's ability to interpret the characters' behavior. (9) The ambiguous as [s]he that thus functions as a syntactic counterpart to the pervasive "ambages," or "double wordes slye" (5.897-98) which also complicate the task of interpreting Troilus; the reader is left poised "thus, bitwixen tweye" (Tr 2.811) like the viewer who sees now profiles, now goblet in the optical illusion. (10)


Ambiguous instances of as [s]he that in Chaucer can be more readily identified in contrast with several instances when the phrase clearly means "for" or "because." In two lines from the Romaunt of the Rose, the phrase is certainly a calque on com cil qui. Rom 326, "As she that was fulfilled of ire," directly translates Roman de la Rose 318, "Con cele qui mout fu iree," and Rom 3256, "As she that may be no musard" translates Roman 3030, "Com cele qui n'est pas musarde...." (11) In two other instances when as [s]he that carries causal force, there is a semantic parallel between the phrasal calque and a construction in a source. In the Prologue to the Legend of Good Women, the speaker praises the daisy:
   As she that is of alle floures flour,
   Fulfilled of al vertu and honour ...
        (LGW 53-54 [F])

This couplet echoes Froissart's Dou joli mois de mai, with as she that translating the French car elle ("for she"). (12)
   Car elle est la flour souverainne
   De bonte et de beaute plainne ...

In a passage in Troilus and Criseyde which closely parallels its source in Boccaccio's Il Filostrato, Criseyde fumes while the neighboring women come to comfort her:
   As she that al this mene while brende
   Of other passioun than that they wende.
        (Tr 4.704-5)

The passage in Italian reads,
   ... com'a colei che sentia nella mente
   tutt'altra passion che non credieno
   color che v'erano ...
        (Fil 4/83.4-6)

(... for her own part, her soul was stirred by passions far different from the ones those present imputed to her.) (13)

There are also instances in which as [s]he that clearly has causal force, though no source corroborates the parallel. For example, in her song in Troilus Book 2, Antigone says
   I love oon which is moost ententif
   To serven wel, unweri or unfeyned,
   That evere was, and leest with harm desteyned.

   As he that is the welle of worthynesse,
   Of trouthe grownd, mirour of goodlihed ...

Here, it is clear that as he that explains the cause of Antigone's love; she cherishes her beloved because he is the source of so many virtues.

As is the case with Antigone's song, the phrase as [s]he that sometimes carries causal force within a context of highly formal discourse and rhetorical display. In the elaborately rhetorical description of the sunset in Book 2 of the Troilus, for example, "the sonne ... / Gan westren faste, and downward for to wrye, / As he that hadde his dayes cours yronne" (2.905-7); that is, the sun set because it had run its daily course. The tercel eagle's speech to Nature in the Parliament of Fowls is also extremely formal:
   Unto my soverayn lady, and not my fere,
   I chese, and chese with wil, and herte, and thought,
   The formel on youre hond ...

   Besekynge hire of mercy and of grace,
   As she that is my lady sovereyne ...
        (PF 416-18, 421-22)

His speech can be translated roughly, "I choose ... the formel on your hand ... beseeching her mercy and grace because she is my sovereign lady." In the Canon's Yeoman's Tale, the Yeoman also uses a phrasal calque, perhaps hoping that the rhetorical effect will attract and hold his new audience. He describes the canon's residence in the "suburbes" where the "robbours and thise theves by kynde / Holden hir pryvee fereful residence, / As they that dar nat shewen hir presence" (8.659-61), that is, "because they dare not show themselves." The phrasal calque can also appear, however, in informal or casual discourse, as in this aside from Troilus Book 3:
   He seyde hire, whan she was at swich a feste,
   She myght on hym han loked at the leste--
   Noot I nought what, al deere ynough a rysshe,
   As he that nedes most a cause fisshe.

In all, I have found 21 instances of as [s]he that as a definite or probable phrasal calque in Chaucer's poetry, including the whole of the Romaunt. About half of these appear in Troilus and Criseyde.


Though in many instances in Chaucer's poetry the phrase as [s]he that is undoubtedly a calque, this is not invariably the case. In several passages the phrase has a quite different meaning, and in most of these instances it is clearly to be understood as containing an elliptical clause of comparison. George O. Curme explains the function of this clause in early English:

In elliptical clauses as was once used before a noun with the same force as like, only differing in grammatical structure, the proposition like taking an object, the conjunction as standing before a nominative which is the subject of a suppressed verb: 'And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose [rejoices and blossoms]' (Isaiah, 35, 1). (14)

When in Chaucer as [s]he that contains an elliptical clause of comparison, the suppressed verb is usually a form of "to do" or "to be," and the following that introduces a new subordinate clause. This is the case, for example, in this homely comparison in the Knight's Tale: "We faren as he that dronke is as a mous" (1.1261)--that is, "We act as [does] the man who is as drunk as a mouse." In addition to this passage, I find five instances in Chaucer's poetry when as [s]he that contains an unambiguous clause of comparison. (15) In the Merchant's Tale, for example, May warns that
   ... a man that longe hath blynd ybe,
   Ne may nat sodeynly so wel yse,
   First whan his sighte is newe come ageyn,
   As he that hath a day or two yseyn.

Here the implied verb is obvious: the man newly restored to sight does not see as well as does one whose sight was restored earlier. The comparison is also clear when, in Troilus Book 1, Pandarus scolds Troilus:
      ... nyltow, for thy coward herte,
   And for thyn ire and folissh wilfulnesse,
   For wantrust, tellen of thy sorwes smerte,
   As much as speke a resoun moore or lesse,
   But list as he that lest of nothyng recche.

Line 797 might be rendered, "But you lie there as [does] a man who wishes not to care about anything." Troilus uses a similar construction in Book 4, in a conversation with Pandarus. Here, the clause of comparison links Pandarus with a man who brings cold comfort to the woebegone:
   Thou farest ek by me, thow Pandarus,
   As he that, whan a wight is wo bigon,
   He cometh to hym a paas and seith right thus:
   "Thenk nat on smert, and thow shah fele non."

None of the passages cited above has a counterpart or analogue in Chaucer's sources, although the expression "drunk as a mouse" is proverbial. (16) One passage in which as [s]he that contains an elliptical clause of comparison does have a near-parallel in Boccaccio:
   "Gret is my wo," quod she, and sighte soore
   As she that feleth dedly sharp distresse;
   "But yit to me his sorwe is muchel more,
   That love hym bet than he hymself, I gesse."

The corresponding passage, Il Filostrato 4/104.1-2, reads, "--Grande e--disse Criseida--il mio dolore, / come di quella che piu di se l'ama ..." ("'My grief is great,' said Criseida, 'as befits one who loves him more than herself,'" Havely p. 67). Chaucer's editors have generally concurred in assigning 4.898 to the narrator; if the line were Criseyde's, as in Havely's translation, it would certainly contain a clause of comparison. In addition to the evidence of the source passage, there is further stylistic support for reading the passage as a comparison: giving as she that causal force would require an awkward shift in tense within a single sentence. (17)

Before turning to the ambiguous instances of as [s]he that in Chaucer's poetry, I wish to note in passing two anomalous instances in the Knight's Tale. In these cases, the phrase is neither calque nor elliptical comparison; it means literally "as [one] who." Theseus' heralds know the wounded Palamon and Arcite "As they that weren of the blood roial" (1.1018)--as being of the royal blood. Later, Duke Theseus describes his sympathy for the lovers:
      ... in my tyme a servant was I oon.
   And therfore, syn I knowe of loves peyne
   And woot hou soore it kan a man distreyne,
   As he that hath ben caughte ofte in his laas,
   I yow foryeve al hoolly this trespas....

Theseus knows how hard love can be and he speaks from experience; 1.1817-18 may be translated, "As one who has often been caught in Love's snare, I forgive you.... " This straightforward description is neither phrasal calque nor elliptical comparison, for it contains neither an implied verb nor a second figure to provide a comparison. A clause of comparison, as in 1.1261, "We faren as he that dronke is as a mous," describes a resemblance, though sometimes a very close one, between the figure being described and the agent of the suppressed verb. Such a resemblance is described in the House of Fame when the narrator falls asleep "wonder sone, / As he that wery was forgo / On pilgrymage myles two ..." (114-16), that is, "as [does] one who was weary from traveling."


Although in Chaucer's poetry as [s]he that is sometimes a phrasal calque and sometimes a clause of comparison, it is not always clear which is intended, and the difference between possible readings can raise an interpretive doubt. In some cases the phrase is acceptable as either a comparison or a phrasal calque and can be read in either way with equal ease. I do not think that the use of the ambiguous as [s]he that is a result of Chaucer's conscious effort, but a habit; the ambiguous phrase seems to me to be a syntactic correlative to the thematic ambiguity of the Troilus.

As [s]he that can be understood as either comparison or phrasal calque in about one-third of its appearances in Chaucer's poetry, and nearly every ambiguous instance of the phrase appears in Troilus and Criseyde. An example of ambiguity in as [s]he that, and of the interpretive difficulties which accompany that ambiguity, occurs in Book 4, when the lovers are about to part.
   Naught was it lik tho nyghtes here-byforn.
   For pitously ech other gan byholde,
   As they that hadden al hire blisse ylorn,
   Bywaylinge ay the day that they were born ....

Two different readings of the passage are equally plausible. If as they that in 4.1250 is seen as a phrasal calque, then the phrase provides a reason for the characters' actions: Troilus and Criseyde look at one another piteously because they have lost their happiness. If the phrase is understood as a comparison, however, then it offers an analogy or framework for interpretation, rather than a cause: the lovers behold each other as people do when they have lost all their bliss. George Krapp's translation reflects this latter reading: "... sadly they behold each other's face / As though their joy was flown forevermore." (18) Whether their happiness has indeed been lost is a question still left open at this point of the narrative. (19) The ambiguity of as they that permits an answer to this question, but it does not prescribe one; the resulting space which is opened between causation and comparison allows a reexamination of the lovers' bliss, its extent and even its moral implications.

This example demonstrates the difference between the two possible readings of the ambiguous phrase. Recognizing the phrasal calque clarifies and provides explanation, while recognizing an ellided comparison complicates and obscures by introducing a separate, anonymous referent. The distinction between these possible readings, subtle though it can be, gives rise to conflicting interpretations. From the description of Troilus and Criseyde in 4.1248-51, we may ascribe their sorrow to their loss, or see them as resembling--and thus far, merely resembling--lovers who are desolate. The latter reading gives greater weight to their deliberations and to Criseyde's optimistic promise to return: "... that I shal wel bryngen it aboute / To come ayeyn ... / Therof I am no manere thyng in doute" (4.1275-77).

In this way, as [s]he that points toward the distinction between identity and resemblance. Readers who assume the presence of a phrasal calque--that is, those who take as given that as [s]he that unambiguously means "because"--also assume that they know, with certainty, something about the character so described. If Tr 4.1248-51 is read in this way, the passage is simple: Troilus and Criseyde have lost their happiness, and there is little else to be said. Readers who observe a clause of comparison instead of, or in addition to, the phrasal calque are aware of Troilus and Criseyde's resemblance to distraught lovers, but must hold back from assuming the characters' identity as such.


The difference between resemblance and identity is particularly important in Books 4 and 5 of the Troilus. Particularly in Book 5, as the poem explores the relationships shared by Criseyde, Troilus and Diomede, ambiguous instances of as [s]he that make the reader's judgments of motive more difficult. Frequently, the passage in question has no parallel in Il Filostrato, or is rendered so differently that Il Filostrato offers no support concerning Chaucer's possible intention. For example, early in Book 5, Troilus must accompany Criseyde when she is turned over to the Greeks. When he does so,
      ... unto Diomede
   No word he spak, ne nonof ai his route;
   Of whiche the sone of Tideus took hede,
   As he that koude more than the crede
   In swich a craft, and by the reyne hire hente ...

Lines 88-90 can be translated "Tideus' son took notice of this, because he knew more than the creed [i.e., fundamentals] in such a skill"; here, 5.89 provides a reason for Diomede's behavior. Alternatively, 5.89 can be read as containing a clause of comparison, as the Riverside gloss suggests (p. 561): Diomede took note "like one who knew more than the bare rudiments."

In this case, the difference between the two readings is slight, but it does create two alternatives in assessing Diomede. If he does know "more than the crede," Diomede is immediately a rival and enemy of Troilus; if he merely acts as if he were so knowledgeable, then he may be less--or a different kind--of a schemer than he appears to be. This line differs from the corresponding line of Filostrato (5/13.4-5) which, as Windeatt points out (p. 450), refers directly to Diomede's perception rather than to creeds and crafts: "Diomede ... ben vede / ramor de' due" ("Diomedes came to recognize what love there was between the two of them," Havely p. 76).

When Diomede begins to woo Criseyde later in Book 5, we find another instance of as be that:
   And right anon, as he that bold was ay,
   Thoughte in his herte, "Happe how happe may,
   Al sholde I dye, I wol hire herte seche!"

To read the phrase as having causal force--"because he was always bold"--presents no difficulty; it may even be the preferred, because simpler, reading. The phrase can also be read, however, as a comparison--Diomede acts "as [does] one who was always bold," with the extent of his own boldness left unspecified. Boccaccio offers little help here: Il Filostrato 6/11.1-2, "Ma come quei ch' era di grande ardire / E di gran cuor," is translated by Havely, "But, being a man. of great boldness and courage" (p. 83), but apRoberts and Seldis, similar to Griffin and Myrick, offer "But as one who had great daring and a bold heart...." (20) If the line is a comparison, then Diomede is borrowing courage-he is not "always bold" himself--and the reader may sympathize more with such a lover than with an apparently infallible Diomede who speaks "because he was always bold."

This ambiguity also touches Troilus' actions in the final books, though his character has, of course, been more firmly established than Diomede's. For example, when the lovers' parting approaches,
   The day gan rise, and Troilus hym cladde,
   And rewfullich his lady gan byholde,
   As he that felte dethes cares colde,
   And to hire grace he gan hym recomaunde.

Krapp understands as he that as a comparison: "As one who feels the breath of death" (p. 239). However, it could also be rendered, "... for he felt death's cold cares." The latter reading is more pointed, making it clear that "dethes cares colde" will indeed come about because of their parting. Line 1692 has no counterpart in Il Filostrato, so the distinction must be left unresolved. A similar instance of as he that, this one also an addition to Chaucer's source material, appears in Book 5:
   Another tyme ymaginen he wolde
   That every wight that wente by the weye
   Hadde of hym routhe, and that they seyen sholde,
   "I am right sory Troilus wol deye."
   And thus he drof a day yet forth or tweye,
   As ye have herd; swich lif right gan he lede
   As he that stood bitwixen hope and drede.

The stanza's concluding line can be read as either explanation or comparison. In his version, Nevill Coghill renders 5.630 as a comparison: "Like one who halted between hope and dread." (21) Yet the line may also be read as having causal force: Troilus led such a life because he stood between hope and fear, because he waited for the return of Criseyde. Those familiar with the narrative can recognize the irony implicit in reading the line as a comparison: Troilus conducts himself as if he stood between hope and fear, when his hope is actually unfounded. The dual possibilities of this line underscore the fact that Troilus is poised before the moment of Criseyde's decision, which is also the moment of his destruction; and yet the possibility of a different reading forestalls that destruction, offering a shadow of hope where there is no substance.

In one other instance as he that casts a shadow of doubt over Troilus' behavior. In his letter to Criseyde, Troilus refers to himself as a "woful wyght" (5.1320) and adds,
      ... to yow, with dredful herte trewe,
   I write, as he that sorwe drifth to write,
   My wo, that everich houre encresseth newe....

Reading as he that in 5.1332 as having causal force--"I write because sorrow drives me to write"--is supported by similarity to two other passages. One of these, cited by Kerkhof and Barney as a calque, appears at the end of the letter, when Troilus bids farewell to Criseyde "As she that lif or deth may me comande!" (5.1413). As we have seen with other instances of the phrasal calque, Troilus' reference to Criseyde is very formal; the line may be rendered as, "Farewell ... maid, for you may command me to life or death!" A similar deferential third-person reference occurs in PF 422, when the tercel eagle begs mercy of the formel "As she that is my lady sovereyne."

However, Tr 5.1332 can also be read as a comparison, with the line translated, "I write as [does] a man whom sorrow drives to write." Both Krapp and Coghill render the line in this way; Krapp renders it, "As one by need hard driven now I write" (p. 290) and Coghill's version is "(As write he must when sorrow drives a man)" (p. 290). When Troilus writes "as he that sorwe drifth to write," he is certainly full of sorrow; in his complaint, however, he may be playing out a social role, fulfilling the conventions of both loving and letter-writing as he is expected to do. (22)

The ambiguities of as [s]he that have the greatest significance in the interpretation of Criseyde's motives and character. In several instances, the phrase is used ambiguously to describe how Criseyde feels and, particularly, how much she loves Troilus. The phrase thus reinforces the critical commonplace that Criseyde's commitment is unstable and her will "slydynge" (5.825). For example, an ambiguous instance of as [s]he that, the only one in Troilus before Book 4, appears in the stanza which first introduces Criseyde. In that stanza, Criseyde is depicted as fearful and uncertain:
   Now hadde Calkas left in this meschaunce,
   Al unwist of this false and wikked dede,
   His doughter, which that was in gret penaunce,
   For of hire lif she was ful sore in drede,
   As she that nyste what was best to rede;
   For bothe a widewe was she and allone
   Of any frend to whom she dorste hir morte.

Reading as she that in 1.96 as a phrasal calque, one would translate, "She was greatly afraid, because she didn't know what was best to do." There is no difficulty inherent in such a reading; Chaucer might well have used the phrase to avoid three consecutive lines beginning "For" in 1.95-97. However, the line can also be read as a comparison, with the line roughly rendered, "She was greatly afraid, like a woman who didn't know what was best to do." Another instance corroborates the latter version: Tr 1.96 is syntactically nearly parallel to Tr 4.898, "As she that feleth dedly sharp distresse," which, as we have seen, should be understood as containing a clause of comparison. Either reading, then, is plausible.

Criseyde is clearly depicted as fearful in either reading. If, however, we recognize the phrasal calque, her motives are well-established: Criseyde, alone and afraid, is fearful because she does not know what to do. Recognizing the elliptical clause of comparison, we receive a different first impression: Criseyde is alone and fearful, resembling a woman who does not know what to do. The latter reading, revealing only what Criseyde resembles, cannot offer certainty regarding who she is. She could be as calculating as her father Calkas while seeming to be someone who "nyste what was best to rede." In this case, then, the reader also "nyste what ... to rede"--that is, does not know how to read the passage, nor exactly how to read Criseyde.

On the three occasions when Criseyde "nyste what ... to rede," we find, in the same line or within the stanza, an instance of the ambiguous as she that. As she that is collocated with nyste ... rede in the passage above and in Books 4 and 5, and nyste ... rede appears nowhere else in Chaucer. (23) A second instance of "nyste what ... to rede," in Tr 5.18, echoes 1.96 precisely. It appears in a sequence that is notable for its repeating rhymes: (24)
   Ful redy was at prime Diomede
   Criseyde unto the Grekis oost to lede,
   For sorwe of whiche she felt hire herte blede,
   As she that nyste what was best to rede.
   And trewely, as men in bokes rede,
   Men wiste nevere womman han the care,
   Ne was so loth out of a town to fare.

Alone and at the mercy of martial and political forces, Criseyde experiences powerful emotions. As in 1.96, however, it is not certain whether she feels them because she doesn't know what to do, or as would a woman who doesn't know what to 80. (25)

In Book 4, as she that and nyste ... reede bracket a stanza describing Criseyde's reaction to the news that she will be exchanged for Antenor:
   As she that hadde hire herte and al hire mynde
   On Troilus iset so wonder faste
   That al this world ne myghte hire love unbynde,
   Ne Troilus out of hire herte caste,
   She wol ben his, while that hire lif may laste.
   And thus she brenneth both in love and drede,
   So that she nyste what was best to reede.

It may seem at first glance that as she that in 4.673 is a phrasal calque: because she has set her heart and mind on Troilus, Criseyde wills herself to be his. However, it is possible to read the phrase as a comparison, with Criseyde like a woman, or resembling a woman, who has so committed herself. The latter reading seems at first the more difficult, and again, the simpler reading may be preferable. That simple reading, however, is complicated by the reader's knowing that something very quickly "myghte hire love unbynde"; if Criseyde indeed "hadde hire herte and al hire mynde / On Troilus iset so wonder faste," then why does she change so soon? If 4.673 offers a cause, a reason why "She wol ben his," then the force of her will, the depth of her commitment, are necessarily called into question. The depth of that commitment is more gravely questioned if the phrase is taken as a comparison: like a woman who has committed herself to Troilus, Criseyde wills herself to be his. In this second reading Criseyde's will merely resembles that of a committed lover; a difference may be perceived between the "fastness" of the woman's heart and mind and that of Criseyde's own heart. Chaucer's translators have differed in their reading of the line; Krapp renders it as a phrasal calque, "For she had set her heart and mind / On Troilus" (p. 203), while Coghill sees it as a comparison: "As one who long had set her heart and mind" (p. 203). The knowledge that Criseyde's love will be soon "unbound" makes it difficult to accept the causal force of 4.673; the alternative reading hints that Criseyde's commitment may be feigned at some level.

There is a very similar passage in Book 5, at the moment when Criseyde grants Diomede leave to speak with her, but protests that she loves her native city:
   And thus to hym she seyde, as ye may here,
   As she that hadde hire herte on Troilus
   So faste that ther may it non arace;
   And strangely she spak, and seyde thus ...

This passage can also be read as containing either a phrasal calque--"because she had her heart so fast on Troilus"--or a comparison: "Like one whose heart was set on Troilus" (Coghill p. 277). Reading the line as containing a phrasal calque requires the assumption that Criseyde truly does have her heart set on Troilus, for her steadfastness becomes the reason for her "strange," that is, distant, speech to Diomede. Such a reading, however, makes it difficult to understand Criseyde's claim in 5.974-80 that she had no love since her husband died. Chaucer again subtly alters his source; Il Filostrato 6/26.7 explains that Criseyde's answer is distant because "tanto poteva ancor Troilo in essa" (Troilo still had that much influence over her, Havely p. 85).

The relation between Criseyde and Diomede is also clouded by an ambiguous instance of as she that, this one occurring earlier in Book 5. In his first speech, Diomede offers his sympathy and service to Criseyde, but she
      ... unto that purpos lite answerde,
   As she that was with sorwe oppressed so
   That, in effect, she naught his tales herde
   But here and ther, now here a word or two.

This entire passage is Chaucer's addition. Line 5.177, like the other ambiguous instances we have seen, can be read as providing either a reason or a comparison. As a phrasal calque, the line explains Criseyde's distracted response: she was so oppressed with sorrow that she did not hear. However, it can also be read as containing a clause of comparison: she little answered, as would a woman so oppressed with sorrow that she did not hear. As with the similar passages discussed above, the ambiguity of as [s]he that veils Criseyde in uncertainty, prompting doubts about her thoughts and her fidelity to Troilus. In the several ambiguous instances of as [s]he that, especially in the late books of the Troilus, neither reading can be claimed with complete confidence.

The double meaning of as [s]he that is an example of what G. H. Roscow, following A. C. Spearing, has called "significant imprecisions" in Chaucer's work. (26) The syntactical ambiguity of the phrase resists definite reading and calls into question the interpretation of Chaucer's characters and their actions. Individually, the distinctions between possible readings of as [s]he that may seem to make little difference to the reader of the poem; for example, in the passage above Criseyde's sorrow is palpable, whether she is explained as, or compared to, a woman so oppressed with sorrow that she does not hear. Collectively, however, the ambiguous instances of as [s]he that complicate and problematize the understanding and interpretation of the Troilus. These passages offer the possibility of a sympathetic Diomede and support the possibility of a hard-hearted Criseyde, and in doing so undermine the possibility of reading with assurance.

The significance of the ambiguous as [s]he that can finally be seen most clearly in the passage early in Troilus Book 5, when Criseyde, being led toward the Greek camp, "felt hire herte blede, / As she that nyste what was best to rede" (5.17-18). Chaucer offers an aside:
   And trewely, as men in bokes rede,
   Men wiste nevere womman han the care,
   Ne was so loth out of a town to fare.

Chaucer has added to Il Filostrato the detail that "men in bokes rede" about the exchange and that "[m]en wiste nevere womman han the care." (27) However, this aside begs the question Chaucer has established by use of the ambiguous as she that in 5.18, thus making the narrator's "trewely" ring hollow. Men can indeed read in books about what other men "wiste," yet both books and knowledge have been called into question by the ambiguity of as she that in the passage. It seems, in the Troilus as in other "bokes," that "nevere womman ... was so loth out of a town to fare," but it is impossible to know this with certainty; and books cannot fully be trusted if we cannot read them "trewely."

Iowa State University


(1) Stephen A. Barney, ed., notes to Troilus and Criseyde, in Riverside Chaucer, gen. ed. Larry D. Benson (Boston: Houghton, 1987), p. 1026. All quotations from the works of Chaucer are from this edition and will be cited by line number in the text.

I would like to express my thanks to M. Victoria Guerin and Robert Bernard of Iowa State University for their helpful comments about this essay. I am also very grateful to Betsey Buckheit of Carleton College for assistance with research.

(2) Examples of calques are the German word Fernsprecher for telephone or Spanish rascacielos for skyscraper. Old and Middle English contain a number of calques; perhaps the best known example in English is OE godspel, "good news."

The expression as [s]he that has no prototype in Old English (A. A. Prins, French Influence in English Phrasing [Leiden: Universitaire Pers, 1952], p. 59) but is not rare in Middle English. It appears, for example, in the writings of Gower and Wycliffe.

(3) Studies in the Language of Geoffrey Chaucer, 2d rev. ed. (E. J. Brill/Leiden U. Press, 1982), p. 278. Kerkhof's source is Prins.

(4) For simplicity's sake, I refer to this phrase as as [s]he that, although sometimes the plural pronoun appears.

(5) I have checked John S. P. Tatlock and Arthur G. Kennedy, A Concordance to the Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer (Washington: Carnegie Institution, 1927) and Akio Oizumi, ed., A Complete Concordance to the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer (New York: Olms-Weidman, 1991), but have restricted my search to Chaucer's poetry.

(6) Although Kerkhof and Barney refer to the entire phrase as she that as simply a calque, for clarity and greater precision I use Bloomfield and Newmark's term, phrasal calque (Morton W. Bloomfield and Leonard Newmark, A Linguistic Introduction to the History of English [New York: Knopf, 1965], p. 361).

(7) Tauno F. Mustanoja describes calques as having "a causal colour" in A Middle English Syntax Pt. 1. Parts of Speech (Helsinki: Societe Neophilologique, 1960), p. 199.

(8) This ambiguity can appear in French as well; for example, in a passage from Lancelot, "(Galahot and the Lady of Malohaut and Lancelot and Guinevere did nothing but hug and kiss) comme chil qui voletiers le faisoient" (Alexandre Micha, ed., Lancelot: Roman en prose du XIIIe siecle, v. 8 [Droz, 1982], p. 126). This phrase can be understood as explaining cause ("because they were happy to do so') or providing a comparison ("like people who did so gladly").

(9) The poem warns of misunderstanding (5.1793-98) and refers to the slipperiness of language when Criseyde speaks of ambiguity or "amphibologies" (4.1406).

(10) On semantic and linguistic ambages in the Troilus, see David Wallace, "Chaucer's 'Ambages,'" American Notes & Queries 23 (1984): 1-4.

(11) Ronald Sutherland, The Romaunt of the Rose and Le Roman de la Rose: A Parallel-Text Edition (U. of California Press, 1968), pp. 7, 65. The phrase also appears in Rom 329, "As she that hadde it al torent," and Rom 4235, "As he that causeth all the bate." In these instances the phrase does not have an exact verbal parallel in the Roman de la Rose but has the same causal force.

(12) Oeuvres de Froissart, Poesies vol. 2, ed. Auguste Scheler (Geneva: Slatkin Reprints, 1977), p. 203,

(13) Passages from Il Filostrato are quoted from Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde, ed. B. A. Windeatt (New York: Longman, 1984). Translations are from N. R. Havely, Chaucer's Boccaccio (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1980), p. 65. Future references will be to section, stanza and line number of Il Filostrato and to the page number of Havely's translation.

(14) George O. Curme, A Grammar of the English Language, vol. 3, Syntax (Boston: Heath, 1931): 281-82.

(15) Canon's Yeoman's Prologue 8.659-61 may also be read as containing a clause of comparison: "... robbours and thise theves by kynde / Holden hir pryvee fereful residence, / As they that dar nat shewen hir presence," that is, "as they [do] who dare not show themselves."

(16) Bartlett J. Whiting and Helen W. Whiting, Proverbs, Sentences, and Proverbial Phrases from English Writings Mainly Before 1500 (Belknap Press of Harvard U. Press, 1968), M731; see also the Wife of Bath's Prologue 3.246, "Thou comest hoom as dronken as a mous."

(17) The sentence would be rendered: "'Great is my woe,' she said, and sorely sighed, for she feels deadly sharp distress."

(18) George P. Krapp, Troilus and Cressida by. Geoffrey Chaucer (New York: Vintage, 1959), p. 223. Future citations will be indicated by author and page number in the text.

(19) Chaucer expands on the Filostrato in these lines, so we cannot turn to his source to confirm one reading over another.

(20) Robert P. apRoberts and Anna Bruni Seldis, trans., Il Filostrato (New York: Garland, 1986), p. 323; Nathaniel Edward Griffin and Arthur Beckwith Myrick, trans., The Filostrato of Giovanni Boccaccio (New York: Biblo and Tannen, repr. 1967), p. 415.

(21) Nevill Coghill, Troilus and Criseyde (New York: Penguin, 1971), p. 265. Future citations will be indicated by author and page number in the text.

(22) See Norman Davis, "The Litera Troili and English Letters," RES n.s. 16 (1965), pp. 233-44.

(23) Tatlock and Kennedy, p. 732.

(24) The unusual rhyme scheme is also carried out in the next stanza, in which Troilus waits on his lady "As she that was the sothfast crop and more / Of al his lust orjoies heretofore" (5.25-26). This instance of as she that is clearly a phrasal, calque., i.e., "he was waiting on his lady ... because she was the entirety of his pleasure...."

(25) In 5.22-24, Troilus similarly has no "reed or loore, As man that hath his joies ek forlore," but as man that in 5.22 is not a phrasal calque (see the identical construction in the Nun's Priest's Tale, 7.2887, 3278 and 3323). Troilus has no recourse, like a man who has lost his joy.

(26) G.H. Roscow, Syntax and Style in Chaucer's Poetry (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1981), pp. 88-92; A. C. Spearing, Chaucer: Troilus and Criseyde (London: Edward Arnold, 1976), p. 14.

(27) See Windeatt, p. 447. In Boccaccio, Troilo is the one who is so full of sorrow (5/1.7-8).
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Author:Yager, Susan
Publication:Philological Quarterly
Date:Mar 22, 1994
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