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Troy in the Troilus and Criseyde.

This paper is largely composed of two parts. The first part explores what Troy, whose image had undergone tremendous transformations since antiquity, meant to Chaucer and his contemporaries and how this palimpsest image fired the popular imagination in medieval England. The following section is devoted to analyzing the main characters--Troilus, Pandarus, and Criseyde--in the Troilus and Criseyde in terms of how their individual destinies are interwoven with the preordained fate of Troy.


1. Troy in the Middle Ages

To the modern reader, the immense charm of Troy in medieval Europe might sound incredible. After all, despite the glory it enjoys in mythology Troy's final destiny is doleful--engulfed in flames and reduced to ashes. Normally, with such a lamentable destiny Troy should not be the envy of subsequent generations. (1) Moreover, even though the historical truthfulness of the Trojan War still enjoyed general currency in the Middle Ages, the exact location of Troy was a moot question at that time. That is, Troy, geographically, was a lost city for the medieval mind.

For early medieval Europeans, the tragic fall of Troy was sometimes construed as a felix culpa ("happy fall") or a blessing in disguise. Guido delle Colonne, for example, opines that it is the tragedy of Troy that gives birth to later European countries (Patterson 124). To some European Christians the Trojan War signaled the first mentionable secular event in the course of human history, and since the fall of Troy resulted in the founding of Rome, from which European civilization issued, the story of Troy therefore lends itself to becoming a secular version of the genesis of Europe (Thompson 12). Margaret J. Ehrhart also points out that in medieval Western Europe the Trojan War was widely regarded as a momentous event in the history of Europe (35). Histories of the 1 ancient world written at that time customarily start with the biblical story of Eden but soon veer round to the war of Troy (Thompson 139). With respect to the story of Troy as the origin of European secular history, Lee Patterson maintains that as a decisive moment in human history, the importance of the Trojan War was on a par with that of Genesis for the medieval mindset (91). Isidore of Seville, for example, believed that Moses was the first "sacred historian" while Dares the first pagan counterpart (Etymologies I.xlii.1), and that the fall of Troy represented a significant watershed when pagan history began to fuse with scriptural history. (2) Another notable example is Jehan Malkaraume, who interpolated about 3000 lines of Benoits Roman de Troie into his poetry based on the Bible, in which the downfall of Troy occurred right after the events documented in the Pentateuch (Patterson 91). In the British literary landscape Robert Mannyng's (1288-1331 CE) The Story of England portrays the Trojan kings as scions of Noah, and Troy as the first city built after the Deluge (Patterson 91-92). Besides, in the prefaces to several Troy-themed works the story of Eve's apple is even incorporated into that of Eris's apple of Discord (Patterson 92). (3)

Trojan legends began to tangibly influence British minds mainly with the advent of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae (The History of the Kings of Britain). Though there was no dearth of prior attempts to chart the history of England, such as Bede's The Ecclesiastical History of the English People (completed in 731) and the Historia Britonum of the eighth century, (4) which was the first work to trace the history of England back to Troy, it was the Historia Regum Britanniae that established the "legitimacy" of the Britons as descendants of the Trojans (Guenee 60; Andrew, "Fall of Troy" 76). The reason for many ruling houses in medieval Europe to claim Trojan ancestry is highly political: once a nation yearns to form its own sense of identity, it tends to "justify the present by its past" (Guenee 58). (5) In this sense, Bernard Guenee suggests that for an aspiring regime history writing plays an integral part in its consolidation of power, and that a national history, which is often reduced to a founding myth, thereby becomes a necessary condition for a nation (58). Despite different scopes or foci in these national histories, they concur at least in a common goal: to enhance the self-esteem of a people by inventing honorable ancestry (Guenee 58). Likewise, Alan Shepard and Stephen D. Powell point out that the reason why the Trojan legend enjoyed great popularity in the late Middle Ages is decidedly political: these legends were mainly capitalized on by contemporary ruling houses to legitimize their rule (1). (6)

2. The Lure of Troy in Terms of Psychoanalysis

The lure of Troy can also be understood in a psychological light. According to Sylvia Federico, in the late Middle Ages the appropriation of the Trojan past as "an imperial gesture for the European present" was commonplace (xii). Indeed, the practice of capitalizing on the Trojan past dates back to early Roman emperors: Constantine the Great (circa 272-337), Theodosius I (347-395), and Charlemagne (742-814) all proudly trumpeted their illustrious lineages, claiming to be scions of Aeneas (Federico xii). (7) Federico, drawing on theories of Freudian psychoanalysis, considers the medieval fascination with Troy a "displaced and displacing" desire that can never be satisfied:
   The symbolic appropriation of Troy is at once a means of creating a
   past, present, and future in accord with specific ideals and also a
   means of mobilizing that imagined historicity in gestures of
   self-invention and self-definition.... [M]edieval claimants to
   Trojanness invent not just Troy but also themselves in the process
   of imagining the ancient city. (xii, my italics)

Regarding Troy's subtle position between history and fantasy, Federico, also borrowing ideas from psychoanalysis, adds:
   The ultimate unreal city, Troy is (and was) always already
   obliterated, always only a place-name and never a place. In this
   way, Troy can be seen as a textual phenomenon, a voided signifier
   open for multiple re-inscription. But at the same time, the ancient
   city is also designated as a historically and geographically "once
   real" place. Hovering between historical truth and utter fiction,
   Troy "exists only retroactively in the imaginations of belated
   observers." (8) Similar to the status of recovered memories of the
   primal scene in the context of psychoanalysis, the idea of Troy is
   more significant for the way it operates than for its factual
   truthfulness. (3)

Several other scholars have also attempted to shed light on the spellbinding charm of Troy on fourteenth-century European political unconsciousness. Elizabeth J. Bellamy, also inspired by Freudian psychoanalysis, points out that the myth of Troy owes much of its allure to the idea of lack. For Bellamy, Troy is "the city of exile whose reality exists only in its dispossession," and it, therefore, "can be represented only after it has been lost" (51). In this sense, "Troy, this fascinating and elusive unseen city of antiquity, is the city most entangled in personal repressions and the unconscious--the city most derealized by the neurotic subject who imagines it" (Bellamy 50, my italics). Thomas C. Stillinger similarly argues that the reason why Troy could serve as "an authorizing precedent" for Rome and later for practically every medieval regime intent on inventing a noble origin is obvious: Troy was once a great city, and more crucially, it no longer existed (144). In Stillinger's words, Troy can "stand outside history as the fantasy of a totality that gives meaning to history because its own history has arrived at a total destruction; it could not function as a totemic image if it were more than an image" (144).

3. Troy in Historia Regum Britanniae

As mentioned earlier, by Chaucer's time the story of Troy had already appeared in several book-length accounts in England, among which Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae stood out in its consciously associating the founding of Britain with one of the Trojan descendants Brutus. According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, after Troy was sacked Aeneas fled to Italy with his son, Ascanius, founded the kingdom of Italy, and remarried Lavinia, the daughter of Latinus (54). Ascanius's soothsayer once prophesied that Brutus, an illegitimate grandson of Ascanius, was preordained to "rise to the highest honour" after a protracted exile in many places (54). When Brutus inadvertently committed patricide during a hunt at the age of fifteen, he was expelled from Italy and forced to put out to sea. One stop of Brutus and his men in their maritime odyssey was an uninhabited island called Leogetia, where they found a deserted city and a temple of Diana. When they were about to leave the island, Brutus and his men offered sacrifices, imploring the goddess to give useful instructions as to where to find a place where they could settle. Diana, as related by Monmouth, appeared in Brutus's vision and said:
   Brutus, beyond the setting of the sun, past the realms of Gaul,
   there lies an island in the sea, once occupied by giants. Now it is
   empty and ready for your folk. Down the years this will prove an
   abode suited to you and to your people; and for your descendants it
   will be a second Troy. A race of kings will be born there from your
   stock and the round circle of the whole earth will be subject to
   them. (65, my italics)

When Brutus awoke from his dream, he could not help but ponder what he had heard. When he rallied his comrades and detailed what he saw and heard to them, all his men felt inspired by the oracle and decided to sail accordingly in quest of the island Diana promised (65-66). Finally they landed on an island called Albion, whose delightful and verdant landscape immediately induced them to found a permanent home on it. What is even more remarkable is that Brutus renamed the island Britain after himself and his companions Britons respectively, aspiring to immortalize his feat through this act of naming (72). According to Monmouth's account, before long Brutus, motivated by a similar yearning for enduring fame, renamed the language he and his companions spoke British, which had previously been known as "Trojan or Crooked Greek" (72).

After Brutus divided up his kingdom, he decided to found a capital. To decide where to site the new capital, Brutus visited virtually every part of the island and finally chose a place near the River Thames, whereupon he founded his capital there and called it Troia Nova (Geoffrey 73). This city, as Geoffrey indicates, had been known as Troia Nova ever since for a long time until later it came to be wrongly called Trinovantum due to textual corruption (73). Intriguingly, as Brutus occupied himself with building the city and promulgating a code of law, Israel, according to Geoffrey, (9) was under the rule of the priest Eli, and the Philistines had only recently captured the Ark of the Covenant (74). (10) In this sense, the significance of the Historia Regum Britanniae for the British partly consists in its establishment of a link between British history and that of Troy. To be more precise, it reinforces, if not initiates, the belief that British history should be taken as a continuation of Trojan history (Summit 216). Marion Turner also comments that Geoffrey was the driving force behind the later association between Troy and London (59).

A conclusion can be drawn from the analysis in previous paragraphs: for many ruling houses in the late Middle Ages, the legitimacy of their regimes could be substantially strengthened if they could form a tangible link with the ancient past. Under this mindset, any affiliation with Troy would help ennoble these families and thereby solidify their rule. In summary, due to the Historia Regum Britanniae and several other "histories" of England, (11) British history was regarded as an extension of Trojan history, and the link between Troy and England since then had been deeply embedded in the British consciousness and had met no serious challenge until the fifteenth century. (12)

4. Troy in Chaucer

Overall, Chaucer's writings are strewn with references to Troy, a fact attesting to the wide currency of the Trojan legend in his time. In his first longer poem The Book of the Duchess, the complete story of the Trojan War is painted on the windows in the narrator's bedchamber (326-34). (13) In the later The House of Fame, Chaucer shows his familiarity with the literary tradition of Troy in enumerating an array of previous writers who have contributed to the celebrity of Troy: Homer, Dares and Dictys, Lollius, Guido de Columnis, and Geoffrey of Monmouth (1466-72). At the very outset of the Troilus and Criseyde, Chaucer expressly states his subject--Troilus's sorrow:
   The double sorwe of Troilus to tellen,
   That was the kyng Priamus sone of Troye,
   In lovynge, how his aventures fellen
   Fro wo to wele, and after out of joie, (1.1-4)

Moreover, Marion Turner points out that the late fourteenth century witnessed a craze for Troy (60), and that several contemporaries of Chaucer all sought literary inspiration from the story of Troy as if by prior agreement (220). (14)

For Chaucer, Troy provides a perfect setting for a doomed romance. The duration of Troy's prosperity is strikingly short-lived, and the glory of Troy is fatally attended by the juggernaut of death. Turner indicates that in the writings of the late fourteenth century, the image of Troy was mixed: Troy was usually portrayed as the primitive origin of London while it also served as a cautionary tale about the doom that would possibly befall a profoundly divided city or nation (62). Troy, in Chaucer's depiction, thus comes to be a city that is "at once London and London's so-called origin point" (Turner 62). (15) Therefore, in the opening of the Troilus and Criseyde Troy's irreversible doom has been pronounced in Calchas's prophecy:
   That Grekes sholden swich a peple brynge,
   Thorugh which that Troie moste ben fordo,
   He caste anon out of the town to go;
   For wel wiste he by sort that Troye sholde
   Destroyed ben, ye, wolde whoso nolde. (1.73-77)

Given the contemporary interest in Troy, Chaucer's deployment of Troy as the setting in this narrative poem should be historically contextualized. Compared with its predecessor, Boccaccio's Il Filostrato, which is in essence a vehicle for expressing its author's passion for Fiammetta, Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde can be read as a response to the social upheavals plaguing contemporary England. If we accept the general consensus that the Troilus and Criseyde was written during the early to mid-1380s (Aers 111; Andrew, Palgrave 284; Wood 31), Chaucer's decision to rewrite the Trojan legend might be partly motivated by the dispiriting events he had witnessed in this period, such as the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. Indeed, both John Gower and the author of Piers Plowman evinced their concern about the fate of England in their works, and their anxiety struck a chord with Chaucer (Fisher 208). In this sense, the story of Troy lends itself to being a convenient channel for expressing Gower's solicitude for the fate of "New Troy," a conjecture supported by the fact that in Gower's account of the aforementioned Peasants' Revolt he uses the appellation "New Troy" in referring to the afflicted London (Wood 32). Though Chaucer largely models the Troilus and Criseyde on Il Filostrato, the difference between the two is marked: while Il Filostrato serves as an outlet for its author to vent his sense of frustration through an ancient story, Chaucer's reworking of a story set in Troy is closely connected with the social and historical backdrops in contemporary England.

II. Main Characters as Related to Troy

This section is devoted to analyzing several major personages in the Troilus and Criseyde to explicate how the fate of each character is inextricably interwoven with that of Troy as the story unfolds and the extent to which the depiction of these characters mirrors the influence of certain medieval literary conventions.

1. Troilus

That the fate of Troilus is closely intertwined with that of Troy is easily recognizable. The name Troilus means "little Troy," (16) and, more importantly, his personal vicissitudes generally correspond to those of Troy. Intriguingly, a legend in the mythological tradition runs that Troy could have avoided devastation if Troilus had lived to twenty (March 1556; Stillinger 141; Woodford 55). (17) Though a minor figure in the Iliad, (18) Troilus, mostly considered the best warrior after Hector, has been a fixture in later Troy stories, and it was Benoit's Roman de Troie that began to involve Troilus in a romance (Thompson 155; Gordon xiii).

The subtle connection between Troy and Troilus can be further explored in terms of a metaphorical relationship. Stillinger styles Troilus as "a synecdoche, a typical Trojan youth" in that he functions as a metaphor for the city (143). From the etymological viewpoint Piero Boitani has perceived a revealing link between Troy and Troilus. On the one hand, we can construe the name Troilus as "the sum and conflation of Tros and Ilos," both of whom are founders of Troy (5). (19) This association aside, Boitani ventures a conjecture pertaining to the connection between Troie and the Greek verb lyo, which means "to destroy" or "to annihilate" (5). If this theory is tenable, Troilus's name per se augurs ill for Troy. The idea that classical artists had already been familiar with the causality between Troilus's death and the downfall of Troy is underpinned by pictures on some ancient artifacts. (20) On an Attic amphora by Lydos (ca. BCE 550) and on a Roman sarcophagus (ca. CE 180), we can see, on one side of these two artifacts, Achilles chasing after Troilus (Boitani 5). (21) As the viewer sees the other side of these artifacts, he or she is greeted by Priam's death, a natural corollary of the destruction of Troy. The narrative arrangement in these pictures, Boitani argues, clearly reflects a causal relationship between the two events (5).

For Chaucer Troilus stands for Troy, and the latter's final doom is powerfully foreshadowed by Troilus's premature death. John P McCall remarks that according to the medieval tradition, the fall of Troy was not attributed merely to blind Fortune, but also to ill-advised arrogance and unsavory desire, and that Chaucer's familiarity with this tradition is evident (101). Though never blaming Helen, Troilus is always mindful of the fact that she is the immediate cause of the war: "First, syn thow woost this town hath al this werre / For ravysshyng of wommen so by might" (4.547-48). However, prior to the proem of Book Four no inkling of the fall of Troy is revealed after the initial stanzas in Book One. But in the proem of Book Four, we are suddenly informed of Troilus's impending misfortune:
   But al to litel, weylaway the whyle,
   Lasteth swich joie, ythonked be Fortune.
   That semeth trewest whan she wol bygyle
   And kan to fooles so hire song entune
   That she hem hent and blent, traitour comune!
   And whan a wight is from hire whiel ythrowe,
   Than laugheth she, and maketh hym the mowe. (4.1-7)

The dismal beginning of the whole poem wherein the inexorable fate of Troy is pronounced is followed by the depiction of a forlornly lovesick Troilus. As Troilus's courting of Criseyde fares well and he finally wins her heart, we at the same time witness Trojans brim over with confidence in the final victory and have absolutely no inkling of the impending calamity. However, the exchange of Antenor and Criseyde in the Book Four is a great blow to Troilus, who only begins to bask in the sweetness of love, and this dramatic twist mutates Troilus into a suicidally depressed lover. Though Antenor is far from a heavyweight in the Trojan host, his captivity stirs up a disproportionate anxiety. Meanwhile the previous stalemate between Troy and Greece begins to crumble, and the final doom of Troy is ominously prefigured by a fiasco on the part of Troy: "But in the laste shour, soth for to telle, / The folk of Troie hemselven so mysledden / That with the worse at nyght homeward they fledden" (4.47-49). Ironically, Trojans are greatly dismayed by the loss of Antenor more because of concern about their own safety than of comradeship: "So that, for harm, that day the folk of Troie / Dredden to lese a gret part of hire joie" (4.55-56).

The cheerful mood in Troy depicted in the first three Books stands out in stark relief against the eventual tragedy of Troy. Admittedly, at the outset of the poem the fate of Troy is unequivocally sealed (1.68, 74), yet ever since its imminent disaster has become largely irrelevant in the first Book. Since the sense of doom becomes virtually imperceptible, the seemingly unbearable torment that Troilus whines about is essentially personal, rather than motivated by altruism or patriotism.

Structurally, Chaucer capitalizes on the tragedy of Troilus and Criseyde to adumbrate that an overwhelming doom of Troy is bearing nigh. Eugene Vance has sketched out how Troilus's fall relates, both literally and metaphorically, to the destruction of Troy. In the first two Books, "the falls of Troilus, which are only minimal physical acts," function as entirely metaphorical devices that activate "a rhetorical translatio of the violence of the battlefield into the sphere of erotic desire," and therein the relationship of love to war is "essentially parodic" (295); in this sense, the intensity of Troy's siege in the epic tradition is greatly mitigated by the rhetoric of courtly love (295). However, as the story proceeds, things change in the last two Books, wherein the two previously parallel plot lines--the lovers' self-indulgence and the preordained destiny of Troy--near each other and finally converge. This confluence leads to the denouement wherein Troilus's fate and that of Troy, as their names suggest, become inextricably intertwined.

2. Pandarus

In the critical tradition of the Troilus and Criseyde, Pandarus has always been deemed an unprincipled sophisticate who is always ready to achieve his goals, good and bad alike, through manipulation of other characters and crafty command of language. On this point Vance's observation is perceptive: "the game of desire is played by Pandarus above all in the play of language" (281, Vance's italics). In Barry Windeatt's opinion, among all the major characters in Chaucer's works Pandarus and the Wife of Bath are highly conspicuous because of their self-assertiveness (290). Another aspect of Pandarus's personality that has often been singled out in the critical literature is that he is an opportunist in the truest sense of the word. As long as the occasion arises, Pandarus would avail himself of any possible opportunity without scruples. In the first conversation between Pandarus and Troilus in the whole poem, when Troilus refuses to name the woman he yearns for, Pandarus's response reveals his moral laxity:
   Ne, by my trouthe, I kepte nat restreyne
   The fro thi love, theigh that it were Eleyne
   That is thi brother wif, if ich it wiste:
   Be what she be, and love hire as the liste! (1.676-79)

Chaucer's Pandarus is an outright pragmatist who is strikingly conversant with a host of proverbs, adages, and colloquial expressions. This familiarity with oratory and worldly wisdom oftentimes encourages the speculation that the description of Pandarus is partly modeled on Chaucer himself. Windeatt makes an inventory of Pandarus's characteristics to underpin this theory: "an outsider to love, in middle life, a diplomat and negotiator, moving in courts and among princes, and something of a jester, whose sophistication and humour express an understanding of human nature" (291). (22)

Pandarus's unscrupulousness is further confirmed by his advice to Troilus after Criseyde is transported to the Greek camp. Pandarus's immediate reaction is suggesting that Troilus can assuage his grief by wooing another woman. Misinterpreting Troilus's love as nothing but carnal lust, which has been gratified in the sexual intimacy referred to in the third Book, Pandarus urges Troilus to forget Criseyde and to make conquest of another lady:
   Syn thi desir al holly hastow had,
   So that, by right, it oughte ynough suffise?
   This town is ful of ladys al aboute;
   And, to my doom, fairer than swiche twelve
   As evere she was, shall I fynde in som route--
   Yee, on or two, withouten any doute.
   Forthi be glad, myn owen deere brother!
   If she be lost, we shal recovere an other. (4.395-96, 401-06)

Pandarus's propensity for equating love with sex indeed has been hinted at in his cynical response to Troilus's professed purity in his adoration of Criseyde, since for Pandarus Troilus's ultimate ulterior motive is none other than sexual: "And I thi borugh? Fy! No wight doth but so" (1.1038). Moreover, the advice Pandarus later tenders to Troilus speaks volumes for his true colors: after Troilus reiterates his unswerving loyalty to Criseyde, Pandarus recommends an elopement with her, and the counsel Pandarus offers further demonstrates his opportunist unscrupulousness:
   ... but hadde ich so hoote,
   And thyn estat, she sholde go with me,
   Though al this town cride on thy thyng by note.
   I nolde sette at al that noys a grote!
   Bet is that othere than thiselven wepe,
   And rather be in blame a lite ifounde
   Than sterve here as a gnat, withouten wounde. (4.583-86, 591,

In a sense, the Trojan War in the Troilus and Criseyde in some ways serves as an aphrodisiac for both Troilus and Pandarus, and in the case of Pandarus the aphrodisiac effect comes into play in a vicarious way. In this respect, Troy is an apposite setting because in such a beleaguered city love and death are closely entwined. Throughout the poem Pandarus is seldom unnerved by the ferocious war raging outside Troy, and what really rivets his attention is none other than matchmaking. (23) Pandarus's fixation with matchmaking is interestingly demonstrated by the ecstasy he registers after he is entrusted by Troilus to help him win Criseyde's heart. As a lover manque, Pandarus, after being entrusted by Troilus, is totally preoccupied with how to help Troilus with his courtship. The degree of Pandarus's enthusiasm is highly amusing: after leaving Troilus's place and on his way home Pandarus, almost oblivious to the fierce engagement around Troy, is already engrossed in trying to devise a scheme to help Troilus (1.1062-64).

The siege of Troy contrasts sharply with Pandarus's fascination with match making. As mentioned before, the Trojans basically bubble over with carefree blitheness in the first half of the poem. For example, the second Book opens with a vibrant scene wherein everything is heartening: "That fresshe floures, blew and white and rede, / Ben quike agayn, that wynter dede made, / And ful of bawme is fletyng every mede" (2.51-53). In such a cheerful atmosphere no inkling of the dismal destiny is felt, and, on the contrary, what occupies Pandarus is how to engineer a scheme to help his confidant rather than to find a way to lift the depressing siege:
   It made his hewe a-day ful ofte greene.
   So shop it that hym fil that day a teene
   In love, for which in wo to bedde he wente,
   And made, er it was day, ful many a wente. (2.60-63)

As Pandarus arrives at Criseyde's house, he is greeted by an agreeable scene: his niece and two other ladies pleasantly read out stories in a room. The story they are reading merits a special mention because it is a story about Thebes under siege. After being told the title of the book Criseyde and her companions are reading, Pandarus does not register an iota of worry the book is supposed to evoke, but instead invites Criseyde to dance in celebration of the forthcoming Trojan May games (2.112). Later when Pandarus tantalizes Criseyde by promising her exhilarating news and Criseyde asks speculatively whether it is about the retreat of the Greek forces, Pandarus assures her that his message will bring much greater pleasure than the relief of Troy (2.125-26). When the conversation ends and Pandarus takes his leave, he is depicted as being "glad and wel bygon," (2.597) radiant with joy for the first headway in his plan. Throughout the dialogue between Pandarus and Criseyde the destiny of Troy, though mentioned occasionally, is largely irrelevant.

That a blithe mood which partakes of naivety pervades the first half of the Troilus and Criseyde is supported by other examples. The depiction of parties thrown at Peiphebus's and Pandarus's houses makes the reader almost oblivious of the fact that the fate of Troy is at stake. In conjunction with the jovial chat between Pandarus and Criseyde mentioned in the preceding paragraph, Antigone's enchanting singing about love reinforces the careless ambience in Troy (2.827-75). The lyrics of this song, in envisioning the bliss lovers can bask in, also bear eloquent testimony to the pleasant mood prior to the decisive twist in Troy's fate.

If the exchange of Antenor and Criseyde proves to be a turning point in the destinies of both Troilus and Troy, after this watershed in the narrative Pandarus's sway over Troilus also inexplicably peters out even though he is still enthusiastic about volunteering suggestions. In addition, Windeatt has pointed out an unwonted despondent mood in Pandarus's last speech in the whole poem (294). Dumbfounded by his niece's flightiness, the always glib Pandarus is now crestfallen and locked into silence. When Pandarus finally rallies from the shock, his last speech runs, "My brother deer, I may do the namore. / What sholde I seyen? ... " (5.1731-32). Pandarus's disappointment over Criseyde's betrayal turns into vehement anger, and this voluble speaker seems at his wits' end and can only inwardly remonstrate about Criseyde's fickleness: " ... I kan namore seye" (5.1743).

3. Criseyde

Criseyde is an enigmatic figure in the Troilus and Criseyde. In the narrator's first depiction of her, Criseyde is represented as a helpless woman who has been ignominiously deserted by her own father, who defects to the Greek camp because of his foreknowledge of the impending doom. In this sense, Criseyde's fate, like Troilus's, is closely intertwined with that of Troy. Another aspect of Criseyde that immediately engages the reader's attention is her pulchritude. According to the narrator, Criseyde's impeccable beauty is otherworldly and unsurpassed (1.100-05). Criseyde's beauty is strongly reminiscent of another peerless beauty Helen, who, though a minor figure in the Troilus and Criseyde, triggers the Trojan War (1.62-63). In this respect, both beauties are enmeshed in the net of fate that step by step engulfs Troy. Another link between Helen and Criseyde can be established via the Greek general Diomede, who, among the principal characters in the Troilus and Criseyde, is a decidedly flat one with a definite and unswerving ambition to win and conquer whatever he desires. In Diomede's comparison between Trojan and Greek warriors, he likens the winning of Criseyde from Troilus to a victory in the all-out war sparked off by a dispute over the ownership of Helen:
   "Swich wreche on hem for fecchynge of Eleyne
   Ther shal ben take, er that we hennes wende,
   "What wol ye more, lufsom lady deere?
   Lat Troie and Troian fro youre herte pace!
   "And thenketh wel, ye shal in Grekis fynde
   A moore parfit love, er it be nyght,
   Than any Troian is, and more kynde,
   And bet to serven yow wol don his might.
   And if ye vouchesauf, my lady bright,
   I wol ben he to serven yow myselve,
   Yee, levere than be kyng of Greces twelve!" (5.890-91, 911-12,

Though an array of factors to different degrees contribute to Criseyde's tragedy, the aspect of curiosity (curiositas) merits a special mention. As mentioned in my treatment of Pandarus, his tantalizing procrastination by skirting around the content of the "good news" succeeds in rousing Criseyde's curiosity. Vance argues that Criseyde's succumbing to Pandarus's glib tantalization is the bellwether of her subsequent vulnerability to courtship (291). This kind of plot, according to Vance, is a medieval commonplace, and curiositas usually smacks of lust in medieval literary works (291; Vance's italics). Thus, the tortuous digression whereby Pandarus keeps back his intent of the visit whets Criseyde's curiosity. In Vance's words,
   Here Chaucer seems to be calling attention to the relationship
   between the rhetorical amplification of narrative as a deferring
   and the paradox (broadly understood by medieval poets) that
   improper desire is really only the desire to desire. In any case,
   just as Criseyde's curiosity flourishes on obstacles, so too her
   libido will feed itself on a rhetoric of violence and of negation
   in which both she and Pandarus freely indulge, without suspecting
   that by doing so they are promulgating the destructive forces of
   macrocosmic history. (291)

The connection between Troy and Criseyde can be further explored in conjunction with that between the two mythical cities--Troy and Thebes. In the second Book as Pandarus attempts to gauge Criseyde's impression of Troilus, Criseyde and her companions are "reading" the story of Thebes. Here the classical reference evokes literary resonance in at least three ways. Firstly, the story Chaucer refers to--Statius's Thebaid in twelve books--is about the vying for the kingship of Thebes among the sons of Oedipus and can be traced back all the way to Aeschylus's Seven against Thebes. (24) Secondly, the Thebaid enjoyed considerable popularity in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and its literary styles were profoundly influential in the Middle Ages (Feeney 1439). Most importantly, the centerpiece in the narrative of the Thebaid is the siege of Thebes, a story that is akin to what Troy is facing and that Pandarus is well aware of: "Quod Pandarus, Al this knowe I myselve, / And al th'assege of Thebes and the care; / For herof ben ther maked bookes twelve" (2.106-08). The juxtaposition of Thebes and Troy highlights the buoyant or, to be more precise, myopic side in both Pandarus and Criseyde, since neither of them feels any qualms about their frivolous mention of the siege ofThebes. This ignorance of the impending 24 24 doom is a clear manifestation of medieval stereotypes of what leads to the irrevocable fate of Troy. McCall maintains that according to classical and medieval traditions, besides the sway of Fate "foolish pride and criminal lust" might be the real scourge of Troy's devastation (101). According to this thread of argument, starting with Helen's elopement with Paris, Troy had taken a cursed route and later worsened the situation by ill-advisedly determining to shelter Helen, thereby entangling itself into a hopeless future.

Another Thebes-related allusion that merits consideration is about Oedipus, the famous mythical king of Thebes. Patterson has unearthed a subtle connection between Oedipus and Troilus: Troilus tends to liken himself to Oedipus, "who comes to function not just as the protagonist's most persistent Theban alter ego but as an emblem of the nature and conditions of historical action per se" (135). For example, after learning of the parliament's irreversible resolution to send away Criseyde, Troilus wallows in self-pity and claims that his life would be as miserable as that of Oedipus:
   "What shal I don? I shal, while I may dure
   On lyve in torment and in cruwel peyne
   This infortune or this disaventure,
   Allone as I was born, iwys, compleyne;
   Ne nevere wol I seen it shyne or reyne,
   But ende I wol, as Edippe, in derknesse
   My sorwful lif, and dyen in distresse. (4.295-301)

More significantly, a few lines later Troilus plaintively bemoans the imminent uselessness of his eyesight once the separation between him and Criseyde becomes a reality:
   "O woful eyen two, syn youre disport
   Was al to sen Criseyde eyen brighte,
   What shal ye don but, for my discomfort,
   Stonden for naught, and wepen out youre sighte,
   Syn she is queynt that wont was yow to lighte?
   In vayn fro this forth have ich eyen tweye
   Ifourmed, syn youre vertu is aweye. (25) (4.309-13)


For Chaucer, Troy is a spellbinding city with its unique charm. What motivated Chaucer to rework the Trojan legend despite the existence of previous literary masterpieces is an intriguing question. First of all, Troy-related stories had enjoyed wide currency and popularity by the time of Chaucer partly owing to the political authority they could lend. Many ruling houses then believed that association of any kind between their regimes and Troy of old could consolidate their rule. This sort of mindset also found its way in the English scene, as evidenced by the account of Historia Regum Britanniae, whose author took pains to cast people living on the British Isles as descendants of Brutus and Aeneas. Thus Chaucer's adoption of Troy as the setting is in one sense expressive of one aspect of the English consciousness in the late Middle Ages. Besides its iconic significance for medieval European nations, Troy captures the imagination of medieval writers partly because it oscillates between reality and fiction, or, presence and absence.

On the other hand, the fates of Troilus, Pandarus, and Criseyde are inextricably interwoven with that of Troy. Admittedly, it is by no means unique that the fates of characters in a literary work accord with that of the community they belong to, yet in the Troilus and Criseyde the individual destinies of these characters are integrated into that of Troy. In the case of Troilus, the name itself suggests the symbiosis between the man and the city. In addition, throughout the poem love and war interpenetrate: as the romance fares well, Troy, at least temporarily, is gains a much-needed respite in the hard-fought war against the Greeks. Given that Criseyde's departure signifies a fateful point for Troilus and that Troilus is an important champion of Troy, the downfall of Troy ensues after their love has been thwarted by outside factors they have no control of.

Pandarus's case represents a bizarre marriage of warfare and romance. Though trapped in a besieged city, Pandarus seems unaffected by the fierce war raging around, and his interest in matchmaking obviously outstrips his, if any, solicitude for the survival of Troy. Yet after realizing that Criseyde succumbs to Diomede's wooing, the always glib Pandarus becomes dumbfounded and utterly bereft. His speechlessness is thus a poignant reminder of the dehumanizing power war can inflict on humans.

Wei-ko Sung

National Chung Hsing University

DOI: 10.6184/TKR201506-2

(Received: 30 July 2014; Accepted: 18 March 2015)

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Wei-ko Sung is Assistant Professor in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at National Chung Hsing University, Taiwan, where he has offered courses on ancient (biblical and Greco- Roman) literature and translation. He is currently doing research into medieval English literature, interested in contextualizing it historically and culturally. E-mail:

* I would like to thank the two anonymous referees for reading the manuscript carefully and giving essential advice about reshaping and strengthening my argument.

(1) The notion that it is Homer who immortalizes Troy is alien to the medieval reader, for whom Daress and Dictyss accounts of the Trojan War are generally considered more authoritative than that of Homer. Though aware that it was Homer who initiated the literary tradition of Troy, Chaucer, like most of his contemporaries, considered Daress and Dictyss accounts of the Trojan War more reliable than Homer's (Gordon xi). R. K. Gordon lists three reasons in explaining why Homer was considered less trustworthy than Dares/Dictys in medieval times: "he [Homer] represented the gods fighting with men, he was thought to be unfair to the Trojans ... and he had been too late to be an eyewitness of the events he described" (xi).

(2) The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville (ca. 560-636 CE), an encyclopedia of "human and divine subjects, was one of the chief landmarks in glossography and was for many centuries one of the most important reference books" and "became one of the most studied works during the Dark and Middle Ages" ("Isidore of Seville," The New Encyclopaedia Britannica).

(3) Examples include the Libro de Alexandre and the Ovide moralise (Patterson 92). For the extent to which medieval readers regarded the Trojan saga as real history, see Ehrhart 35- 74.

(4) The Historia Britonum, "a miscellaneous collection of historical and topographical information including a description of the inhabitants and invaders of Britain," is generally ascribed to Nennius, a Welsh antiquarian who between 796 and about 830 compiled it. Its another noteworthy feature is that it offers the earliest extant reference to King Arthur ("Nennius," The New Encyclopaedia Britannica).

(5) In the second half of the twelfth century, Saxo Grammaticus authored the first Danish history; between 1185 and 1204 the monks of Saint-Denis edited the Historia Regum Francorum from "thousands of scanty fragments" (Guenee 58).

(6) Marie Tanner's The Last Descendant of Aeneas: The Hapsburgs and the Mythic Image of the Emperor offers a useful account of those European rulers, ranging from the Frankish Roman emperor and Philip II of Spain to the Hapsburgs, who have claimed to be the seed of Aeneas.

(7) It is interesting to note that both Theodosius I and Charlemagne substantially contributed to the development and consolidation of Christianity in Europe. Despite their roles in the expansion of Christianity, they still intended to form an association with Troy.

(8) Here Federico quotes Bellamy 34.

(9) This chronological comparison, according to Lewis Thorpe's note, is taken from Nennius's Historia Britonum (Geoffrey 74).

(10) For the biblical accounts of Eli and the Philistines' capture of the Ark of the Covenant, see 1 Sam. 1.1-6.12.

(11) For those lesser-known accounts of the history of England that were contemporary with or postdated the Historia Regum Britanniae, see Norbert Kersken 184-85.

(12) Brent Miles's "Togail Troi: The Irish Destruction of Troy on the Cusp of the Renaissance" and Shelia Dasss "The Disappearance of the Trojan Legend in the Historiography of Venice" examine the dwindling attraction of the Trojan legend in the late fifteenth-century Ireland and Venice, respectively, collected in Shepard and Powell 81-96; 97-116.

(13) Unless otherwise specified, all quotations from the Chaucer are taken from Larry D. Benson (ed.), The Riverside Chaucer (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987) and cited by line number. Chaucer's inclusion of Jason and Medea as heroes in the Trojan War reveals the influence of Roman de Troie, whose first episode is about Jason and Medea.

(14) Including John Gower's Vox clamantis and Confessio amantis, Richard Maidstone's Concordia, and two anonymous works--Sir Gawain and the Green Night and St. Erkenwald (Turner 57).

(15) Turner also draws a short but useful comparison between Troy and London in the Concordia, St. Erkenwald, and the Vox clamantis (60-61). It, however, should be noted that among these three works only St. Erkenwald was written in Middle English, and that both Maidstone's Concordia and Gower's Vox clamantis Latin. Nowadays "literature in England" accounts for only a minor portion of "literature in English." Yet in the period 1150-1400, the opposite--"literature in English" made up only a fraction of "literature in England"--was the norm (Burrow and Turville-Petre 18). In this period, three languages-- English, French, and Latin--were in active use in England. For the interrelationship of these three languages in the aforementioned period, see Burrow and Turville-Petre 16-18.

(16) John P. McCall notes that Chaucer adopts "the Latin diminutive in--lus, -la, -lum" (112).

(17) In Titus Maccius Plautus's Bacchides, Chrysalus in effect prophesies that Troy's doom will be pre ceded by three omens: "If the citadel of a goddess [Athena] statue was bereft; if Troilus, Priam's son, did die; if Phrygian gate by Trojan horse was from its hinge discharged" (65-66). The prophecy that Troilus's death implies Troy's ruin motivates Achilles to take his life.

(18) In the Iliad, Troilus is mentioned as being dead in Priam's lament for the monstrous death of his sons (24.259). And according to Stillinger, this is the only reference to Troilus throughout the Iliad; besides, Stillinger also notes that Troilus appears only once in the Aeneid, where he is a figure in a picture (140).

(19) Boitani does not further elaborate on Tros and Ilos. According to the Iliad, Tros, "lord of the Trojans," has three sons, the eldest of whom is Ilus (Ilos), who founds Ilium (Troy) and fathers Laomedon, father of Priam (20.235-36). In this sense both Tros and Ilos can be regarded as the mythical founders of Troy.

(20) In her The Trojan War in Ancient World, Susan Woodford has illustrated how Troilus has been represented on ancient Greek hydrias and vases with a selection of pictures (55-59).

(21) Boitani explicitly argues that classical writers are especially interested in Troilus's death and enumerates a long list of classical and medieval writers who, while treating Troilus, accentuate a Troilus slain by Achilles (2-3). Boccaccio and Chaucer tend to emphasize Troilus's romance, but still mention in passing his death in their narratives (Boitani 3). The only notable exception is Robert Henryson, who in his The Testament of Cresseid does not mention Troilus's untimely death (Boitani 4). In Troilus and Cressida Shakespeare leaves out the tragic message, but in As You Like It has Rosalind relate that "Troilus had his brains dashed out with a Grecian club" (4.1.92-3; qtd. in Boitani 4). Besides, according to the Cypria, given that Troilus is often called a "cavalry warrior" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), post-Homeric writers have tended to portray him as an underage youth being chased on horseback [by Achilles] (West 103).

(22) Donald W. Rowe draws an interesting parallel between the narrator and Pandarus on the following grounds: firstly, neither of them enjoys a successful relation with any woman, and the narrator even lacks enough courage to pursue one; secondly, for both of them love is a blessing so that they are willing to provide assistance for people who seek love (153). Liu Jin ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) similarly emphasizes that though love is among the principal themes in Chaucer's dream poems (The Book of the Duchess, The House of Fame, The Parliament of Fowls), the narrator in each work lacks either personal experience in love or willingness to sample it (139).

(23) Sir Philip Sidney (1544-1586) has noted in his An Apology for Poetry that by his time the name Pandar (Pandarus) had become synonymous with pander ("a go-between in love intrigues") owing to Chaucer's portrayal in the Troilus and Criseyde (29).

(24) The influence of Statius's (45-96 CE) Thebaid on Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde is tremendous. Patterson has enumerated many passages in the Troilus and Criseyde where the influence of the Thebaid is unmistakable (134). On the extent of Statius's impact on Chaucer, Boyd Ashby Wise contends that Statius is Chaucer's most familiar Latin writer after Ovid and, perhaps, Boethius (Wise 141), and this assessment is endorsed by Patterson (134).

(25) Patterson indicates that some medieval works attribute Oedipus's blindness to relentless weeping (135).
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Author:Sung, Wei-ko
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Date:Jun 1, 2015
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