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Overview

Troilus and Criseyde


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Chaucer's longest complete poem, in 8,239 lines of rhyme‐royal probably written in the second half of the 1380s. Chaucer takes his story from Boccaccio's Il Filostrato, adapting its eight books to five and changing the characters of Criseyde and Pandarus. In Boccaccio Troilo falls in love with Criseida whose cousin, Troilo's friend Pandaro, persuades her to become Troilo's lover. In the end Criseida has to leave the Trojan camp to join her father who had defected to the Greeks; in the Greek camp she betrays Troilo by falling in love with Diomede. Chaucer deepens the sense of seriousness in his story by making Pandaro Criseida's uncle and guardian, by showing her deliberating at more length (this series of exchanges between uncle and niece in Book II is one of the most admired and anthologized parts of the poem), and by introducing deliberative material, principally from Boethius, calling into question the lovers' freedom of action. The poem ends with an adjuration to the young to repair home from worldly vanity and to place their trust, not in unstable fortune as Troilus did, but in God. Discussion of the poem has centred largely on the appropriateness of the epilogue to the preceding action, on the attitudes to love (courtly love in particular) in the poem, and on the personality of the narrator and his effect on the narrative. The love story is the invention of Benoït de Saint‐Maure in his Roman de Troie, which was based on the pretended histories of Troy by Dares Phrygius and Dictys Cretensis. Boccaccio's intermediate source was Guido delle Colonne. After Chaucer, the story was treated by Henryson in The Testament of Cresseid and by Shakespeare in Troilus and Cressida.


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Authors

Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343—1400) poet and administrator