Interpretive certainty is purposely elusive in Geoffrey Chaucer's "Troilus and Criseyde". Meaning within the text is convoluted and continually renegotiated. Any attempt to design a singular coherent stable source of meaning is problematic at best. Throughout the work, narrative frames are broken and reordered and the validity of any fixed interpretive model is challenged. Virtually every broad thematic discussion developed is potentially qualified or compromised by the presence of a key figure, the narrator of the poem. As an ever-present observer, the narrator is both author and audience to a sequence of events he essentially helps to create. He is manipulative but not omniscient; he is conscious of the fact that his power to shape the text is significant but fundamentally limited. Through the narrator's appeals directly to the reader, the audience is encouraged to share in the responsibility of creating and interpreting the tale. Rather than prejudice or promote a particular ideological vantage point, perhaps Chaucer creates the narrative space and freedom for such an interpretive dialogue in order to explore but not to espouse or impose specific moral, ethical, and philosophical notions. Plurality is valued above unquestioned certainty. Though this assertion may seem to ignore the overt Christian conclusion to the poem, I would submit that Chaucer has provided the reader with powerful interpretive models (through the actions and thoughts of the narrator) which enable the reader to qualify or at least reconsider even the most compelling and absolute Christian doctrine.
The narrator begins by stating both his purpose and his pro...
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Works Cited and Consulted:
Chaucer, Geoffrey. "Troilus and Criseyde". R.A. Shoaf, Ed. East Lansing, MI: Colleagues Press, 1989.
Mehl, Dieter. 'Chaucer's narrator: Troilus and Criseyde and The Canterbury Tales.' in The Cambridge Chaucer
Companion. ed. Pietro Boitani and Jill Mann. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986. 213-226.
Minnis, Alastair J. Medieval Theory of Authorship: Scholastic literary attitudes in the later Middle Ages. London: Scolar Press,1984.
Wetherbee, Winthrop. Chaucer and the Poets: An Essay on Troilus and Criseyde. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984.
Wallace, David. 'Chaucer's Continental inheritance: the early poems and Troilus and Criseyde.' in The Cambridge Chaucer
Companion. ed. Pietro Boitani and Jill Mann. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986. 19-37.
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