Essay on Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde

Essay on Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde

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Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde is a very widely applauded work of poetry. His works, which include the extensive Canterbury Tales, have a history of being appealing to a variety of people, from the members of the Court to the lesser population. This, some would say, would probably be because Chaucer chooses to direct his writings at all types of characters through the medium of language topical issues and style, but Troilus and Criseyde is a work vastly culminating towards a fairly restricted audience. As it is, it talks of the Trojan war, which only a select crowd or elite would know about, and also, we cannot forget that Chaucer was a favourite at Court ; Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde is based to a large extent on Boccaccio's Il Filostrato, but he made quite a lot of changes to the way the protagonists are portrayed. Chaucer's art rests in the way he describes rounded characters and not really types as some might have thought. The two main characters have been dealt with in such an astute and crafty manner that the reader asks himself whether Troilus as the hero is the main character or is Criseyde the more appealing of the two.

 

Indeed, Troilus is the mythical, legendary hero in all senses of the word. Troilus's appearance itself demarcates him from the whole crowd of `knyghts' who follow him and for whom he is responsible. Troilus at the very outset is the epitome of heroic splendour and magnificence, a state which will amplify as the story goes on. He is this `fierse and proud knyght' (Bk1, 225)

 

But wel he wist, as far as tongues spaken,

Ther nas a man of gretter hardinesse

Thanne he, ne more desired worthinesse

(Bk1, 565-67)

 

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..., but he is too much distanced from us. He is admirable, pitiable in the end, but Criseyde is the one who captures and sustains our interest, because she is a mortal in the end, human like us. She is the one we understand or deplore, who makes us go back to the poem to see where she goes wrong and where she is right. Although the story ends on Troilus ascension to the eighth sphere and his subsequent enlightenment on the smallness and brutality of this world, Criseyde is the one whom we remember long after because of the many shades she has to her character.' Indeed in this poem, Chaucer has not only given us a full and finished romance, but has endowed it with what, as rule, Medieval Romance conspicuously lacked-interest of character[...]' (The Cambridge History of English and American literature in 18 volumes (vol2 The end of the Middle ages))

 

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