Chaucer, Troilus, II (ll. 1-826) Passages and Issues

Page Passage and Interpretive Issues

489 Prohemium—creates Narrator—Audience—Auctor relations and Narrator—Audience—Troilus relations: language change & words’ unstable authority; emotional change and identity’s instability (T at war vs. T in love?)

490-7 Pandarus "embassy" to Criseyde starts with an allusion to the Tereus-Procne-Philomela myth (ex-Ovid) which is ominously relevant in a love story. Criseyde’s "paved parlour" houses a society of women who are reading "the siege of Thebes," which ends with the city’s seven heroes dying while defending it against the army of Argos, another ominous allusion.

Pandarus twice urges C to remove her widow’s garments and to re-enter an active social life (110-2 and 222-4). Note her response. It sets up the basic conflict in her mind between yielding to love and retaining her independence. Unlike Troilus, she reasons her way into love (with help from P and fate).

On 491-2, P’s strategy becomes possible to analyze. How does he attempt to manipulate her opinions to set up her reception of his message? Note especially the praise of Troilus (ll. 153-161) and his apparent willingness to leave without telling C what he came for—her response?

On 492-5, P begins what could be called his "seduction" of his niece on T’s behalf. How does the Narrator describe P’s mental preparation (251-2 and 253-73)? Compare this with what he actually does. When he makes the actual pitch, revealing T’s love, note especially his acting the part with two crucial props: tears and a knife (323-9). This is followed by the anaphoric (rep. initial phrase) lament which starts with the "faire gemme vertuless" (344 ff.). There is a running "bejeweled ring" motif in the poem which you might want to follow, and here the "gemme" is Criseyde. Finally, on 495, C counter-attacks with her own attempt to maneuver P in to revealing more of his true intentions (esp. 407ff.). She calls what P is doing a "paynted process" (see gloss) in which her "beste frend" betrays her to love. When P. threatens to die if she resists, the Narrator pointed describes her fear as a major part of her character (449-500). What would motivate C to be so fearful, and what might this excuse? Finally, C begins to bend and asks "Kan he wel speke of love"—not P’s response does not directly address this. Why not?

496-7 P’s version of how he discovered T’s love differs from that which the Narrator gave us. How, and why might this be so? Again, the "ruby in ring" theme emerges (l. 585, see also l. 344 and Book V: 549).

497-8 The "Ride-By Enamourment": C sees T after P’s conversation has left her "somdel astoned in hire thought" (603). Compare the process by which T’s appearance affects C’s mind/heart. Her exclamation, "Who yaf me drynke?," suggests a direct comparison between sudden love and drunkenness. Why? Note also the Narrator’s intrusion to defend the speed of her loving T.

499-500 C reasons about love: a major addition by Chaucer to Boccaccio’s tale, C’s thoughts unfold the problems about whether to admit love or to maintain her independence. Why is this the choice? Note her rejection of love (cf. Andreas) at 743-56, followed by a sudden reversal at 757-63: how would you diagnose her state of mind?

Click here for some article-length sources on Book II.