Love and Death in "Troilus and Criseyde

Author(s): Lonnie J. Durham
Source: The Chaucer Review, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Summer, 1968), pp. 1-11
Published by: Penn State University Press
Stable URL: .
Accessed: 23/09/2011 00:38

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .

JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of
content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms
of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact

Penn State University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The
Chaucer Review.

24-29). in the Book the Duchess. N. S. alle iborn" m." MLN. one But greenness and "very firmly figure. Richard J. and drenchyth undir the laste deth. the tyme Of Aperil. "Troilus is what Chaucer meant it to be great point in of love. . 197. 4. . but nevertheless Nature's "And thilke same completes cycle: attempraunce. whan clothed is the mede With newe grene. 1957). C.. F. . (Notre Dame. See John "The Pattern of Consolation in The Book Lawlor. of the Duchess. II) Troilus and Criseyde and the Minor Poems." in Chaucer Criticism: (Vol. 232-60. for instance. LII (1937).LOVE AND DEATH IN TROILUS AND CRISEYDE by Lonnie J."3 growth comprise only the first half of the cycle of love and life described in Boece: "This atempraunce and forth alle brethith that norysscheth bryngeth thinges lif in this world. The Allegory of Love. p. Natura-creatrix?governess things" by Chaucer's time. Rosamond Tuve. (Boston. especially since the is couched in the idiom of the courtly knight's mourning 1. A Study in Medieval Tradition (New York. 13. Durham I one ? a From of view. that the love-springtime metaphor (and any system based upon that carries within it the of winter. ."1 a love that has its in poem praise beginning . Shoeck and Jerome Taylor pp. And swote smellen floures white and rede .. .. 1961). Lewis. "Spring in Chaucer and before Him. hideth and bynymeth. 2nd of Geoffrey ed. 3. (U55-58)2 a over of love and beginning presided by "Venus-genetrix?goddess courtly of all natural which had become. ravysschynge. All quotations are from The Works Chaucer. of Veer the lusty pryme. . ed. does the dreamer remain so Why long oblivious to the reasons for the of the in Because he grief knight mourning?4 cannot conceive of winter in the of a love "high frivolity" courtly springtime. implications is a life of and is therefore to the forces kynde" phenomenon subject governing life. of the memento mori is woven into the very fabric of the florid that is tapestry the conventional dream-vision. 1958). The are clear: that "love of thinges (IV. metaphor) necessity facing There is no but that Chaucer was aware of this question fully unrelenting check on Venus-Genetrix?Creatrix." The second half is more to chilling courtly sentiment. ed. Robinson.6. 2.

it is "Mayes the opening gynneth day 5. of one year.. cycle already established: "how his aventures feilen / Fro wo to wele." Henry Sams.3-4). Despite the fact that Troilus and Criseyde begins with the traditional spring expectations for the full seasonal have been imagery.281-84). and as the progress secondly character of Criseyde is identified with the of seasonal principle change. The high artifice of the courtly love vision is an attempt to capture the ideal en emaux. Criseyde "is as the mannyssh semynge" (1.. Charles Muscatine. (1. because he too considers the "Nature" he is to mainly narrowly examine. again: But also cold in love towardes the Thi lady is. for cold of hete. Troilus represents the idealistic view of his "courtly."5 idealism is not to be taken in its connotations. goes"7 spring winter must as well hold the of spring. 185." but is out of phase with the season "In widewes habit blak" Criseyde (1. and Troilus promise unconsciously defines her nature in attempting to describe his own sensations. . if has in it the seeds of winter. the nature's full having already experienced (unlike "pekok" Troilus) cycle. as Charles Muscatine love-in-springtime. Chaucer and the French Tradition.420). 2 LOVE AND DEATH IN TROILUS AND CRISEYDE lament. The narrative does indeed "whan comen was the / Of open tyme Aperil."6 The of coming sequence seasonal is not so in the as in Professor images quite neatly arranged poem Sams' article. I he says at one and dye. world is and goes as the world .170). for "alle hire so lymes wel / Weren to wommanhod. as snow in fire is soone. "For hete of cold. experience. Yet there is in her a promise that cannot be obscured. and after out of joie . is necessary to break the tone and mood of the love vision. but as well. as a noble only positive for faith. 154.523-25) With the of Book II. 1960). p. p. 7. "The weder clere". Shoeck and Taylor. And thow fordon. that creature / Was nevere lasse answerynge in As Muscatine puts it. out of account much of the that in leaving imagery clearly operates the seasonal mood." point (1. contends. eternal if. in "The Dual Time-Scheme in Chaucer's (1. first as it describes the of the affair. basic time-scheme of three years" there is a artistic scheme "practical. "She ys ded!". 6. or the and departure of one summer. Chaucer and the French Tradition: A Study in Style and Meaning (Berkeley and Los Angeles. as a narrow and view of capacity negatively incomplete life. p. The blunt statement. 133. Troilus" examines the nature imagery of the poem to show that besides "the actual. to assert the fact of death and the bring of the Ceyx-Alcione story into sudden focus for the Dreamer and significance reader. as frost in wynter moone. But the artistic function of the annual is establishing cycle obvious.

778-81. the imagery of the story converges toward that of "gradually the after the "March" scene. And benched newe. Criseyde to be hurried into new moods. spring. "For love is yet the mooste stormy lyf. In which she walketh arm in arm bitwene. a route. overspradde thoughtes So that for feere almost she gan to falle. Even after the of Troilus "so fressh. LONNIE J.77)?Janus. god back toward winter. She may be "as the world is. .111-12). the other forward into up. som cloude is over that sonne. garden This was and alle yerd large. Shoeck and Taylor. Which the sonne as for a oversprat space. . that evere was bigonne. and sonded alle the weyes. hire for to clere. so yong. Til at the laste Antigone the shene 8. 182. thought gan (11. . A gan hire soule pace. p. "god guide Pandarus the two-faced whose one face looks messenger (11." but her characterization is never to suggest the animality of sheer seasonal instinct. into so the sight city riding draws from her the involuntary tribute to his attractiveness weldy." says Pandarus.806) As Sams notes. Criseyde goes down into Immediately setting. .764-70." to the thrydde". chaungeth And that a cloude is put with wynd to flighte." ("Who me her mood has not up with the calendar and yaf drynke?"). that ofte tyme his face. Right For evere som or nice strif mystrust Then is in love. of hymself. caught spring she must go through the temperamental storms of an earlier season: But as when the sonne right shyneth brighte In March. of entree."8 her garden for what amounts to a that the May pageant?the symbolic signal external and internal seasons have converged: And other of hire wommen. rayled th'aleyes. DURHAM 3 and the Narrator calls upon Janus. And shadewed wel with blosmy bowes grene."Rys "and lat us don to som observaunce" but refuses May (11. gret Hire folowede in the al abowte. And after that. cloudy thought thorugh That hire brighte alle.

only image according to the Narrator.925 ff). Sanford Meech out that much of this season in the points imagery appears Filo strato: Troiolo. equation Nature is a for survival.9 But in the Troilus. (11.456-60) and so on. Ibid. as Pandaro confessed his soul the reports him. no more than is usual with the tradition. Criseyde. "Good to whom serve I and laboure. "hym thoughte he felte dyen. 10. pp. Design in Chaucer's Troilus (Syracuse.818-26) At the end of the ceremony. blessed God for friendships having put in his discernment to fix on enough "light" Criseyda. Meech.10 In Book I. / Right with hire look. nearly the seasonal connected with Troilus is when he remembers. 1959). er that I deyde!" (1. he "flashing prayed the god to make the effort "fruitful. p.4 LOVE AND DEATH IN TROILUS AND CRISEYDE on a Troian Gan song to singen cleere. after essentially system through cycle cycle?and the one that is certain to do is survive?but Books I thing Criseyde through and II Troilus' name is persistently linked with references to death. Sanford B. Ye wolden on me rewe. About to write his first letter. with no less than fifteen references in Book I alone to the or of his How serious are these necessity.. finds herself impromptu Criseyde (the action the "somwhat psychological just slightly trailing symbolic) growing able to converte" and dreams that of the white that (11. ther an houre passed nought That to a thousand tyme he hymself seyde." (1. "that love to wide / Yelt bittre swete yblowe fruyt. "Men have died from time to time and worms Shakespeare's puts 9. probability. vanquished by radiance" of Amore. 333. That it an heven was hire vois to here. The first time he sees Criseyde. As references??certainly courtly Rosalind it. goodly. now wolde God. in it. 342-43. possibility dying. though seed be sowe" Chaucer has taken here to avoid the (384-85).306-07) and from that day. . As I best kan.903) night eagle exchanges his heart for hers (11. Chaucer eliminates five of the six instances of the association of the hero with flowers and adds none." He declared in his to Venere song that beneficent influence "rains" from her and that she is the sphere cause of the "fruit" of and. clearly pains strong of Nature and character that he has made for Criseyde.

1092)." The thrust of Pandarus' remark. significant "hym thow lovedest in the shawe / . in which the reference is to Adonis. made as literal as It metaphor nearly possible. "God have thi soule." Criseyde? naught yet'.1310-11). 'It sit hire to ben as celestial kynde. "Who is in his bed so soone / Iburied primary thus?" is to twit Troilus about his condition. earthly Troilus. DURHAM 5 have eaten them. but not for love. "and since there is no cure. his "death" with the plan for the mock illness. LONNIE J. constitutes the climax of the first of in love. Gan thanken tho the blisful sevene. "She will never have practical pity on me. the Deiphebus' nature of this "little death" is made clear. to streyne hym by the herte" (111. "She is a real. either "celestial" or "of subject "So it is my niece." The very real humor that most commentators have seen in this section of the poem results from the ironic contrast between Troilus' conviction of his imminent death and the totally view that Pandarus takes of the whole matter. At house. 'I wol deye'. is left for Pandarus but to throw the unconscious lover into bed? Criseyde's Thus. and after. . . the sexual is enacted. the distress of over Pandarus' fabricated case of jealousy. "down he fel al a-swowne" What immediately sodeynly (111.1071). goddes Thus sondry peynes folk to hevene. at first by insisting upon its inevitability for both Troilus and himself (as if Pandarus could die for love!) if Criseyde will not "han routhe. Venus. Seeing Criseyde Troilus feels "The crampe of deth.720-21). perhaps say ." says Troilus.1638). bryngen (111.) Pandarus continues the issue of "death" toward its forcing logical conclusion. but it (11. "hopeless" also establishes the grave-bed and Troilus is to be hurried toward metaphor. that with the boor was slawe" (111. implies make of it. al hool of cares colde. getting Criseyde ibrought have I thi heereV The metaphor all that Donne was later to (11.1202-04) Thus is Troilus revived on that or we should rainy night. woman isn't she? What is it to weep living good and die without ever made her aware that you exist?" woman is having Every to love at some time in her life." "What?" says Pandarus." and he goes about the business of for practical results in a arranging that Troilus would not or could not do. or way (In Troilus' incapacity disinclination to act for himself at this may be seen his characteristic point to cherish the idea rather than the preference fact. The "little death" does come in Book III soon after Troilus' to his prayer protectress. he continues. Pandarus perfectly dodges quickly into the "sickroom" ahead of the others to let Troilus know that he has been successful in there and says. a "death" stage Troilus'journey from which he will awake to an heaven.

and in singynges. though perpetuely that is necessarily manifested in in durynge. L. and wede. p. 172. ed." in English and Medieval Studies Presented to J.6 LOVE AND DEATH IN TROILUS AND CRISEYDE ? contexts the "resurrected" between the parallel but diverging of Adonis and the narrator's modulated of the incident to Christian myth comparison salvation. fynde (111. Norman Davis and C.. . yeveth frely chaungeth And held aboute out of drede. The fresshest and the beste he koude . his in the context of God's government viewing experience of the world.11 Troilus celebrates this of the world" in his song from "government Boethius at the end of Book III (1744-71) which echoes the proemium." Troilus is the pagan the highest good who?quite intelligibly?takes view of human love. in blisse. 166. many and writh the swote Bytrent wodebynde. p. 12. hym alwey. (111.1611-13). As T. The is given as an of the and untroubled pursuit song expression "straightforward by Troilus of what he believes to be good. the fact that reality approximately despite seems for the moment to have up with the dream. This Troilus gan al his lif to lede. R. the of nature comes to have more relevance to complex imagery Troilus' mood and condition than earlier. as com hym wel of kynde. "God and Man in Troilus and Criseyde. Gan ech of hem in armes other wynde. Ibid. 1962). Wrenn (London. He maketh spendeth. He ofte.1230-32) Troilus is restored to life his own time" has come: (111. beginning as aboute a tree. ii In Book III. A world of folk. he is always a "sincere natural guided by religion.. Dunning caught comments."12 But it is not without its Love causes the elements to "holden a bond paradoxes. with that first night.." stability change?and especially as the those phenomena that Troilus cites proof of permanence?the rising of 11.. festeynges. it to the divine love which binds possible relating the universe. jousteth.1716-22) But he is never even a hedonist. R. with a twiste. "green In suffisaunce. Tolkien on the Occasion of his Seventieth Birthday. P.

That every part dirryveth from [God's] hool. wood out of his wit to Disposed breyde. So that ther nys but bark and braunche ilaft. . wynter Ech after other. with the in "green catastrophe Book IV.. till the tree be bare. withouten any lye. Chaucer and the French Tradition. takes upon himself to explain: Wel may men knowe. "that lordshipe nyghtes. in the gredy final scene of the Knight's Tale. But of a thyng that parfit is and stable. DURHAM 7 sun. Lith Troilus. For nature hath nat taken his bigynnyng Of no or cantel of a partie thyng..225-31) But the sorrow stands in contrast to that imagery depicting Criseyde's sharp applied to Troilus: Therwith the teris from hire eyen two Down as shour in ful swithe . Ibounden in the blake bark of care.112ff. That speces of and progressiouns thynges Shullen enduren by successiouns. (A 3005-15) Troilus' time" comes to an end.): And as in leves ben biraft. of his wise purveiaunce. the moon that "hath over the and the sea. of course. byraft of ech welfare. 154. but it be a fool. (IV. And therfore. Aperil (IVJ50-51) At this point. so til it be Descenynge corrumpable.. Muscatine's observation that Criseyde "is as the world is and goes as the world to take on She is the goes"13 begins special meaning. p. LONNIE J. And nat eterne." It is this mutability in permanence that Theseus. fille. He hath so wel biset his ordinaunce. Chaucer the withered flower of the Filostrato and rejects imagery instead the more simile of desolation from Dante's Inferno adopts powerful (?i. embodiment of earthly love and especially of the mutability inherent in that 13. So sore hym sat the chaungynge of Criseyde." is to flowen.

"Seen in the dominance and recession of each dynamically. p. See Arthur Mizener. Ibid. Earthly and that survival is as dependent upon physical environment?exactly expresses it when she learns she is to be Criseyde uprooted: To I sorwen what fyn sholde lyve and thus? How sholde a fissh withouten water dure? What is worth. The chief similarity between Criseyde and Pandarus lies in their ability to 14. Criseyde despite protestations contrary. fressh."14 love. Edward Wagenknecht (New York. and as but Diomede. too. sudden in her nature. 1959). strong. take root "kynde by again wherever the environment is suitable. and not too times her return to surprisingly. if to another in a new seasonal round and slowly. alternating of her various as conditions evoke them. "Character and Action in the Case of Criseyde. her many to the May" (844). ushering repeating the pattern of the first part of the poem. pp. seems irrelevant. . because it doth remove Those things which elemented it." in Chaucer: Modern Essays in Criticism. by-word That "rooteles moot grene soone deye. 154." (IV. Dull sublunary lovers love soul is sense) cannot admit (Whose Absence. she qualities surrounding represents earthly instability. the debate over whether is due more to a certain conscious Criseyde's betrayal "shiftiness" hinted at in her character the or more to a throughout poem.764-70) As John Donne has put it. principle must wither without its noriture.8 LOVE AND DEATH IN TROILUS AND CRISEYDE love. is a means of survival. will survive. give way spring.820). from Troilus? Criseyde How sholde a or creature plaunte lyves withouten his kynde noriture? Lyve For which ful ofte a here I seye. 15. Troilus is "yong. ed. is "as fressh as braunche in hardy lyoun" (830). sublunary Criseyde promised "Lucina the sheene" The which she represents Troy by (IV. and her "little death" in Book IV is a winter that must inevitably." and the same token. reduced to its biological fundamentals. Seen in this light.1591). 348-65..15 She is merely in change acting accord with the she and in to a conviction principle represents acquiescence of the inevitability of change ("O brotel wele of mannes joie unstable!") (111.

nyl nought (11. In the semi-comic a deal of higher first. Dunning puts it.460-62) In a sense of Troilus awaits return. and know are. whan it is cast . And reed that boweth down for every blast. great courtly is but no is made Troilus to it. lo. Was absent. that of his herte berth the keye." removed from sense. And with the removal of its object from Criseyde Troy.1387-89) Implied in Pandarus' of seasonal is a sense of the recognition adversity of his advice to Troilus to take another possibility recovery?thus sweetheart. special "faithfully. inflexible idea. Criseyde's arrival in the Greek initiates another with obvious to camp round. Troilus is best understood in what be seen as an through may And as character is more accessible in terms ascending spiral. wight (V. LONNIE J. Criseyde's easily of life?because she is of a of toward representative principle life?death.) idealizes of his but each characteristically every part experience. and not committed to an they earth-bound. which he moves from the tells us more about Troilus. 18-21]. Troilus' death at the hands of Achilles. in which Troilus faints in the council chamber. attempt by satisfy In the second there is a of the real and ideal for a stage. his love does not wither from lack of but burns with a new flame "kynde noriture. As Pandarus says. stage. But so an ook. glorious merging moment which will as result. For she. That no sholde maken melodie. Ful cesse it wol lightly. aryse. subsequent awakening earthly (Chaucer omits a scene of the Filostrato [IV. DURHAM 9 and survive amounts to a of mutability) adjust (which practical recognition because they are. if we count the husband who preceded Troilus). wynd. this was his fantasie.. in Troilus' "overloading human . so that this will not be Troilus perhaps pattern interrupted. stage elicits from him a idealism. a that is with Troilus' idealism. yearning generated. beginning. parallels on a higher plane the "little death" in Book III and his to love.. There is no suggestion totally incompatible but that Troilus means to end his life when it appears that question seriously is really dead.. parallels the first wooing (or second." Criseyde's m If is best understood in terms of her or seasonal Criseyde cyclical progression the poem. and the subsequent flight of his soul into heavenly love (the eighth sphere).

remained of love because of her. . withouten any by lye" (3013-15). "promise and assurance of almost but everything... p. having been duly informed of the function of marriage?and of the relationship of death to life."1 And in the final stage. One claims in represent Emelye reverence. 176.. Troilus would have Criseyde. 164. / And nat eterne. and Palamon the idealist is given the hand of Emelye. he is of the ignorant altogether. question Pandarus.10 LOVE AND DEATH IN TROILUS AND CRISEYDE 6 love with more than it can bear. implies this when he says. as to a creature . "God and Man in Troilus and Criseyde. the other "law of In the with religious through kynde. if adjust (Pandarus Criseyde) little for Yet there is no that without the practical help of tragedy. Ibid. Without of course. Criseyde phrase. What is the final view? The recognition of mutability and the ability to to it and has considerable value for survival. but in placing the fact that he places his faith in a thing which can reflect back to him 8 the image of that faith and yet be incapable of sustaining it. Thou woost nat yet now Wheither she be a womman or goddesse! is affeccioun of hoolynesse. A hymn all-pervasive power courtly en emaux is too brittle to stand the temperature springtime preserved changes of the seasons. "Love of kynde" is the image of celestial love (and is to be celebrated as 16. 18.. capable to the of love at the end of Book III." dispute Palamon. myn (A1156-59) There is little to choose between them until the death of Arcite provides the text of the lesson for Theseus. which is for him the ladder of death. Chaucer and the French Tradition. Thyn And is love. reinforces that Muscatine suggestion. nothing change." p. 162. Arcite argues. The of the does not on so fortuitous a fact as meaning poem hinge Troilus' his faith in the wrong woman or in a bad woman." Nearly the same dilemma is posed in the Knight's Tale. The idealism of Troilus itself suggests Platonism. to use Muscatine's of impossible. 17. the ladder of love. Troilus dies again to reawaken to a love that is as immutable as that he demanded of the world. p. that of and progres "speces thynges siouns / Shullen enduren successiouns. the blood brothers the dissevered halves of an ideal human love. yet too great a flexibility makes any higher kind of devotion In we find. the idealism of Troilus' initial infatuation would have wasted itself in sterile narcissism.

then. while the "white eagle. LONNIE J. ironically. 34-9) and so to the ends: This is the comune love to alle and alle axen to ben thingis. is meant from the unmitigably for flight. to the cause that hath ayein. imperfect image. and thilke same attempraunce. His such). 34-70. and drencheth undir the laste deth. to be concerned with ends to the exclusion of means while Pandarus and. to to the of nature in give meaning unending cycle represented Criseyde ("For God so loved the world") and to prepare a place for the white eagle. love." Shoeck and Taylor. soaring University of Minnesota 19." Troilus. (V. See Walter Clyde Curry. alle thinges iborn. This atempraunce and forth alle that norysscheth bryngeth thinges brethith lif in this world. The limitation of the latter view is that it is earth-bound. For elles ne myghten they nat lasten yif thei ne comen nat eftsones love retorned. more are concerned with the passively. m. The reconciliation of means and ends is stated most beginning in with the seasonal or the means : explicitly Boece?beginning cycle. . thinges holden by the fyn of good. Troilus must be said. and roos. to God. m. by yeven hem beinge (that is to seyn. (IV. ravysschynge. Nature-as-destiny. nothing than the of the creation its the "force of orderly progression through phases. hideth and bynymeth. "Destiny in Troilus and Criseyde. 54-60) The tragedy of Troilus and Criseyde is defined against the background of the Divine Comedy in which Christ that right for love a crois. of Providence is on the level and questioning always highest consistently the "common" which is more ignores destiny." that Troilus celebrates in his song at the end of Book III. but to simply greenwood sit in hevene above.6. not to grace the as Adonis the blossom.6. oure so?les for to Upon beye. Criseyde means to the exclusion of ends. 1841-44) that is. DURHAM 11 but it is an a fact which Troilus fails to realize. pp. First starf.) (IV.