Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde
Croilus and Criseyde is a middle age love poem written by Geoffrey Chaucer in a period ranging from 1381 to 1386. In particular, the story rotates between two lovers Troilus and Criseyde from the city of Troy. In the story, Criseyde is the daughter of an oracle known as Calkas while Troilus comes from the nobility since he is the son of Priamus the king of Troy. Calkas through the god Apollo, visions the destruction of Troy as a city, “Calkas plots to leave Troy quickly as soon as he learns the destruction of troy” (Andretta 45). The love connection between Troilus and Criseyde is aided by advice from Criseyde’s uncle, Pandarus, who is also a loyal friend to Troilus. Pandarus states, “a woman given love unaware of, reciprocate by rewarding feeling less love“. “Criseyde contemplates accepting Troilus love” (Andretta 107). At that point of time, there exists a conflict between the Greeks and the Trojans. The conflict results into the separation of the two lovers Troilus and Criseyde. Criseyde is taken to the Greeks; there her love for Troilus is compromised when a Greek warrior by the name Diomedes comes into the picture. This paper will give a discussion on whether Criseyde was a faithless woman who broke hers lover’s vows just to save a self, or contrarily if she was a modern, intelligent woman living her life as an opportunist. The discussion will also include analyzing the outcome of Criseyde if she would have remained faithful to Troilus, and concludes with the actions I would have taken if I were Criseyde.
The fate, which fell on Criseyde originated from the unfortunate situation in which Antenor, a Trojan soldier was captured by the Greeks in the event of Greek-Trojan war (Andretta 88). The only way, Antenor could be saved from the hands of the Greeks is through “exchanging Criseyde for Antenor” (Andretta 98). Criseyde, Troilus’ lover has no other, different alternative but only to be taken by the Greeks while leaving behind his lover. The decision to exchange Criseyde for Antenor, is support by Pandarus, but objected by Troilus, “Pandarus insists that Criseyde should be exchanged for Antenor …Pandarus urges Troilus to let his love for Criseyde go” (Andretta 104). The question left unanswered is whether Criseyde’s falling for a Greek lover Diomedes, besides Troilus is out of convenience or opportunism. It is evident that, the act of Criseyde breaking her lover’s vows is strategic and proves her to be a modern and intelligent woman. Criseyde was rational enough to comprehend that she cannot escape the Greeks, and at the same time, the Greeks would have killed her if she would not abide. Criseyde a daughter of a seer has lived a life in which she had always hoped to be free. In the Greek camp, although Criseyde has found herself there as a result of mysterious events, she has experienced more sense of freedom compared to Troy. Another issue that drives Criseyde to remain in the Greek camp break her faithfulness towards Troilus and fall in love with Diomedes, is her father “…she sees her father in the Greek camp” (Andretta 85). Criseyde is a pragmatic and a realist woman, after discovering that there is no more going back to Troy, and especially back under Troilus hands she decides to move on with her life. Pragmatism entails taking full advantage of whatever situation that come son the way that is what Criseyde has precisely done. “Criseyde in the Greek camp becomes easily persuaded to fall in love with Diomedes” (Andretta 118). Criseyde took advantage of falling in love with Diomedes since she understood that he was equally a man and a warrior like Troilus. Moreover, there was no way she could ever get back to Troilus.
If Criseyde had taken the position of remaining faithful to Troilus, even though she was on the hands of the Greeks her would not have enjoyed any freedom. Criseyde’s faithfulness towards Troilus would have left her in regret and despair since “Troilus is embedded in total truth; he has committed himself to being faithful towards Criseyde till death” (Andretta 77). Criseyde’s faithfulness would have ultimately resulted to her death; the Greeks would not see any more use for her. Criseyde was intelligent enough to realize this factor, and she decided to fall for Diomedes. Ultimately, if Troilus would have learnt of Criseyde’s faithfulness while she was in the Greek camp, he would have gone to fight for her rescue. The outcome of the story in this case would have been a fierce and bloody battle between the Greeks and Trojans, which results in deaths of many people including Criseyde.
When I put myself in the same position Criseyde had been, I would have considered both sides of the coin. As a pragmatist, due to the situation at hand, I would have done the same thing Criseyde did. I would have derived my decision from Diomedes’ point to Criseyde “forget Troy and the Trojans” (Andretta 78). My decision would also be supported by Pandarus advice to Troilus “forget all about Criseyde” (Andretta 160). Another statement that supports the point of remaining with the Greeks and falling for Diomedes is “Criseyde is to be exchanged for Antenor” (Andretta 98).
The story of Troilus and Criseyde can be judged from a moral or survival perspective. From a moral perspective, Criseyde should have remained faithful to Troilus, although she was on the hands of the Greeks. However, this could have been detrimental to Criseyde because it would have resulted to her captivity or even death. On the other hand, from a survival perspective, this is exactly what Criseyde did; she opted for the present opportunities. Troilus was not fortunate enough; as a result, he was left with despair and hurt since she lost Criseyde and his life ultimately.
- Andretta H. Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde: a poet’s response to Ockhamism. New York: Peter Lang, 1997. Print
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