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Written by Victoria Joss
The protagonist, and one-half of the couple that gives the text its title. Troilus is a Trojan prince and a warrior, who is initially naïve and mocks those in love. As the text progresses, his affair with Criseyde encourages him to become a chivalrous, honourable and mature character. Despite this, many audiences often dislike him for his complaining. He seems to take for granted the good fortune he receives, then laments when he is out of fortune. He is also manipulated easily by Pandarus, especially when writing love letters to Criseyde, questioning how empty of a character Chaucer intended him to be.
Criseyde is Troilus’ lover but is much more complex as a character than this role alone. She is reluctant to embark on the relationship with Troilus, and intelligently considers the effects an affair will have on the freedom she currently holds as a widow. In past criticism, Criseyde has been criticised for her betrayal of Troilus, instead choosing the Greek warrior Diomedes. Yet arguably, Criseyde is an intelligent and vulnerable woman, recognising that a love affair with Diomedes is the surest way to secure her safety. Chaucer’s narrator, unlike previous sources such as Boccaccio, forgives Criseyde for doing what was necessary.
Pandarus is Criseyde’s Uncle, and the only male presence in the young maidens life. Yet, he features in Chaucer’s tale more as Troilus’ friend, confidante, and advisor. He has been previously described as a ‘secondary’ narrator, prompting plot points to occur and pushing characters to action. He orchestrates almost all of Troilus and Criseyde’s love affair, from manipulating Criseyde to agreeing to meet Troilus, to physically pushing the two lovers into bed together. When Criseyde betrays Troilus, Pandarus acts as a counselor.
Diomedes is a Greek soldier that offers his friendship and protection as soon as Criseyde arrives at the Greek camp. Whilst Troilus’ masculinity and substance is questioned, Diomedes is unquestionably a man: a broad, assertive warrior. He speaks of love soon after meeting Criseyde, and he becomes her lover and protector. Troilus swears to kill him, and they meet in battle, yet they do not die by each other's hand.
The narrator is in between a character and the author, Chaucer. They are present at the start of each book in the Proems to the Gods, and the narrator regularly comments his support for Troilus and Criseyde’s love. At the start of Book I, he proclaims himself unworthy of love himself. Otherwise, we know little of the narrator, apart from his role as a storyteller.
Calkus is Criseyde’s Father and a soothsayer. Early in Book I, he predicts that the Trojans will fall to the Greeks and deserts to the Greek camp. This leaves Criseyde vulnerable and alone in Troy, in need of protection. He also orchestrates the exchange of Antenor for Criseyde. Whilst a minor character, Calkus is important for two major plot points: Criseyde being left in Troy alone, and her departure for the Greek camp.
Hector is the brother of Troilus and Paris, and a son of Priam, the Trojan King. Criseyde initially appeals to him for protection, and he comes to her aid.
Troilus’ older brother, and the character that arranges for Troilus and Criseyde to meet for the first time at his house.
A Trojan maiden, captured by the Greeks. She becomes relevant when Calkus arranges for Antenor to be exchanged for Criseyde, meaning Criseyde must leave Troy.
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