Troilus and Criseyde

Why Don't We Like Troilus?

Chaucer's 'Troilus and Criseyde' opens to the ringing tones of Troilus's 'double sorwe'. From the first lines it is ascertained that he is the main character of the poem, no matter how attractive Pandarus and Criseyde appear. Troilus' heartbreak, explained in 8,000 glorious lines, is the subject of some contention amongst the poem's various audiences. Criseyde's guilt, and so Troilus' worth, has been extrapolated by the likes of Robert Henryson, who described Criseyde's horrible punishment and eventual death. Here Criseyde becomes the villain of the piece, and Troilus is exonerated. But what of his ramrodding her into confessions of love? Perhaps Chaucer intended him to be no more than a tragic dreamer who had no right to expect from Criseyde the same devotion that he gave. At the end of the poem Troilus is left, feeling rather foolish, mocking and alone, but this is also part of how we seem him. At whom is he laughing? The question of how much an audience 'likes' Troilus is as important as that of how Chaucer intended him to be understood. Using Benson as the key text, this issue of our appreciation of Troilus will be the main focus of this essay.

Perhaps it is most rewarding...

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