Troilus and Criseyde

Troilus and Criseyde Imagery


In the first book, the narrator describes the coming of spring, a time when the people of Troy are celebrating the gods at the Palladium—despite their conflict with the Greeks. The vivid imagery of the "meadow clothed with new greenery" and "white and red flowers smell[ing] sweetly" expresses the gaiety that the Trojans feel, even amidst the chaos of war. It also serves to contrast with the morbid mood and attire of Criseyde, who is still mourning the exile of her father.

Sarpedon’s Palace

After Criseyde leaves Troy, Troilus is in extreme grief. Pandarus consistently tries to cheer him up and plan activities that will occupy his mind with something other than his sorrow. He suggests visiting the palace of the wealthy King Sarpedon, who is described as “full of high generosity.” There, the king lavishes his guests with “such magnificence…never known before that day at any feast,” with many delicacies and concerts of “delightful-sounding instruments.” The rich imagery of this scene is meant to contrast with the persistent misery of Troilus, who can only focus on his absent love.

Feminine Beauty

Many passages in Chacuer’s book are dedicated to elaborating on Criseyde’s stunning beauty. Both her physical features and her mannerisms are described as quite alluring; they are certainly a strong factor in Troilus’ initial intense attraction to the lady. In Book 5, the narrator again portrays Criseyde’s beautiful and elegant qualities, such as her “shining hair” that falls over her back and is tied “with a golden thread.” Her gaze is also described as especially powerful, with the narrator exclaiming that “paradise stood mirrored in her eyes.”


In the second book, Criseyde is finally considering the idea of loving Troilus, especially after hearing the poignant song of her niece Antigone. She sleeps that night and has a dream full of significant symbolism and meaning; she is approached by “an eagle with feathers as white as bone” and “long claws,” which it fixes “under her breast,” painlessly tearing out her heart and replacing it with its own. This dream and its powerful animal imagery marks the point when Criseyde really starts to open her heart to Troilus, becoming so blinded by infatuation that she overlooks the risk and sacrifice.