Source : Troilus and Criseyde, translated into modern English by Margaret Stanley-Wrench, published by Centaur Press, 1965.
Troilus and Criseyde, the couple who pledge love to each other inside the besieged walls of Troy, only for Criseyde to find new love in the Greek camp … well, what a long-winded mess this is!
None of the characters come out of this in a heroic vein. Pandarus, Criseyde’s uncle who virtually pimps her to the Trojan Prince Troilus to gain his favour ; Criseyde, who despite her constantly voiced concerns over her honour and reputation, succumbs to Troilus’ tears and uncle’s connivances, gives herself body and soul to Troilus, and yet manages to fall in love with one of the enemy before she has passed ten days in the Greek camp; and Troilus who is perhaps the biggest wimp in the entire Trojan War that he makes Paris seem manly (at least he acted decisively if not wisely when he abducted Helen)
All of Chaucer’s works (excluding The Canterbury Tales) deal with love in some way or other, but this long epic takes two characters who were creations of medieval poets and gives them a lengthy and uninspiring tragedy.
Even the translator seems to weary of the tale early, at times sounding more like Dr Seuss than Homer
“For God’s love, say, is the siege done away?
I’m so afraid of Greeks I almost die!”
“No by my soul,” he said, “Not this, no no,
Five times much better is the thing I know!”
And after many pages of Criseyde wailing and warning how fickle men’s love is and frightened of her loss of virtue, we are not really given much explanantion of her change of heart and new love which is all over in a couple of paragraphs, mostly because apparently she feels lonely.
Personal rating: 5/10
Other reading: I also read Chaucer’s minor poems, The House of Fame, The Parliament of Birds, and The Legend of Good Women, all dream visions of love, but none inspired me in a post-Christmas haze to create a post.