Courtly Love Conventions in Troilus and Creseyde Essay

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Courtly Love Conventions in Troilus and Creseyde

From the beginning the reader knows that "Troilus and Criseyde" is both a romance and a tragedy, for if the name of the poem and the setting of doomed Troy are not enough of a clue, Chaucer's narrator tells us so explicitly. This is a tale of:

The double sorwe of Troilus to tellen,


In lovying, how his aventures fellen

Fro wo to wele, and after out of joie2

This waxing and waning of Troilus' and Criseyde's happiness in love allows Chaucer to explore the different manifestations of love in his contemporary society, and what the costs of loving might be. In particular, Criseyde's fear of love, and betrayal of Troilus' love, raises the
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But this synchronicity is not the working of Fortune as is implied frequently throughout text. Rather it is the working of a master composer. This scene makes explicit a vortex of forces of relevance to the medieval nobility - particularly the social forces inherent in the imagery of courtly love. I believe that David Aers was on the right track when he suggested that:

In Troilus he [Chaucer] used the romance genre and the conventions of courtly literature to explore the anomalies between upper class literary conventions and realities, to explore the tensions between the place women occupied in society and the various self-images presented to them, and to imagine his way into the psychic cost for men and women in the relevant situation.6

How are these forces, or anomalies, made explicit in this scene? Although the references to courtly love are positive - positive enough to reassure the doubt filled Criseyde - there is a constant negative refrain.

To begin with, Antigone has just sung a song about a couple who love each other both truly and "faste" 7, but the song ends with an echo of Criseyde's fear.

"All dredde I first to love hym to bigynne,

Now woot I wel, ther is no peril inne."8

Next comes a moment which appears to be an artless revelation to Criseyde - her

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