, Volume 98, Issue 1, pp 129–144 | Cite as

Kingship, Fatherhood, and the Abdication of History in Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde

  • Harold C. Zimmerman


While Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde is not, strictly speaking, a translation, it is heavily indebted both to the medieval understanding of Trojan historiography and to Boccacio’s handling of the romance of Troiolo and Criseida in his Filostrado. While Chaucer was a capable translator with respect and fondness for Boccaccio’s text, he was also a confident innovator who was quite willing to modify, append, or totally change the text whenever the needs of his particular narrative warrant it. One such site of this deliberate alteration is in the handling of the character of Priam, King of Troy. While Chaucer includes every passage in which Boccaccio mentions Priam, he consistently modifies the phrasing or situation in order to downplay the king’s political role, emphasizing instead his interpersonal or familial bonds. Furthermore, the material that Chaucer adds concerning Priam expands the changes made in translation, furthering a move away from the social and political and toward the personal and the individual. This example, one of many, indicates that Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde is a work constructed around history that tries to suppress the political and historical, attempting instead to interpret events and characters in terms of their most immediate, personal settings or, when pressed, by eternal truths such as Love or Fortune. Such a focus allows us to see the “depth” of the individual or the philosophical foundations of their faith while attempting to deny the political and ideological construction of this subjectivity and belief.


Chaucer, Geoffrey Boccaccio, Giovanni Trojan historiography Translation Subjectivity 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Honors CollegeEast Tennessee State UniversityJohnson CityUSA

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