Troilus and Criseyde

  • Rob Pope
Part of the How to Study Literature book series


Troilus and Criseyde is a long and complex work and may initially seem forbidding. However, many people think that this is also Chaucer’s greatest work and you will find that it more than repays serious consideration. Here are some preliminary definitions to help you get your bearings. First, Troilus and Criseyde is a medieval court romance in that it presents a chivalric view of love and war. The action may be set in classical times, during the siege of Troy, but really the characters are medieval knights and ladies, and their behaviour is basically ‘courtly’. The Knight’s Tale is another example of a court romance which mixes classical setting with medieval characters. Secondly, Troilus and Criseyde is altogether weightier and more philosophical than most court romances in that it includes substantial elements from a moral tract called The Consolation of Philosophy. Thirdly, the story of Troilus and Criseyde is a ‘tragedy’ in that it shows the rise and fall of its protagonists’ fortunes and invites us to share their joy and pain along the way. In other words, for all its size and variety, this poem is still definable in fairly simple terms. Troilus and Criseyde is a medieval romance set in classical times and it deals with the tragic fate of its main characters in a morally serious way. Such a definition may not get you far but it will get you started


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© Rob Pope 1988

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  • Rob Pope

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