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November 14: Translation test of two stanzas from Troilus
and Criseyde, Bk. III
November 21: Regular class on Bk IV – ‘no stress’
November 28: Quiz from Troilus and Criseyde, Bk.
December 5: Term test
Important Middle English words from this week’s reading
(Troilus and Criseyde Bk. 11):
jape = to mock – can have a harsh side as well as a
fere = (y) together, regularly
wot/woot = to know
sely = (often use regarding Troilus); our word ‘silly’
is derived from it, but ‘sely’ means innocent.
It is quite complex and can be innocent as ‘blessed
by fortune’ or as ‘picked on by fortune’
nice = foolish
Use of a "tag" phrase, e.g. soothe to seyne. A
tag is a residue of oral poetry. If composing orally you do
so using a grab bag of ready-made phrases that allow you to
rhyme easily and fill sentences. Old English poetry was alliterative
– did not rhyme. Rhymes were based on stress phrases
easily used in the oral presentations.
Clarification of Chaucer as the father of English Literature
– lots of literature had been written in English prior
to Chaucer, but Chaucer’s works were more self-consciously
The oral and textual co-existed very much in Chaucer’s
time. Dr. Sutherland has a picture showing Chaucer standing
at a podium performing Troilus and Criseyde for a courtly
audience that she will pass around. Then, people had to be
very wealthy to own a book as books were individually prepared
by scribes. The printing press came after Chaucer’s
death. Some residue of the oral tradition can be found in
Chaucer’s consciousness of the process shown in his
(l. 1) This is a conventional motif - the weather is getting
better. Note the use of apostrophe. "travaylle = labor,
whether difficulty or child birth. (l.6-7) The despair that
Troilus was in but now he is better. (l.8) The muses are the
daughters of Zeus with Mnemosyne goddess of Memory. The association
of the muses with dance and song show how much literature
was associated with performance, including sacred performance.
(l.10 -) Chaucer continues his theme of modesty insisting
that this is just history and he is only translating. It is
unusual to have an author writing of the history of English.
This is one of the reasons he is considered the father of
Chaucer continues his interaction with his audience (l.30)
"And forthi if it happe in any wyse, / That here be any
lovere in this place." He knows that they would all have
experienced some form of love. (l.36) All roads go to Rome
but not always on the same path. Chaucer goes from cultural
relativity to individual differences. Dr. Sutherland explained
that this could be read as very radical. At the time, the
Roman Catholic Church was claiming authoritative power through
the "universal" Latin language. The Church banned
the translation of the Bible into the vernacular after Chaucer’s
death but the movement had begun during Chaucer’s time.
Once again we looked at Chaucer’s narrator and compared
Pandarus as a character. Pandarus is also lovesick. We are
reminded that for all his easy speech Pandarus has also felt
At this point Dr. S. broke for Raji’s presentation
on Procne and Philomena.
Chaucer’s audience would have known the story of Tereus,
Procne, and Philomena (or Philomela) and would have understood
the reference suggestion - which adds a dark tone. The behavior
between Pandarus and Criseyde is somewhat flirtatious. Is
there a parallel between Pandarus getting Criseyde for Troilus
and Tereus getting Philomena for Procne?
(l78) Pandarus seeks out Criseyde. She is very seldom alone
which is typical of mediaeval nobility. They are listening
to the story of Thebes, which is the story of Oedipus. (l.89-)
In this scene Pandarus makes an important distinction between
saint’s love and ‘kynde’ love as he attempts
to draw Criseyde out of her widow’s behavior.
Dr. Sutherland focussed on Pandarus’ strategy for getting
Criseyde involved with his plans for Troilus and how this
differed from his bedside strategy with Troilus. He works
first on her curiosity. By the time he finally gets to the
point she is shaking. Now he works on her vanity and her sense
of responsibility at the same time. Troilus is so much in
love with you he will die, and so will I, he claims.
Pandarus sets out the requirements of beauty and virtue and
deals with the problem of gossip. (l.379) He reassures her
that everyone is her friend. (l.394-) He points out that she
is getting older and that no one will want her when she is
old. A woman’s asset was her beauty, and "daunger"
– the conventional female aloofness--is just the beginning,
not how she should stay.
We had the image of Pandarus as the romance writer. Now he
is doing it again, imposing a pattern. Pandarus claims to
have "shryven" = confessed his heart. As Criseyde’s
confides in Pandarus we get a picture of how she falls in
love. The process is far more complex than Troilus’
single moment of conversion in the temple. We looked at the
stages of Criseyde’s falling and the role of chance.
Chance enters when Troilus returns from battle. All the servants
hurry to let him in and are all pressing around him. He is
all armed and is a great sight, with his helmet is all crushed.
Criseyde watches and blushes. Her blushing is not just from
seeing him but from her own feelings and knowing that she
has control of his heart. Chaucer gives us a lot of complexity
to Criseyde’s personality. We see her debate on her
situation and the advantages and disadvantages of becoming
involved with Troilus.
Dr. Sutherland again drew attention to (l.680) Chaucer’s
addresses to the audience in keeping with the oral tradition.
(l.706-) Criseyde goes through intervals of hot and cold.
She is concerned about her "estat". Sometimes she
is confident, sometimes she is fearful. (l.775-) Chaucer shows
society’s attitude towards women. Love is harder for
women than men. Men have work to do but the women (783) "wepe
and sitte and thinke". People gossip and it’s the
girl that gets the bad mouthing. (l.820) Antigone sings her
praise of love – it’s like a religion. You have
to love to be a full human being. Antigone’s song reflects
Criseyde’s fear. (l.890) It is like heaven and hell.
The nightingale story is a part of the textuality. The nightingale
is a sign of redemption. It sings the praise of Christ until
its chest burst. Similarly, the violence in the dream of the
eagle is associated with the heart – the reason you
fall in love. It deals with the psychological complexity of
the mix of two people as they exchange hearts.
Pandarus’ role continues to be central to the two lovers
as he advises Troilus to write Criseyde a letter. Chaucer
uses Pandarus as a composer. (l.1065) It is a good letter
reflecting the teachings of the time. Troilus puts himself
of little worth. This shows a Modesty Topos [Troilus] within
a Modesty Topos [Narrator].
Pandarus continues his romance writing by setting up the second
ride-pass by Troilus. He accuses Criseyde of playing the "tyrant"
for too long and urges her to soften up to Troilus.
Dr. Sutherland points out the use of proverbs such as (l.1076)
"iren hoot" which is similar to the ‘wetstone’
proverb used at the beginning. This too goes back to the oral
tradition. Proverbial wisdom was used to put things simply
so the audience would be able to understand.
Dr. Sutherland explained the layout of the typical house
of the time. The fronts of the houses were usually on the
street with the garden at the back. The paved parlour would
be part of the inside of the house. The bedrooms would be
on the second floor, to give some privacy, although they were
The first test essays and last week’s quiz were handed
out to the class. Amy took over for the last 45 minutes of
class in order to work with students on specific difficulties
they were having with the text.
Translation Exercise : lines 392-406
When the papers were collected Dr. Sutherland
went through the passage as a problem of argumentation—Troilus
using the scholastic "distinction" as a way of assuring
Pandarus that he is not a common baud but a friend. A class
discussion ensued about the problem of this characterization
and the issue of what Pandarus might be getting as "profit."
Dr. Sutherland said that we would focus on problems of logic
and fallacious argumentation in order to try to get a sense
of Chaucer’s point of view on the happy love story.
After more discussion on Pandarus’ character
and his relationship with Criseyde, we analyzed Pandarus’
presence throughout the book, adding to his role as writer
of romance his role as reader of romance, and audience. We
addressed the problem of lack of privacy and wondered to what
degree a medieval audience would feel differently about Pandarus’
presence in the lovers’ bedroom. We went through Criseyde’s
response to Pandarus the "morning after" and noted
the peculiar behaviour of Pandarus, and Criseyde’s seeming
acceptance of it.
We also looked carefully at the proem to Venus and discussed
the Boethian structures that continue throughout the love
scene, into the Canticus Troili, to the end. How
do these structures of public, common love bond sit with the
secrecy of the fyn amour conventions and the aubade,
and Pandarus’s role of manipulator and deceiver? Dr
Sutherland said that as we thought about the book and enjoyed
its wonderful love scene (where is the moment of consummation?
Is there one?) that we need to keep in mind these fractures.
The fractures are evident again in Pandarus’
refusal to allow Criseyde a moment to plan (with reference
back to the Geoffrey of Vinseuf passage at the end of Book
One) how to respond to Troilus’ sudden fit of jealousy,
and his shifting of the complex "ducarnoun" into
a simple problem with an obvious solution. Compare this with
Criseyde’s careful distinctions on jealousy and love
in her gentle chastisement of Troilus.
Another way our attention is drawn to trouble
in paradise is through the figurative allusions throughout
to heaven and hell. Look, for example, at the oaths Pandarus
uses to swear to Criseyde that Troilus is out of town. We
looked at bird imagery as well (Raj pointed out the reference
to Zeus and Leda in the proem).
Dr. Sutherland then took us through Book Three again to pick
out the narrator’s interjections, which she characterized
as retrained and tentative. We talked about Fortune as perhaps
the place where the fractures of the love story are most clearly
in evidence, between Boethian cosmic love and the erotic religion
of fyn amour. Finally Dr Sutherland asked, how can
Criseyde play the sovereign lady of courtly love if she is
in constant fear of her real social status?
It must be immense, this silence, in which sounds and movements
have room, and if one thinks that along with all this the
presence of the distant sea also resounds, perhaps as the
innermost note in this prehistoric harmony, then one can only
wish that you are trustingly and patiently letting the magnificent
solitude work upon you, this solitude which can no longer
be erased from your life; which, in everything that is in
store for you to experience and to do, will act as an anonymous
influence, continuously and gently decisive, rather as the
blood of our ancestors incessantly moves in us and combines
with our own to form the unique, unrepeatable being that we
are at every turning of our life.
Art too is just a way of living, and however
one lives, one can, without knowing, prepare for it; in everything
real one is closer to it, more its neighbor, than in the unreal
half-artistic professions, which, while they pretend to be
close to art, in practice deny and attack the existence of
all art - as, for example, all of journalism does and almost
all criticism and three quarters of what is called (and wants
to be called) literature. I am glad, in a word, that you have
overcome the danger of landing in one of those professions,
and are solitary and courageous, somewhere in a rugged reality.
May the coming year support and strengthen you in that.
Think, dear Sir, of the world that you carry inside you,
and call this thinking whatever you want to: a remembering
of your own childhood or a yearning toward a future of your
own - only be attentive to what is arising within you, and
place that above everything you perceive around you. What
is happening in your innermost self is worthy of your entire
love; somehow you must find a way to work at it, and not lose
too much time or too much courage in clarifying your attitude
toward people. Who says that you have any attitude at all?
l know, your profession is hard and full of things that contradict
you, and I foresaw your lament and knew that it would come.
Now that it has come, there is nothing I can say to reassure
you, I can only suggest that perhaps all professions are like
that, filled with demands, filled with hostility toward the
individual, saturated as it were with the hatred of those
who find themselves mute and sullen in an insipid duty. The
situation you must live in now is not more heavily burdened
with conventions, prejudices, and false ideas than all the
other situations, and if there are some that pretend to offer
a greater freedom, there is nevertheless none that is, in
itself, vast and spacious and connected to the important Things
that the truest kind of life consists of. Only the individual
who is solitary is placed under the deepest laws like a Thing,
and when he walks out into the rising dawn or looks out into
the event-filled evening and when he feels what is happening
there, all situations drop from him as if from a dead man,
though he stands in the midst of pure life. What you, dear
Mr. Kappus, now have to experience as an officer, you would
have felt in just the same way in any of the established professions;
yes, even if, outside any position, you had simply tried to
find some easy and independent contact with society, this
feeling of being hemmed in would not have been spared you.
It is like this everywhere; but that is no cause for anxiety
or sadness; if there is nothing you can share with other people,
try to be close to Things; they will not abandon you; and
the nights are still there, and the winds that move through
the trees and across many lands; everything in the world of
Things and animals is still filled with happening, which you
can take part in; and children are still the way you were
as a child, sad and happy in just the same way and if you
think of your childhood, you once again live among them, among
the solitary children, and the grownups are nothing, and their
dignity has no value.