Chaucer’s “Troilus and Criseyde”

Instructor:  Juliet Baker

  • Thursday afternoon
  • 1:00 – 3:00 pm
  • Text required

William Chaucer’s lyrical masterpiece, “Troilus and Criseyde” (1380’s), is a tragic romance written in five sections of flawless rhyme royale and set in the besieged city of Troy. Taking his text from Boccaccio’s “Filostrato,” Chaucer, like him, emphasizes the “urgencies, glories, pains and absurdities of sexual love.”  Under Chaucer’s stewardship, the story’s intensity grows in passion and beauty— Troilus, overwhelmed by love, Pandarus, doing all he can to please the lovers, but failing, and Criseyda, so in love, but more cautious. In Criseyda, Chaucer strikingly realizes and humanely develops a woman unlike other female characters known to medieval readers. There is nothing cynical about these lovers. The story is as honest as it is heartbreaking.  While we read, we will refer to Shakespeare’s very different treatment in his “Troilus and Cressida,” we will remain aware of 14th Century history and philosophy, especially Boethius, and we will become far more cognizant of the beauties of Middle English!

Required Text: We will read the text in Middle English—“Troilus and Criseyde.”  (Penguin Paper Back), edited by Barry Windeatt. Amazon- $17.00. Used copies from $10.00 to $1.38. It’s easy to find good ones. Barry Windeatt also has an excellent translation, “Troilus and Criseyde,” (Oxford World Classics), Amazon-$10.93. Used copies $7.95-3.98.

Juliet Baker has taken and taught many courses here at Senior College, specializing perhaps in Nineteenth Century British novels (Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, to name a few) and literature from the British Middle Ages, such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and works by Chaucer. She has always loved this stuff, and she loves teaching you even more!