451 Study Questions for Excerpts from
Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde Book 2
proem, epic, invocation of the muse, historical romance,
Useful Middle English terms:
(honor) briddes (a metathesis
for "bird's"), Em (informal term for "Uncle")
Identify the following characters,
objects, and places:
Troy, Priam; Troilus; the Muse Cleo (Clio); the narrative
voice; Pandarus; Calkas; Criseyde; Ector (Hector); the
[Summary of Earlier Material: At the
end of Book I, Troilus reveals to his friend Pandarus
that he is love with Criseyde. Pandarus is Criseyde's
uncle, but he declares he will happily aid his friend
Troilus in the seduction of his young niece. Pandarus
goes and presents Troilus' suit to her. Our excerpts
to Book II, and then jumps ahead to the dream Criseyde
has that night after hearing that the Prince is in love
with her. Troilus is anxiously awaiting Pandarus's return.]
Proem to Book II (lines 1-49)
- What is the "black sea" the
narrator is struggling upon in the first seven lines of
- What Muse does the narrator invoke for
the second book?
- What disclaimer does the narrator make
in Book II concerning the "sentement" of the
- If the reader finds any part of the
work to be "lame," the narrator asks that the
audience "disblameth" him. Who should the reader
blame instead, according to the narrator?
- How or in what manner does the narrator
claim to speak of love? Is this tone appropriate or inappropriate
for an artistic poet? How about for an unbiased historian
- What does the narrator claim about the
originality or newness of his work?
- Why does the narrator compare himself
to a blind man judging colors? What does he mean to suggest
about himself through this implied simile or metaphor?
- In the fourth stanza, the speaker shows
a marvelous knowledge of linguistics. What does he realize
about the nature of language?
- What does the narrator claim about those
members of his audience who say, "I'd never be as
foolish as Troilus"?
(From Book II excerpts, lines 918-1209):
- What bird is singing as Criseyde sleeps?
- As Criseyde sleeps, what sort of bird
appears in her dreams? What color is this bird? Where
does this bird set his claws?
- What violent action does the bird do
to Criseyde in her dream or nightmare?
- What does the bird do with its own heart?
- How much pain does this action cause
- Troilus calls for Pandarus to join
him at the palace. What does "Pandarus" mean in Greek? (Compare
to the feminine form "Pandora" if necessary.)
How is Pandarus's name an onomastic pun?
- In line 939, how does Pandarus enter
- What does Troilus mean when he asks
Pandarus, "Frend, shal I now wepe or synge?"
- Explain the imagery of "don thyn hood"
from hawking in line 954.
- [Lecture: when Pandarus holds up both
his hands and says, "Lord, al thyn be that I have!"
his body language and speech is reminiscent of what
feudal custom? Hint: This
same custom gives us the stylized body language of
clasped hands to indicate
- In lines 1001 onward, what does Pandarus
say he would do if he were in Troilus's shoes?
- Pandarus has some tips on making the
love-letter look authentic. What should Troilus "biblotte"
(smear) on the letter, according to Pandarus?
- What are some of the terms of endearment
Troilus uses to address Criseyde in the letter? List
- What does Troilus "bathe" his ruby
signet ring in before he seals the wax?
- Who delivers the letter to Criseyde?
- What does Criseyde mean when she asks
Pandarus, "How ferforth be ye put in loves daunce."
- When Pandarus delivers the letter to
Criseyde, he engages in a bit of emotional blackmail
in lines 1126-27.
- When Criseyde first hears that some
unknown knight has sent her a love-letter, is she pleased
or dismayed? (Examine lines 1129-1134). What triggers
this reaction in her?
- When Criseyde refuses to accept the
letter, where does Pandarus stuff ("thrast") the letter?
This is not considered appropriate behavior for an
uncle and a niece, so what do you make of this violent
- When Criseyde refuses to write a letter
back to Troilus, and says Pandarus can take back whatever
reply he wants, how does Pandarus go about obtaining
a letter to bring back to Troilus?
- As soon as Pandarus leaves, what does
Criseyde do with Troilus's letter tucked in her bosom?
- Who tries to play peeping Tom as Criseyde
reads the letter? What does Criseyde do in response?
A. "Ye knowe ek that
in forme of speche is chaunge
Withinne a thousand yeer, and wordes tho
That hadden pris, now wonder nyce and straunge
Us thinketh hem, and yet thei spake hem so,
And spedde as wel in love as men now do;
Ek for to wynnen love in sondry ages,
In sondry londes, sondry ben usages.
B. And as she slep, anonright
tho hire mette
How that an egle, fethered whit as bon,
Under hire brest his longe clawes sette,
And out hhire herte he rente, and that anon,
And dide his herte into hire brest to gon--
Of which she nought agroos, ne nothyng smerte--
And forth he fleigh, with herte left for herte.
D. "I have herd told,
pardieux, of youre lyvynge,
Ye loveres, and youre lewed observaunces,
And which a labour folk han in wynnynge
Of love, and in the kepyng which doutaunces:
And whan youre prey is lost, woo and penaunces.
O veray fooles, nyce and blynde be ye!
Ther nys nat oon kan war by other be."
E. And of his song naught
only the sentence
As writ myn auctour called Lollius,
But pleinly, save oure tonges difference,
I dar wel seyn, in al, that Troilus
Seyde in his song, loo, every word right thus
As I shal seyn; and whoso list it here,
Loo, next this vers he may it fynden here.
F. This Pandarus gan
on hire for to stare,
And seyde, "Now is this the grettest wondre
That evere I seight! Lat be this nyce fare!
To dethe mot I smyten be with thondre,
If for the citee which that stondeth yondre,
Wolde I a lettre unto yow brynge or take
To harm of yow! What list yow thus it make?
. . . But for al that that ever I may deserve,
Refuse it naught," quod he, and hente hire faste,
And in hire bosom the lettre down he thraste.
Why does the narrator change to a new muse in Book II?
Why this muse rather than Tisiphone? [Bonus
Question: why did a prominent psychic representing
a 900 number choose the name of this Muse for her stage
persona? Why is it appropriate or inappropriate?]
Why is the eagle white in Criseyde's dream?
Why as "whit
as bon"? Is that meant to be ominous?
In Biblical iconography, Saint John the Divine is symbolized
by the eagle. How does this connect with the eagle's appearance
in Criseyde's dream? (Hint: What
did medieval people believe John had written in addition
to the Biblical book of John--though modern scholars believe
John of Patmos to be a different person altogether?)