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451 Study Questions for Excerpts from Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde Book 2

Vocabulary: proem, epic, invocation of the muse, historical romance, persona, onomastic

Useful Middle English terms: pris (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 palladium, Cupid

[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 include the proem 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.]

Reading Questions:

Proem to Book II (lines 1-49)

  • What is the "black sea" the narrator is struggling upon in the first seven lines of Book II?
  • What Muse does the narrator invoke for the second book?
  • What disclaimer does the narrator make in Book II concerning the "sentement" of the book?
  • 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 or scholar?
  • 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 to Criseyde?
  • 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 the room?
  • 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 prayer.]
  • 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 three.
  • 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 action?
  • 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.

Concluding Questions:

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?)



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