Home Page Button Syllabus / Policies Button Composition Button Grammar Button Rhetoric Button Rhetoric Button Literature button poetry button classical button medieval button Renaissance Button Vocabulary Button


451 Study Questions for Excerpts from Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde Book 3

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

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 Caliope; Citheria (Venus/Aphrodite), the narrative voice; Pandarus; Calkas; Criseyde; Ector (Hector); the palladium, Cupid, Imeneus (Hymen)

[Summary of Earlier Material: In Book II, Pandarus has carried letters back and forth and arranged for Troilus to meet Criseyde. He lies to Criseyde, telling her that "my lady queene Eleyne / Abideth yow," and argues she should only take a small "prees" (crowd) such as her niece Antigoné. Book II ends with Troilus in hiding, wondering what to say as he gets his first chance to speak to Criseyde alone.]

Reading Questions:

Proem to Book III (lines 1-49)

  • Before invoking an actual Muse, the narrator prays to what goddess in third book? Hint: She is called "Joves doughter deere," and "plesance of love." In what four regions does this goddess exert her power? Into what six types of creatures does the goddess pour her "vapour eterne"?
  • What do all creatures need to survive, according to the narrator?
  • This goddess is capable of appeasing (apaisen) the ire of what male god?
  • After this lengthy prayer to the goddess of love, what muse does the speaker finally invoke to "be now present" with her voice?

(From Book III excerpts, lines 50--382):

  • What is Troilus's mental state as he waits for his love, Criseyde? Describe his emotions.
  • How does Pandarus refer to Criseyde when he announces her presence to Troilus? How is this a bit of a "guilt trip"?
  • How does Troilus react after he hears Criseyde speak? (See lines 78-84.) What happens to his complexion in line 82? In lines 94-95?
  • In line 91, what does the narrator appeal to as his source of factual information? How is this typically medieval?
  • What are the only two words Troilus is able to croak out as he stares at the ground? Why does he speak it "twyes"?
  • In line 106, Troilus calls her a "wommanliche wif." How is the word "wif" being used differently here than we use the word wife in Modern English? How does this result in a pleonastic construction?
  • What do you make of the narrator's claim that Troilus has "manly sorwe" in line 113? Does it seem particularly masculine to you? How does this reflect a difference in ideas about what's "manly" in the modern world versus what is "manly" in the medieval world? Or is the term used ironically?
  • Who cries to see Troilus so heart-broken? (Hint: It's not Criseyde.)
  • What does Pandarus keep doing to Criseyde as Troilus speaks?
  • When Criseyde isn't sure what to say, who supplies her with sample dialogue?
  • In lines 155-168, Criseyde responds to Troilus's pleas. When she speaks, however, she uses third person pronouns. To whom is she actually speaking?
  • Criseyde makes one warning to Troilus. Even though he is a king's son, what does Criseyde insist upon?
  • Who will hold all the power in the relationship according to Criseyde's arrangement?
  • What does Pandarus ask of Troilus, now that Pandarus has arranged for his niece to be Troilus's lover?

[Summary of missing material: Pandarus arranges for a second trist between Troilus and Criseyde.]

(From Book III excerpts, lines 910-end of Book III):

  • In lines 939-41, according to Criseyde, all her "trist" (sorrow) is due to what or whom? Accordingly, how does she ask Pandarus to "werk" at arranging a meeting?
  • According to Pandarus, who or what will "ese" the "sorwes smerte" of the two lovers in line 950?
  • What happens to Criseyde's calm demeanor when Troilus enters the room in line 956?
  • What does Criseyde say to Troilus, or how does she greet him, when he arrives in her bedroom? (Trick question!)
  • What does Pandarus have Criseyde do when he sees Troilus kneeling before her?
  • After Criseyde politely kisses Troilus and bids him sit down beside her on the bed, how does Pandarus declare he will occupy himself?
  • What sort of book is Pandarus "reading"?
  • In line 979, what do the words "and fond his contenaunce" suggest about the nature or intensity of Pandarus's engrossment in the book?
  • What vice does Criseyde declaim in lines 987 et passim?
  • At the end of her sermon against this vice, Criseyde's eyes begin to fill with tears. In lines 1053-54, what vow does she then make to Troilus? What adverb in the sentence seems to undermine or undercut her heartfelt vow?
  • When Troilus sees Criseyde crying, what does he curse?
  • When Pandarus sees Troilus and Criseyde lying down on the bed weeping and "astoned" or "oppressed," what does he do--i.e., where does he cast himself and what does he do with his shirt?
  • What excuse does Pandarus come up with so he can "dim the lights" for Troilus and Criseyde in line 1137?
  • What things does Criseyde want to know about Troilus in lines 1142 et passim? Why do you suppose she wants to know these things?
  • When Troilus reaches out and grabs Criseyde forcefully, what does Pandarus say? Why do you suppose Chaucer throws in this detail?
  • How does Criseyde react physically when Troilus seizes her in his arms? What are two ways of reading her reaction?
  • Troilus tells his "swete" to yield to his advances. What does Criseyde snap back in response?
  • Where has Pandarus gone during all this interlude? (Trick question!)
  • When Troilus lavishes his attention on Criseyde's sides, throat, and breasts, he offers a prayer to two goddesses. One is to Citheria (Venus); the other is to Hymen (a minor deity under Artemis that preserves virginity.) Why does he pray to these two deities?
  • At the height of passion, Criseyde calls out, "Welcome, my knyght, my pees, my suffisaunce!" What interrupts this depiction of the love-making or what interrupts the narrative at this point?
  • Why does the narrator say he can't write of "hire delit or joies oon the leeste"?
  • According to the narrator, where can the reader learn "al" of the events?
  • What warning does the narrator make about his words/translation in lines 1331-37?
  • In lines 1366 and following, Chaucer adds a scene not found in any of his source material. What do the lovers exchange or trade in this scene?
  • What is the design on the ring Criseyde gives to Troilus? [Lecture: What traits did the specified gemstone have according to medieval lapidaries?]
  • In line 1373, the narrator has a hissyfit. Of what does he complain in certain readers and writers?
  • Explain the allusion to Alcmena and Jove that Criseyde makes in lines 1426 et passim.
  • As an antithesis to Criseyde's speech, what does Troilus curse in his response?
  • In lines 1492-98, Criseyde makes another oath to Troilus. Read her words carefully. What exactly does she swear? What exactly does she not swear?
  • After Troilus puts his clothes back on, how many times does he hug Criseyde?
  • When Criseyde sees Uncle Pandarus in the morning, Pandarus declares something about last night. What does he declare happened last night that may have prevented Criseyde from getting a full night's sleep?
  • When Pandarus teases Criseyde, what does she do in lines 1569-70?
  • After Pandarus quips about his head being cut off, he pries under the bed sheets. Where does he thrust his hands? What does he do to Criseyde after putting his hands there?
  • After the disturbing details of the previous question mentioned above, the narrator declares, "I pass al that which chargeth nought to seye." A few lines later, he adds, "And Pandarus hath fully his entente." What do you make of this?
  • When Pandarus comes to talk to Troilus, how many times does Troilus thank him for his aid in the wooing of Criseyde?
  • [Lecture:] The Canticus Troili (The Song of Troilus) is an example of what genre?
  • The tradition of Courtly Love says that being in love improves a knight. What vices does Troilus avoid to make himself worthy of Criseyde according to lines 1803 et passim?
  • According to the narrator, what physical handicap does Cupid have?
  • How would you describe the tone or mood of the final stanza of book III in terms of its emotional qualities?


A. "Now wol ye wel bigynne.
Now doth hym sitte, goode nece deere,
Upon youre beddes syde al ther withinne,
That each of yow the bet may other heere."
And with that word he drow hym to the feere,
And took a light, and fond his contenaunce,
As for [as if] to looke upon an old romaunce.

B. "Welcome, my knyght, my pees, my suffisaunce!"

C: And pleyinge entrechaungeden hire rynges,
Of whiche I kan nought tellen no scripture;
But welI woot, a broche, gold and asure
In which a ruby set was lik an herte,
Criseyde hym yaf, and stak it on his sherte.

D. And with a sik she seyde, "O herte deere,
The game, ywys, so ferforth now is gon
That first shal Phebus fallen fro his speere,
And everich egle ben the dowves feere,
And everich roche out of his place sterte,
Er Troilus oute of Criseydes herte."

F. "That is to seye, for the am I bicomen,
Bitwixen game and ernest, swich a meene
As maken wommen unto men to comen;
Al sey I nought, thow wost wel what I meene.
For the have I my nece, of fices cleene,
So fully maad thi gentilesse triste,
That al shal ben right as thiselven liste."

Concluding Questions:

Where would you place the plot in terms of Freytag's pyramid at the end of Book III? Why do you suppose Chaucer chooses to have five books total?

What are we to make of the way Pandarus not only makes all the arrangements for the two lovers, but also the way he writes letters (and responses to his own letters) in each participants' names? How about the way he advises each one of what to say when they meet? How about the way he arranges them together in the bedroom as if they were dolls? What about his dalliance with Criseyde the next morning and the narrator's odd silence regarding this scene? Is this creepy? Funny? Strange?


To Home Page
Copyright Dr. L. Kip Wheeler 1998-2017. Permission is granted for non-profit, educational, and student reproduction. Last updated January 5, 2017. Contact: kwheeler@cn.edu Please e-mail corrections, suggestions, or comments to help me improve this site. Click here for credits, thanks, and additional copyright information.