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451 Study Questions for Excerpts from Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde Book 5 (lines 1-259, 1030-1869)

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

Useful Middle English terms: prime (the first hour of daylight)

Identify the following characters, objects, and places:

The Three Parcae, Lachesis, Troilus, Criseyde, Diomede (aka the Son of Tideus), Antenor, Cassandre (aka Sibille), the boar lying with Criseyde

(From Book V. lines 1-259)

  • Our previous books all had a proem before the main book begins. Why do you suppose there no proem for Book V?
  • Who or what are the three Parcas (Latin Parcae)? Consult a mythology guide and list the three names of these sisters and the three separate jobs they do. Note that they are also known as the moira, in Greek.
  • Who is ready at prime (the first hour of daylight) to escort Criseyde to the Greek host?
  • As Troilus watches Criseyde ride off, what is he tempted to do to Diomede? What fear holds him back from doing this in lines 50-56.
  • Why does Troilus say his father (King Priam) will not repeal or revoke the exchange?
  • What physical action do Antenor and Troilus make when they first encounter each other?
  • In lines 92-105, Diomede is attracted to Criseyde and wishes to court her. What prevents him from doing so?
  • What are some of the things Diomede says to Criseyde to comfort her as she enters the Greek encampment? List one comforting thought or statement.
  • When Diomede discusses how the Trojans and Grekes "wrothe / Han many a day ben," he reminds Criseyde of certain similarities between the two cultures. In fact, he points out that both the Greeks and Trojans worship what similar god or goddess?
  • When Diomede reaches Calkas's tent, he pours out his true affections to Criseyde. How does Criseyde respond in lines 176-82?
  • How many times does Calkas kiss Criseyde when he is reunited with his daughter?
  • When Troilus returns to his room in the city, what gods does he curse in what order?
  • What is the one creature on earth Troilus does NOT curse?
  • When Troilus falls asleep "in any slomberynges," of what does he dream?

[Summary of Missing Material, Lines 260-1029]:

[Since he misses Criseyde, Troilus suffers sequentially from insomnia and nightmares. The nightmares seem to predict his own death. He makes funeral arrangements and provides Pandarus with instructions for what should be offered or burnt on the funeral pyre, and to which gods each gift is to be dedicated. The ashes of his heart are to be put in a gold vessel and given to Criseyde. Pandarus tries to talk him out of despair, and reminds Troilius that they have made arrangements to meet with Criseyde at night once every ten days. He discounts the predictive power of dreams. He distracts Troilus by taking him to visit kyng Sarpedoun, and Troilus spends his nights re-reading Criseyde's old love-letters and imagining her "shap" and "hire wommanhede."

On the tenth evening, Troilus sneaks out to the building holding Criseyde, only to find all the windows locked and doors barred. He can't figure out why Criseyde isn't meeting him, and he travels back to the temple where he first saw her and reminisces about their old days. He composes a new Canticus Troili, using hell imagery from the parables of the Outer Darkness.

Meanwhile, Criseyde's father has refused to give her permission to go to Troilus, and she fears that he will "misdeem" her. She cries all night long separate from Troilus, and looks longingly at the towers of Troy, remembering their good days together. Diomede, meanwhile, argues with himself the best way to woo Criseyde. He questions himself as a fool, and knows it is stupid to try to woo Criseyde while she still grieves over Troilus. He settles on creating false reasons to speak with Calkas, which gives him an excuse to see Criseyde.

Diomede ends up questioning the fidelity of the Trojans (who, after all, are notoriously unscrupulous, given Prince Paris's affair with Helen), and suggests that she might find "a moore parfit love, er it be nyght, / Than any Troian is, and more kynde" (918-20). He then blunders and reveals he would himself rather be her servant than work for any of the twelve Grecian kings, then ends up blushing furiously.

Criseyde, after this revelation, agrees to at least speak to him--though she promises no more than this. This promise is enough to re-invigorate Diomede's amorous pursuit, and he convinces her to give him her glove as a love-token. Criseyde returns to sleep alone in her father's tent, but that night the constellations in the sky change their astrological positions, and Criseyde stays up that night thinking about Diomede's words, and her own helpless situation. We pick up the next morning with line 1030.]

(From Book V. lines 1030 et passim)

  • What does Diomede "refte" from Criseyde in the morning?
  • Criseyde gives several gifts to Diomede as love tokens--a bay steed, a brooch--where did these two items originally come from? How does that origin affect our reading of Criseyde as a character?
  • How does Criseyde react when Diomede gets wounded by Troilus in battle?
  • In lines 1037-43, the narrator repeats phrases such as "the storie telleth us" and "I fynde ek in stories elleswhere," culminating in the phrase, "Men seyn--I not--that she yaf hym hire herte." Why does the narrator keep bringing up the idea that "books and stories say this"? How does this reflect a change in the narrator's attitude toward authoritative books?
  • According to the narrator, what does Criseyde realize about herself in lines 1054-71?
  • According to Criseyde, as she laments her lost reputation, who will hate her worst of all? What do you make of that claim? Why would these people hate her worst of all?
  • In line 1080, Criseyde brings up the dreaded F-word. What do you make of this change in her status with Troilus?
  • Chaucer claims in lines 1086-92 that no authors tell how long it takes for Criseyde to abandon Troilus. In actual fact, Boccaccio and his sources state that she gives in to Diomede's advances by the 9th night, a fact well known to medieval readers. Why does the narrator lie about this when his audience would probably be familiar with the legend? Does Chaucer expect the narrator to get away with this deception? What does this deception reveal about the narrator's involvement with the characters in his story?
  • [Lecture Question:] In lines 1176, we read, "Ye, fare wel al the snow of ferne yere!" Chaucer here is stealing French verse from what medieval poet and poem?
  • When Troilus doesn't find Criseyde at the appropriate meeting time, what does he assume caused the confusion in lines 1184-85?
  • How much time passes between lines 1205-11?
  • In lines 1232 and following, Troilus has a dream about Criseyde. What does he dream about her?
  • In line 1316, Troilus composes his first letter to Criseyde. How does he sign his letter in line 1421?
  • What does Criseyde promise to Troilus after receiving letter?
  • When Troilus expresses despair about having no contact with Criseyde, what practical method does Pandarus suggest for communication?
  • In Troilus' letter, he writes to her with "herte, body, lif, lust, thought, and al,"--how is this an inversion of biblical scripture suggesting idolatry?
  • Troilus was supposed to meet Criseyde in ten days. How much time has actually passed by the time he writes his letter, according to lines 1351 and other passages?
  • How does Troilus sign his letter?
  • What does Criseyde write back as a response to Troilus's first letter in lines 1422-31?
  • To whom does Troilus go seeking advice or an interpretation of his dream? What is this woman famous for in Greek mythology and the legends of Homer's Iliad?
  • How does she interpret the boar in Troilus's dreams?
  • What is Troilus's reaction to her interpretation? What name does he call the interpeter for offering this reading?
  • In lines 1586-89, the narrator precedes a longer letter from Criseyde with an interpretation of her motives. Why did Criseyde write Troilus again, according to narrator's interpretation?
  • With what substance has Criseyde "depeynted" the letter of Troilus?
  • Why does Criseyde say she can't tell Troilus the reason for her refusal to come and see him in line 1603? How does that compare or contrast with her reason given in line 1610? Could these two be the same reason? Two different reasons? Or is Criseyde just grasping at straws?
  • What does Criseyde promise between lines 1618-22?
  • In line 1624, Criseyde refers to Troilus using what dreaded "F-word" so common in breakups?
  • What does Criseyde have to say about the length of her letter? [Count the lines of Troilus's letter with the lines in Criseyde's letter for contrast.]
  • What is Troilus's opinion or reaction to Criseyde's letter in lines 1632-36.
  • Explain the use of litotes in line 1643.
  • In line 1653, what source does Chaucer appeal to as his historical authority?
  • Deiphebe, during a battle, tore away Diomede's coat-of-arms on his tunic or "cote-armure." What is Troilus horrified to find on Diomede's ripped tunic?
  • Even after Criseyde's betrayal, Troilus cannot bring himself to do what for even "a quarter of a day"?
  • What does Troilus pray for concerning Diomede?
  • In lines 1716-19, what does Troilus say he will seek "in armes"?
  • What does Pandarus say he will always do to "Cryseyde" in lines 1733 et passim?
  • What does the narrator ask of "every lady bright of hewe" who reads his poem?
  • Explain the narrator's allusion to Penelope and Alceste.
  • In 1786 et passim, we have a direct apostrophe to the book of Troilus and Criseyde. Is this the semi-fictional narrator talking? Or is it Chaucer the historical author speaking? Can we tell?
  • What does Chaucer / the narrator ask of God before the narrator dies? What does he want God to send him "myghte" to do?
  • What instructions does Chaucer give to his "litel book" regarding other poems?
  • What does Chaucer pray will not happen to his book as it spreads across Britain?
  • When the narrator resumes his tale, how many Greek knights does Troilus slay on the battlefield?
  • Who is the one Trojan that is superior to Troilus on the battlefield?
  • What Greek warrior kills both Hector and Troilus in lines 1807?
  • Where does Troilus's spirit go when it dies?
  • What does Troilus spirit see and hear as it looks upward and outward from the earth in lines 1811-13?
  • What does Troilus's spirit see when it looks "down from thennes"? What does the world look like to the spirit's perspective after death?
  • What does Troilus's spirit do as it looks down on his slain body?
  • The series of anaphora in lines 1849-1855 includes a list of vanities to be despised--pagan religion's cursed rites, worldly appetites, etc. It concludes with what final item that is a vanity in lines 1854-55?
  • To whom does Chaucer dedicate his book?


A. "Iwis, we Grekis kan have joie / To honouren yow as wel as folk of Troie."

B. "Thus seyde I nevere er now to womman born,
For God myn herte as wisly glade so,
I loved never womman here-biforn
As paramours, ne nevere shal no mo.
And for the love of God, beth nat my fo,
Al kan I naught to yow, my lady deere,
Compleyne aright, for I am yet to leere.

C. "Wher is myn owene lady, lief and deere?
Where is hire white brest? Wher is it, where?
Wher ben hire armes and hire eyen cleere
That yesternyght this tyme with me were?
Now may I wepe allone many a teere,
And graspe aboute I may, but in this place,
Save a pilowe, I fynde naught t'enbrace."

D. The morwen com, and gostly for to speke,
This Diomede is come unto Criseyde;
And shortly, lest that ye my tale breke,
So wel he for hymselven spak and seyde
That alle hire sikes soore adown he leyde;
And finaly, the sothe for to seyne,
He refte hire of the grete of al hire peyne.

E. "Allas, for now is clene ago
My name of trouthe in love, for everemo!
For I have falsed oon the gentileste
That evere was, and oon the worthieste!

"Allas, of me, unto the worldes ende,
Shal neyther ben ywriten nor ysonge
No good word, for thise bokes wol me shende.
O, rolled shal I ben on many a tonge!
Thorughout the world my belle shal be ronge!
And wommen moost wol haten me of alle.
Allas, that swich a cas me sholde falle!"

F. But trewely, how longe it was bytwene
That she forsok hym for this Diomede,
Ther is non auctour telleth it, I wene.
Take every man now to his bokes heede,
He shal no terme fynden, out of drede.
For though that he bigan to wowe hire soone,
Er he hire wan, yet was ther more to doone.

G. "Thow seyst nat soth," quod he, "thow sorceresse,
With al thy false goost of prophecye!
Thow wenest ben a gret devyneresse!
Now sestow nat this fool of fantasie
Peyneth hire on ladys for to lye?

Awey!" quod he. "Ther Joves yeve the sorwe!"

H. As he that on the coler fond withinne
A broch that he Criseyde yaf that morwe
That she from Troie most nedes twynne,
In remembraunce of hym and of his sorwe.
And she hym leyde ayeyn hire feith to borwe
To kepe it ay! But now ful wel he wiste,
His lady nas no legner on to triste.

I. Go, litel bok, go, litel myn tragedye,
Ther God thi makere yet, er that he dye,
So sende myght to make in som comedye!
But litel book, no makyng thow n'envie,
But subjgit be to all poesye;
And kis the steppes where as thow seest pace
Virgile, Ovide, Omer, Lucan, and Stace.

K. And for ther is so gret diversite
In Englissh and in writyng of oure tongue,
So prey I god that non myswrite the,
Ne the mysmetre for defaute of tonge;
And red whereso thow be, or elles songe,
That thow be understonde, God I biseche!

L. And whan that he was slayn in this manere,
His lighte goost ful blissfully is went
Up to the hologhnesse of the eighthe spere. . . .
And down from thennes faste he gan avyse
This litel spot of erthe that with the se
Embraced is, and fully gan despise
This wrecched world, and held al vanite
To respect of the pleyn felicite
That is in hevene above; and at the laste,
Ther he was slayn his lokyng down he caste,

And in hymself he lought right at the wo
Of hem that wepten for his deth so faste,
And dampned al oure werk that foloweth so
The blynde lust, the which that may nat laste,
And sholden al oure herte on heven caste;
And forth he wente, shortly for to telle,
Ther as Mercurye sorted hym to dwelle.

M. O yonge, fresshe folkes, he or she,
In which that love up groweth with youre age,
Repeyreth hom fro worldly vanyte,
And of youre herte up casteth the visage
To thilke God that after his ymage
Yow made. . . .

Concluding Questions:

How is the ending of Troilus and Criseyde a "Boethian" ending? Explain.


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