Troilus and Criseyde: by Chaucer - Summary & Analysis

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      Troilus and Criseyde were written probably in the middle 1380's are at once Chaucer's largest complete poem and his greatest artistic achievement. It narrates the tragic life story of Troilus, a young Trojan Knight and a young beautiful widow Criseyde whose father Calchas has deserted Troy and gone over to the Greek side. The first three books tell how Troilus with the help of Pandarus, his friend and Criseyde's uncle overcomes her fear of scandal and possesses her completely, both body and soul. For three years they lived the life of mutual love. In the fourth book, fortune's wheel turns suddenly. Through an exchange of prisoners, Criseyde had to be sent to her father in the Greek camp. She leaves Troilus swearing undying love and fidelity. Troilus waits for her return in vain. She writes to Criseyde but in vain. At last, he sees on a cloak taken from Diomede in fight the brooch that he himself had given to Criseyde. He knows that his beloved Criseyde has been the bed-partner of Diomede with nothing to live for he becomes desperate and is eventually slain by Achilles.

Troilus and Criseyde

Critical Analysis

      Troilus and Criseyde shows a notable advance in Chaucer's narrative power and characterization. The complex characters of Criseyde and Pandarus reveal a new subtlety of psychological development and indicate Chaucer's growing insight into human motives. It indicates the line along with Chaucer's genius is developing. To this study of character, Chaucer adds another quality, his desire to reflect on life. He accepts much from Boccaccio, but he transforms and creates new things. His narrative power is equally developed. He anticipates Shakespeare in characterization and narration.

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