Study questions to Troilus and Criseyde

Book 1

1-56 What is your first impression of the narrator as a character? Watch out for him--he'll be doing his level best to control your responses to the text throughout. The entire work will tell of Troilus's double sorrows; what are they?

57-98 Note the setting in time and place, and note what Criseyde's father knows that other Trojans don't know. Keep these overtones in mind as the love story unfolds.

99-147 What is your first impression of Criseyde? of her social position in Troy? Note the use of the rhetorical figure occupatio, by which the narrator states his intention to refrain from narrating. Note that each occupatio in this section by no means ignores its topic but instead adds to your involvement with Criseyde (ll. 132-33) and Troy (ll. 141-47); in addition, each helps characterize the narrator.

148-266 What is your second impression of Criseyde? your first impression of Troilus? your first impression of love?

267-322 Note how carefully the narrator describes the discrepancy between Troilus's inner and outer responses to the sight of Criseyde. Remember this scene to compare to Diomede's first response to the sight of Criseyde at the Greek camp.

323-546 In private, how does Troilus respond to this new emotion? Note that discrepancies remain, or even increase, internally. How does this new emotion affect Troilus's public behavior, especially in war (ll. 470-91)? Note the effect of the narrator's occupatio in ll. 492-97.

547-67 What is your first impression of Pandarus? Keep in mind that he is Criseyde's uncle as well as Troilus's friend.

568-869 Throughout this dialogue, how is your sense developing of Troilus and Pandarus as characters? To what extent does each hide or show his feelings and intentions? Consider how imagined tones of voice would affect your understanding of each character. Notice the use of "courtly love" conventions, especially concerning secrecy, and of Boethian images. Start noticing Pandarus's use of proverbs (and Troilus's response at l. 756), his own experience in love (ll. 666 ff.), and his commitment to Troilus. For this last, note especially his generous offer at ll. 676-79, with its soon-to-be-revealed dramatic irony.

870-1008 How does Pandarus finally get Troilus to utter Criseyde's name? What is Pandarus's response? Do we readers see complications that Pandarus doesn't anticipate, or is he pretending not to anticipate them, or . . .? How does the narrator encourage our questioning here?

1009-92 How does Troilus respond to Pandarus's response? How does his having told his secret then affect his public behavior, especially in war?

Book 2

1-49 Notice continuing characterization of the narrator; compare his attitudes toward love and toward old books to the attitudes of other narrators (BD, PF). What relationship can you see between the awareness expressed in ll. 22-25 and the concerns of the narrator who scolds Adam Scriveyn in that poem (p. 702)?

50-105 What contrast is there between Pandarus's private self and his public self? How would you describe this first interaction (and the implied relationship) between him and Criseyde? Note (ll. 81-84) important evidence that secular works were normally experienced aurally in Chaucer's day. You probably know at least the part of the Thebes story mentioned in ll. 101-2; how do its overtones add to Chaucer's portrayal of life in Troy?

106-47 Think about how imagined tones of voice in this dialogue could convey various degrees of power balance in the relationship; e.g., would Criseyde be annoyed that he cuts off her account of the story? is she genuinely shocked that he would urge a new widow to dance, or secretly flattered, or trying to please him? Note her foremost concerns at this moment (implied by her prompt guess as to Pandarus's happy news, l. 123), and note her comment in l. 124, which in some interpretations expresses the essence of her character (and dramatic irony to boot).

148-219 Would Criseyde begin to suspect what Pandarus is up to? Could she begin to, given the text? What do you make of ll. 211-12 and 216-17? (Some critics work up an incestuous relationship between uncle and niece... .) How does their topic of discussion in l. 219 remind us of Pandarus's official social role toward her?

220-314 Note that stage directions (e.e., ll. 253-54, 274-75, 302-3), along with characters' words and the narrator's comments, are helping create your sense of personalities and interactions. In ll. 267-73 we learn Pandarus's exact inner thoughts, as well; as the story unfolds, watch Chaucer's occasional divulgence of the same for other characters, notably Criseyde.

315-85 In what tones of voice would Pandarus disclose the secret at last? How do you picture Criseyde's silent responses?

386-89 See if you can list about 100 tones of voice in which Criseyde would think and about 100 others in which she would speak. Critics certainly have!

390-406 Note Pandarus's continuing use of proverbs. I'll bet you didn't know they were called "crows' feet" back then, eh?

407-504 Keep thinking about sincere vs. insincere tones of voice, tones of silent thought, and even tones of sighs and tears. One way of interpreting Criseyde depends heavily on ll. 449-51.

505-88 What all does Pandarus invent? About what does he tell the truth? Start thinking about parallels between Pandarus's power and that of the narrator (and Chaucer the author, for that matter) as shapers of words and of events.

589-812 What did Pandarus say to spark Criseyde's protest in l. 589? Go carefully through the stages of her...decision? acceptance of the inevitable? falling in love? etc.? Note the effect of the narrator's stepping in with answers to possible objections to her behavior, probably before it ever occurred to you to object.

813-931 How is Criseyde's process of acceptance/decision/falling in love/etc. affected by Antigone's song? by the dream? "Antigone" is apparently a common name; still, if you know the Oedipus stories, what overtones does it have?

932-1092 What relationship is shown between Pandarus and Troilus now? Has it changed? How? Remember that in part Troilus is behaving as a "courtly lover" is supposed to; Chaucer is showing what happens when real people (i.e., his characters) behave according to literary conventions. Note the narrator's occupatio in ll. 965-66. What does it imply about Pandarus's reccounting of events to Troilus, as compared to his recounting to his niece earlier?

1093-404 Be sure you catch Pandarus's jokes, especially in ll. 1106 and 1165-66. Notice how he continues to control (or want to control) scenes and actions and even words put on paper by others, as well as words spoken by himself. A typical Pandarus sentiment, for example, is expressed in l. 1363.

1405-554 To what extent do Pandarus's words "shape" events to Deiphebus? to Criseyde? to Troilus? Could any of his tangle of lies and plans backfire? (Please pardon the mixed metaphor.) In ll. 1422-56, what do we learn about the attitude of the other Trojan princes toward Criseyde?

1555-708 Be sure to notice l. 1561, thinking not only in terms of the power to create events by using words but also in terms of the mixture of Christian ideas with the Graeco-Roman gods appropriate to the story's setting. Keep in mind throughout that the capitalization is added freely by modern editors; thus, focus on references to deities in singular or plural, this being a feature that is found in manuscripts themselves (i.e., not just in modern editions). What is Criseyde's attitude in l. 1582? What about her in ll. 1592-93 and the effect of the narrator's occupatio in 1595-96 (as well as in 1564-68)? Be sure to notice how neatly Pandarus eases Helen and Deiphebus out the back door, so that everybody in the dining room assumes they're still in Troilus's sickroom.

1709-56 Should we believe l. 1723? disbelieve it? simply wonder? The word kankedort occurs only here in all of literature--what might it mean? What does breaking off at this point suggest about condi- tions of oral delivery at Chaucer's time?

Book 3

1-49 If you didn't know already, what could you guess will happen in this book?

50-203 In what other work did a courtly lover use the exact same opener as in l. 98? Compare the results. From here on, watch how images of sovereignty and service and yielding and kneeling express shifting powers in the relationships between Troilus and Criseyde. Notice Pandarus's gesture at ll. 183-84 and his continuing intention to "shape" and "devyse" everything (ll. 196, 203).

204-511 What new concern does Pandarus express? How does Troilus reassure him? Start noticing echoes of earlier incidents, such as Troilus's generous offer in ll. 409-13 (cf. ll. 676-79) and his prowess in battle (cf. ll. 470-91). Keep noticing the narrator's relationship with the story, almost as if it's a living creature, and with us his audience (e.g., ll. 491-504).

512-749 How does the weather itself seem to fall under Pandarus's control? Don't miss the psychological and narrative complexities of ll. 575-81, nor Pandarus's attitude in ll. 736-40 toward Troilus's prayers.

750-952 In what (if anything!) is Pandarus telling the truth? Notice Boethian images in ll. 816-40 and the effect of other images such as the house afire in ll. 855-61. As Troilus was once in bed in a kankedort, so Criseyde is now in bed at a dulcarnoun (l. 931): compare the causes and results.

953-1092 Why does Troilus swoon? Note the dramatic irony of "yet" in l. 1054

1093-414 Oboy, oboy, here comes the good part! Notice Pandarus's exit at l. 1141 (or 1189-907). In ll. 1191-92, which lover is which bird? Keep watching for images as to who's trapping or hunting whom, along with those as to who's serving whom. Remember the brooch in l. 1370, as one will appear as signal of Criseyde's treachery, and keep noticing the narrator's struggles with his material and with his audience (us).

1415-533 Notice each lover's area of concern in this alba or aubade or "dawn song"--a traditional scene in many a story, including Romeo and Juliet.

1534-82 Critics seeking uncle/niece incest certainly find it here, depending heavily on exact overtones of pleye in l. 1578. Note the potential for (Christian) blasphemy in ll. 1577-78.

1583-820 Notice the combination of Boethian and "courtly love" advice in Pandarus's warning, ll. 1618-38. What is the effect of the consummated relation- ship on Troilus's public behavior? on his private self? on Criseyde's public and private self? If we don't know, what is the effect of our not knowing? Later (5.8-14) we learn that the period of time described here, during which "Troilus in lust and in quiete / Is with Criseyde, his owen herte swete," lasts three years.

Book 4

1-28 Keep noticing the narrator's involvement with his material.

29-147 Notice parallels to the situation as Book I opens. How do you feel abut Criseyde's father and his actions? How would you feel if you were Criseyde? Troilus? Antenor? Hector? etc.?

148-259 Where else have you seen Troilus acting in ways consistent with this? What do you think of Hec- tor's position? the position of the people of Troy?

260-525 Note Boethian ideas in Troilus's soliloquy and proverbs in Pandarus's consolation. Where else has Pandarus acted in ways consistent to this?

526-658 Be sure you follow Troilus's objection to Pandarus's next practical suggestion.

659-945 How does Criseyde's response to the news resem- ble Troilus's? How does it differ? Be sure to notice her Trojan friends' responses (ll. 687-93 passim). How does Pandarus differ in his consolations to her compared to Troilus?

946-1127 Here Troilus presents a logical, Boethian argument, beginning with a thesis in ll. 958-59. In ll. 1065-71, Troilus concludes what one can believe (wenen) about God, and in ll. 1072-79 what one can know (witen). Has Pandarus changed his advice? How?

1128-701 Do Troilus and Criseyde weep together differently than they weep separately? Notice the effect of the mutual near-suicide, reminiscent of Pyramus and Thisbe or Romeo and Juliet, and recall Troilus's swoon in Book 3. Be sure you follow Criseyde's reasons for wanting to go and return, rather than to stay, and Troilus's possible objections and his reasons for acquiescence. Notice ironies gathering, especially toward the end, since Criseyde will in fact not remain true to Troilus.

Book 5

Notice how gently I have been tugging the line-number rug out from under you. (Remember that this is my persona speaking, not me--MA) Throughout Book 5, continue to consider the issues raised all along, plus some new ones; for example:

Follow the narrator's attitude toward this story he increasingly wishes he didn't have to tell. Notice especially that he just hates to end the story; he takes his leave of the reader time after time after time.

Think about how Pandarus and the narrator both try (and fail--or do they?) to shape events.

Watch the new character Diomede, who like Troilus falls in love with Criseyde at first sight. Aw c'mon, are Diomeme's feelings really Love? and if not...what were Troilus's feelings? What is love, anyhow?

Be thinking about parallels with earlier books, especially about similar events with different meanings, e.g., dreams, letters, songs, weeping, and sighing.

How is Criseyde her father's daughter? Note esp. ll. 897-99: How does she use ambages in her dealings with Diomede? Notice how Chaucer keeps us wondering about her motivations and wondering whether we should blame her.

Watch for skips out of the time frame of the story, esp. toward the end (e.g., ll. 1037-50).

Note: These study questions sprang from the generous offer of a set of such study questions from Betsy Bowden when I first began teaching. It was a generous gift that made my life much easier--and I think enriched my teaching considerably. Long live Betsy!