Troilus and Criseyde: Study Guide | Literaturexpres

Troilus and Criseyde: Study Guide | Literaturexpres

Troilus and Criseyde

1. Discuss the character of Criseyde.


Dealing with female characters created by Geoffrey Chaucer, one will certainly mention the name of Criseyde, the heroine in the love romance “Troilus and Criseyde”. She is a much-misunderstood heroine in the Middle Ages and her name is registered into treachery and falseness.

Unity in diversity

Chaucer’s Criseyde is unity in diversity. Her attitudes and behavior pattern exhaust all the possibilities of functional variables within the range of her logic. She changes so conspicuously that the integrity of her character becomes doubtful. She is the model of Shakespeare’s Cleopatra and perhaps within certain limits she typifies the eternal female “Frailty thy name is Woman.”

Paragon of mutability

There is consistency in her frailty which renders her explicable. She is the embodiment of Chaucer’s mutability, the fortune which changes. She is Troilus’ Fortune. She varies, gives him blissed adversity, final catastrophe, and perhaps helps him to attain the rare wisdom embodied in the consolation of Chaucer.

Struggle for the betterment

Criseyde serves the unconscious purpose of fate. She does not understand herself and acts blindly. There are great struggles in her to understand herself and anticipate her actions. She wants to maintain her moral and ethical notions of the lady of chivalrous romance. Her conscious efforts betray her to attain her goal because she varies according to the principle of mutability, that is the inherent necessity of the Chaucerian philosophy which is manifested by the poet to the readers.

A manipulative woman

She is presented as a manipulative woman throughout the text. She was as calculating as her father was. She hesitates over whether to give in love or not. The hesitant nature of her decision to fall in love means that her love is not genuine. Her heart is taken without her consent and is taken by a symbol of battle. This reinforces the image of her as besieged by the male. So psychologically she represents her manipulative nature and male dominance.

A sensual woman

Criseyde is very licentious. The relationship between Criseyde and Diomede illustrates a different nature of love that does not have such an idealized style. Chaucer expresses the vicious male aggressive sexuality by the character of Diomede. When Criseyde loves Diomede leaving Troilus, it means that she loves sensual love than genuine love.

Aristotelian tragic character

C.S. Lewis has tried to explain the betrayal of Criseyde and explore the logical connections which precipitated her to such an action. He terms her ‘fear’ to be the fatality of her being. Her deep sense of fear becomes the ruling passion of her character. According to Lewis Criseyde becomes a truly tragic character in the Aristotelian sense since she is neither very good nor execrably wicked. Fear becomes her tragic flaw and it is this which ruins her.


In conclusion, the portrayal of Criseyde’s character proves that Chaucer understands human psychology especially female psychology and that is why he is called a master of psychology.

2. Examine the elements of romance in Troilus and Criseyde.

Or, Evaluate the ingredients of romance in this and Criseyde.


Romance explores the concepts of love and war, usually in a refined setting. They ultimately surround ideological behavior and courtship. Women are basically beautiful and distant, men try to impress women by their skills and qualities: the path of true love is never smooth. Chaucer’s work Troilus and Criseyde was much influenced by romance because it deals with the idealization of love, chivalric love, the challenge against love, and women’s attitude towards love.

Idealization of romance

Chaucer engages and uses the idealizations of romance in Troilus and Criseyde in order to characterize romantic hero and heroine. The poem has an emotional journey that climaxes in a linear fashion in the growth and destruction of the love of the two main protagonists. The poem is told in five books and the opening lines of each offer an introduction to a different stage in the story of the love affair. Chaucer’s discourse of romance in this text features a range of key conventions and traditional motifs, such as the arrow through the heart, the god of love as the mysterious external force. and the processes of love-sickness.

Chivalric love

Chaucer uses romance conventions of chivalric love. Here, the image of the heroic courtly lover is expressed in terms of Troilus’s vengeance towards the Greeks. This demonstrates the ennobling effect of love. According to the definition of chivalric love, the chevalier’s excellence in armed combat acts as an indicator of his true worthiness for his lady’s love. This conventional image of the love-struck servant developing as a mighty warrior is displayed in the closing emphasis of “Book One” focusing on Troilus’s bravery and honor. Troilus’s natural nobility expresses itself in terms of the romance military metaphor: he defends his besieged city, acting as a force against his state of besieged emotions. The military metaphor alternates between military combat and love emotions. Troilus becomes one of the best warriors not because he hates the Greeks, but Because he wants Criseyde to appreciate his fame.

Challenging love at some level

The poem can illustrate key romance motifs: the nature of romance is challenged at some level at nearly every stage in the poem. For instance, the spring imagery suggests, Troilus is in the natural state of maturing from adolescent notions of love. In an inversion of the chivalric ideal, Troilus is a warrior first and then lover. The great misery and sorrow of Troilus highlight the conventional romance stage of unrequited love. This is a poem that explores many of the tensions and contradictions inherent in any attempt to encode the notion of ideal love and apply such a formula to the human experience.

Women’s psychology towards love

When Criseyde realizes she may love, this shows us how Chaucer’s focus is on the psychology of a woman’s attitudes towards love. Criseyde certainly engages in the conventions of romance: patronage, resisting first advances, use of her elevated social position, chastising males jealously, allowing male sexual initiative. This ideal is further emphasized in Antigone’s song, which takes place in a garden, in March. This convention indicates love is growing, and it is in this scene that Criseyde begins to accept the idea of love.


At last, Troilus and Criseyde is a romantic poem, pure and simple, and is a beautiful example of English Renaissance poetry. A paragon of the English Romance from the 14th century. “Troilus and Criseyde” presents us with delicate courtly love.

SR Sarker
SR Sarker
Articles: 380

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