Studies on Chaucer and His Audience

Studies on Chaucer and His Audience

Studies on Chaucer and His Audience

Studies on Chaucer and His Audience

Excerpt

In a well-known illumination of a manuscript of Troilus and Criseyde Chaucer is shown reading from a lectern to a courtly group on a hillside in the garden of a castle. The audience is grouped around him, some standing, others seated. The central figure clothed in gold is generally taken to be Richard II and the young woman beside him Queen Anne, to whom a line of the poem refers: "Right as oure firste lettre is now an A" (I,171). In the distance people are passing along a road between the near castle and one located on a neighboring hill. The illumination occupies a full page of a manuscript now at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

Several passages of the Troilus are addressed to a listening audience. In the opening lines Chaucer says: "The double sorwe of Troilus to tellen/ . . . My purpos is, er that I parte fro ye." Midway in Book I, he speaks directly to his listeners in a homely sententia: "For ay the ner the fir, the hotter is,/ This, trowe I, knoweth al this compaignye" (I,449-450). The prologue of Book II invites them to call upon their own experience in love as they hear the story of Troilus, who lived in another age:

Ye knowe ek that in forme of speche is chaunge
Withinne a thousand yeer, and wordes tho
That hadden pris, now wonder nyce and straunge
Us thinketh hem, and yet thei spake hem so,
And spedde as wel in love as men now do;
Ek for to wynnen love in sondry ages,
In sondry londes, sondry ben usages.

And forthi if it happe in any wyse,
That here be any lovere in this place
That herkneth, as the storie wol devise,
How Troilus com to his lady grace . . .

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