«4 Book III: “Al that which chargeth nought to seye” Book III of the Troilus provides the climax, in every sense, of Troilus and Criseyde’s love ...»
Book III: “Al that which chargeth nought to seye”
Book III of the Troilus provides the climax, in every sense, of Troilus and Criseyde’s love
affair. The importance of the consummation scene is indicated by the percentage of scholarship
dealing with Book III, and in many cases the poem as a whole, which examines and speculates on
the various details of this one, specific occurrence. There are, of course, ambiguities: namely the
famous scholarly fist-fight over the relations between Pandarus and Criseyde following her night of love with Troilus. Pandarus achieves his low point as an alleged pimp. So too, Troilus finds his low points as a blundering and clumsy lover who laughingly, it seems, tries to assume the veil of control in bed with his “lark.” Criseyde, however, remains the enigma she has been up to this point in the poem, and, as we will see from the various contributing scholars, her readings continue to be debated.
Laura Hodges (“Sartorial Signs in Troilus and Criseyde”) continues her study of costume, examining Criseyde in the consummation scene of Book III. At this point, Hodges claims, “Chaucer reverses his pattern of evoking character through the established signatory garments” (232). Once Criseyde is in the bedchamber, her widow’s garments, a dominate motif in Books I and II, vanish. This differs from the same scene in Boccaccio, where Criseida (Parte Terza stanzas 30-32) removes her chemise. Again, as in Book I, we see Criseyde, now naked, through Troilus’ eyes. Chaucer reverses the costume rhetoric of Troilus, once in armor, now in his “sherte,” as Hodges points out, not usual dress for a fourteenth-century English nobleman (233).
The scene as a whole ridicules and subordinates Troilus, in laughable dress, waiting in a gutter in order to appear through a trap door, then fainting before being chastised and thrown into bed by Pandarus.
Pandarus has earlier warned Criseyde against deceiving Troilus–“That for to holde in love a man in honde,/ And hym hire lief and deere herte calle,/ And maken hym an howve above a calle” (3.773-775). As Hodges notes, the Riverside glosses “howve” as “hood,” an image of deception which Pandarus uses to move Criseyde closer to consummation with Troilus. Pandarus suggests to Criseyde that such a woman who “maken hym an howve above a calle......She doth hireself a shame and hym a gyle” (3.775, 3.777). Criseyde is, thus, trapped and must further the relationship to save her honor. When Criseyde offers her ring as a token of appeasement (3.890Pandarus passes it off, contrasting his Book II metaphor equating a woman lacking pity to a ring lacking “vertu” (2.346). This rhetoric is again ironic because Criseyde must forfeit her virtue in consummation with Troilus in order to show pity. The jewelry rhetoric of the consummation scene clarifies Pandarus’ earlier references: “...a brooche, gold and asure,/ In which a ruby set was lik an herte,/ Criseyde hym yaf” (3.1370-72).
Elizabeth Archibald (“Declarations of ‘Entente’ in Troilus and Criseyde”) looks at the “entente” of Criseyde and those surrounding her in Book III. At Deiphebus’ house, Criseyde is finally allowed to hear Troilus’ ‘entente’ from Troilus himself, instead of through the filtering of Pandarus. Troilus promises “mo desiren fresshly newe/ To serve” (3.143-44), which satisfies
Criseyde. Pandarus’ intentions, though, look further:
Troilus and Criseyde continue to be pieces in Pandarus’ own game of “entente.” The narrator continues to load the word “entente” preceding Criseyde’s visit to Pandarus’ house as he says, “Ye han wel herd the fyn of his entente” (3.553). Finally, after Pandarus’ further fabrications, Criseyde, now with Troilus just before consummation, protests, “In all thyng is myn entente clene” (3.1166). Although similar protests by Pandarus are already easily distrusted, we have no reason, at this point, to think this way of Criseyde.
As Troilus and Criseyde affirm their love for each other, Archibald declares ‘entente’ to regain its more noble and “Troilan sense” (Archibald 201):
However, Pandarus corrupts the reading of “entente” in its last occurrence in Book III: “And Pandarus hath fully his entente” (3.1582). Again, it is equated to “satisfied desire” (202). Book III displays each character’s declarations of “entente,” but Pandarus’ will dominates as he seems to manipulate, to an extent, Troilus’, and more certainly, Criseyde’s intentions to satisfy his own.
Sheila Delaney, in her article, “Techniques of Alienation in Troilus and Criseyde,” points to a specific question Criseyde asks just before the consummation: “Is this a mannes game?” (3.1126). As Delaney notes, this is one of many instances in which manliness is addressed in the poem. On the surface, this question seems to question “courage,” and, as Delaney notes, the ironic connotation is sexual. However, we may also read her question, more deeply, as a question
of human existence; “What is it to be a man?” (Delaney 44). Delaney suggests:
both the dramatic action and the epilogue: Troilus’ fear, weakness and lust truly express the limitations of human nature, while his eventual transcendence
Archibald mentions the word “fyn,” and some of the many passages containing this word in wrestling with “entente” in Book III, but Delaney takes “fyn” further here, proposing that the question “where are you heading?” is “couched” in its many appearances throughout the poem, so that, as Delaney says, “the questions themselves emerge with startling clarity to illuminate more than their immediate narrative context” (44).
Patrick J. Gallagher provides more close reading of intentions in his article, “Chaucer and the Rhetoric of the Body.” Following her question– “Is this mannes game?”– Criseyde demands more information about the fabrication of her relationship with Horaste. The narrator here again defends Troilus, who “most obeye unto his lady heste;/ And for the lasse harm, he moste feyne” (3.1156-57). Gallagher argues that this scene is a continuation of ever-changing active/passive responses by the central characters. Criseyde actively responds, “Wol ye the childissh jalous contrefete?/ Now were it worthi that ye were ybete” (3.1168-69). Troilus then becomes what Gallagher terms “ludicrously active” saying, “What myghte or may the sely larke seye/ Whan that the sperhauk hath it in his foot?” (3.1191-92).
However, this shift to the physical is enough to turn Criseyde to an apprehensive and passive stance as she “senses herself acted upon” (Gallagher 223):
Gallagher points out Criseyde’s self-perception as object of Troilus’ actions in the first and last lines of this passage (223). Troilus oversteps his active bounds, though, making, as Gallagher terms them, “deftly unsuitable terms of the hunt and of chivalric victory” (223): “And seyde, ‘O swete, as evere mot I gon,/ Now be ye kaught; now is ther but we tweyne!/ Now yeldeth yow, for it other bote is non!’” (3.1206-08). Criseyde sees comedy in Troilus’ protestations and responds, “Ne hadde I er now, my swete herte deere,/ Ben yold, ywis, I were now nought heere!” (3.1210Criseyde’s passivity is again asserted as her body becomes the object of Troilus’ action–“He gan to stroke, and good thrift bad ful ofte/ Hire snowissh throte, hire brestes rounde and lite” (3.1249-50). The consummation scene provides “imbalance” to the active and passive tendencies of the characters. Gallagher suggests, “the concordance of active and passive, of initiative and acceptance, accompany what most readers see as a prominent instance of Troilus’ basic or potential integrity,” but “as the story progresses, Criseyde will take on too much autonomy, and ineffectuality will continue to plague Troilus” (223).
Louise O. Fradenburg, in her chapter, “Loss, Gender, and Chivalry in Troilus and
Criseyde,” finds irony in Criseyde’s assertive response to Troilus’ “sperhauk” boasting:
But what Fradenburg finds more troubling are the pastoral images describing the lover’s delight (3.1226-32), for these lines are followed by the glum comparison of Criseyde to the nightingale:
Fradenburg asks, “Are we to hear behind Criseyde’s (to us) inaudible voicing of her ‘entente’ the mutilated mouth of Philomela?” (100). Philomela, Procne, and Criseyde are survivors, but survivors who, in some form or another, lack voice, whether by physical incapability or simply not being heard. Fradenburg argues, “The possibility of Criseyde’s rape can be spoken only through a kind of intertextual haunting” (100). Such assertions rarely address the scene of
consummation in the Troilus. However, Fradenburg proposes:
It is also worthy to note Christopher Canon who, citing Fradenburg’s article in his, “Chaucer and Rape: Uncertainty’s Certainties,” suggests concerning consent: “The difficulty is pointed by the way we are everywhere given detail about Criseyde’s consensual states, even when Criseyde is haunted by what Louise Fradenburg called the “specter of rape” (84). Such consent and ambiguity mask what Fradenburg calls the “delectation of violence” and, even more, allow the heroic figure, Troilus, to assert his masculinity while maintaining his honor.
In his article, “The Rapes of Chaucer,” William Quinn argues that Troilus is, in fact, the one raped in the consummation scene. Criseyde, however, is innocent. Both lovers, as Quinn says, are “serially raped by the imperatives of love” (10). Such an assertion goes back to Book I where Troilus is shot by love’s arrow, itself an act of penetration.
After Troilus and Criseyde’s night of consummation, Pandarus comes to the bed and speaks with Criseyde. What happens here continues to be one of the more colorful debates in Troilus scholarship. Is it incest? Is it rape? Is it innocent “pleye”? E. Talbot Donaldson called this scene “delightful” and “not without a hint of prurience” (1136). More recent articles by Evan Carton, Robert apRoberts, and others have kept this debate raging. Stephen Barney, in his notes to The Riverside Chaucer’s Troilus, calls any assertions of incestuous relations between Pandarus and Criseyde, “baseless and absurd” (notes to lines 1555-1582, p.1043). Such a definitive statement seems alarming coming from the standard edition of Chaucer’s works over the last twenty years, but it only further testifies to the passionate nature of debate involving Pandarus and Criseyde’s relations.
apRoberts uses Barney’s note as a jumping-off point for his article, “ A Contribution to the Thirteenth Labour: Purging the Troilus of Incest.” apRoberts finds the seed of sexual intimacy between Pandarus and Criseyde sewn in Donaldson’s Chaucer’s Poetry, in which the scene in question is, according to Donaldson, “not without a hint of prurience” (971-72). The
lines in question must themselves be examined:
apRoberts points out that many scholars find the words “pleye” and “entente” to carry sexual meanings, but he argues that nowhere does Chaucer in the Troilus or any other work use “entente” to indicate sexual desire. Chaucer alters Pandarus’ role from Boccaccio, whose Pandaro is almost exclusively Troilo’s friend and servant; however, in the Troilus, Pandarus serves both Troilus and Criseyde seemingly in equal capacities. This change further modifies Pandarus’ intentions. While Pandaro argues for Criseida to love his friend, Troilo, Pandarus argues for the young and beautiful Criseyde to assume her rightful position as heroine to a worthy knight. This, apRoberts argues, is Pandarus’ ‘entente.’ Pandarus’ ‘pleye’ with Criseyde the morning following the consummation merely serves to break the tension of Criseyde’s “embarrassment and chagrin” after the realization that Pandarus manipulated her the previous
night in his arranging of the consummation scene. apRoberts reads the scene thus:
offended...With that he playfully forces a kiss of reconciliation from her (a kiss of the kind that the knight enforces between the Host and the Pardoner). God forgave the Crucifixion, the most heinous of offences; surely it is not surprising that Criseyde forgave Pandarus’ deceit. There is, the narrator says, no need to dwell
apRoberts, further, creates “an exhaustive list of incompatibilities” to remove any doubt from the bedside scene. First, incest is not feasible, in Criseyde’s mind, following Troilus’early departure. We are told by the narrator that Criseyde “Of Troilus gan in hire herte shette” (3.1549). Second, incest is incompatible in light of Criseyde’s reactions to fidelity concerning allegations involving Horaste, her pledge of ‘trouthe’ to Troilus before leaving for the Greek camp, and her lament when she engages Diomede’s love. Third, incest is unlikely considering the friendship of Troilus and Pandarus. apRoberts calls Pandarus a “true friend” to Troilus (19). One who, from his first appearance to his last, claims loyal friendship and shares in Troilus’ joys and sorrows. Fourth, incest is inconsistent considering Pandarus’ concern for Criseyde’s honor.