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Knighthood And Courtly Love In Geoffrey English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1338 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Knighthood and Courtly Love in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde. Before discussing Troilus and Criseyde we may have a brief overview of Chaucer’s biography. Geoffrey Chaucer ; son of a wine-merchant of Norman descent, who was himself well-known at court , Chaucer was born in London around 1340 ,although the exact date of his birth is unknown. He had many connection with the nobility from both on his father’s and his mother’s side.

Chaucer belonged to the new class of society – the bourgeoisie symbolizes the emergence of the new spirit – he quite readily speaks about himself and his possessions

His literary work was actually a side line, maintained parallel to a very full and active life in the world of affairs – in constant touch with life from overseas. Although he was bilingual Chaucer meanly mainly in English and it was Chaucer who made English the language of courtly love poetry. So what is Courtly love poetry ?

Courtly love was a medieval European conception of expressing love passion and admiration , but it has strict and really interesting rules as the following ; marriage was not a real excuse not to love , a person who is not jealous can not love , love is always increasing and decreasing , boys do not love until maturity , it is proper to love a woman whom you would be ashamed to marry , Every lover regularly turns pale in the presence of his beloved, When a lover suddenly catches sight of his beloved, his heart palpitates, A new love puts to flight an old one, Nothing forbids one woman being loved by two men or one man by two women, besides many others. So here we can say that it is kind of strange and unusual way of love , which can lead to several problems and conflicts.

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“The origins of Courtly Love were believed to be in Aquitaine in France in the 12th century and spread to other European countries. The art of courtly love was practiced in English courts from the 1300’s to the 1500’s.  this period was the period of arranged marriages and no one really paid attention to love , a successful marriage was a marriage which brings material advantages, and that is why people feel the need for something deeper , and as long as love and romance were not related to marriage , nobles enjoyed participating in the so called ” courtly love”. A man called Andrea Cappellanos established courtly love in “De amore librites” written between 1184-1189 it established courtly love as a complex social ritual having 31 rules and 12 degrees. starting to the lowest degree, the first attraction , to worship the lady from after confession until the 12th. Stage the mystical fusion with the lady. courtly love can be regarded as a physical love , the re is a clash between the Christian moral code and the cortly code.

The ideals of courtly love were publicized in the poems, ballads, writings and literary works of various authors of the Middle Ages. Geoffrey Chaucer, the most famous author of the Middle Ages, wrote stories about courtly love in his book Canterbury Tales , and poems among which is Troilus and Criseyde.

Troilus and Criseyde is considered the longest poem that Chaucer had written, it consists of 1177 stanzas, each stanza consists of seven lines rhymed ABABBCC , known as the “rime royal”, this is a form that Chaucer himself had introduced to English poetry.

The story is about Troilus, a Trojan Prince and the son of Priamus who was king of Troy, Troilus falls in love with Criseyde who was a beautiful ,respectable and innocent . With the help of his friend Pandarus” Criseyde’s uncle”, Troilus wins Criseyde’s love. A time of love and prosperity follows, this love ends when the Greeks capture the Trojan warrior Antenor. Criseyde and Antenor are exchanged hence Troilus and Criseyde are separated. In the Greek camp Criseyde is courted by the Greek warrior and king Diomedes, he advises her to forget the city of Troy and her lover Troilus, and finally he succeeds to persuade her , Criseyde falls for Diomedes and betrays Troilus. Troilus becomes suffers from the loss of his earthly love. After his death, Troilus learns about eternity and eternal love. Although Troilus and Criseyde has been read sometimes as a Christian work , still the way it reveals love it is not really the traditional and standard image of love , it is rather , Chaucer transcends the pleasures and sorrows of the world through a structure of three worlds , three lovers , Troilus , Criseyde and Diomede. The Trojan world is an ideal of the medieval courtly love then the Greek camp as a world of expedient love between the victor and the vanquished, and the eighth sphere both as an anti-world in which earthly values must be rejected and as a divine world in which celestial love of God may be achieved.

In Troilus and Criseyde Chaucer presents situations where courtly love is being treated as a religion, one which ennobles and purifies the lovers and includes sexual gratification but it can never succeed to become a marriage. The lady must enter the affair reluctantly but be true to it forever more. Because it is illicit, the love affair must be kept secret from all the world except other lovers!. Unlike the status of the women in the society where she is subservient it is just the opposite in her secret love she is the leader , even called “the lord” sometime her lover may look foolish or speechless following his desire to let her feel satisfied. That’s way Troilus becomes a great warrior , he does not hate the Greece but for Criseyde to appreciate his renown. Criseyde, on the other hand, is a more complex character. Although she looks and behaves like the ideal courtly heroine, but her situation in the Trojan world is at times perilous as she finds herself at the mercy of the Trojan leaders or is manipulated by Pandarus who manages by the end to persuade her. Although Criseyde seems to a large extent impressed with Troilus knighthood , power and virtue she weeps when Pandarus advises her to love Troilus, saying that Pandarus should rather forbid her such a love, after that Pandarus says that she is will kill both of them with her refusal she says that she e will try to please Troilus short of loving him to keep Pandarus from dying, in other words she states that she will choose the lesser of two evils! Most important in tracing the development of earthly love between Troilus and Criseyde is that it develops into a full-blown love affair which everyone celebrates as long as it lasts on its idyllic plane in the courtly-love world of Troy. Only when external circumstances interfere , this loves comes to an end. Courtly love can not survive when fortune in the guise of politics and war conspires to destroy the lovers’ idealistic world, and Criseyde knows this. But she is taken involuntarily from Troilus. When Criseyde begin to think of a relationship with “sodeyn” Diomede, just as she earlier considered one with a sodeyn Troilus it shows her rather as a victim than a cold-hearted betrayer. Chaucer is showing that all earthly love must end in transcendence to eternal bliss with God. He demonstrates this transience of earthly love clearly by developing first a courtly love relationship between Troilus and Criseyde, then a pseudo-courtly one between Diomede and Criseyde.

So to put it all together in this essay we have overviewed a short biography of Chaucer , the notion of courtly love and some images of the courtly love in Chaucer’s poem Troilus and Criseyde.

Reference sources :

The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Philosophy






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