Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts




When Chaucer wrote the poem Troilus and Criseyde, he created a heroine who stands out from other romantic med­ ieval heroines such as Guinevere and Ysolt. He created a heroine of such complexities that critics have debated her motives endlessly and have explored the psychology of her emotions with every literary tool at their command. He created a heroirie whose sin was so damning that it inspired Robert Henryson to provide for her what he considered a fit­ ting punishment; and it inspired Shakespeare to try to salvage the wreck left by Henryson to create his masterful play.

It is doubtful whether anyone at any time will ever write the final word on Criseyde although she has been ana­ lyzed by expert critics for hundreds of years. Acting on the presumption that this final word on Criseyde is still unspoken, I shall attempt to work out a resolution of one of the central problems of Troilus: should Criseyde be con­demned for breaking faith with Troilus? I shall attempt to establish that those critics biased in favor of the courtly love concept are justified in considering Criseyde a courtly love heroine. I shall attempt to show that the concept of a courtly love code can play a vital part.not only in ex­ plaining her motivations but in providing the frame of reference for the society in which she moves. I shall show how critics can be justified in seeing Criseyde not as a stereotype but as a uniquely characterized individual; however, I shall also attempt to show that to judge Criseyde fairly requires that she be regarded as a social creature whose actions and responses are largely determined by society . She has very human weaknesses, in which respect she far transcends mere stereotype; yet these weaknesses are subjected to strains imposed by the courtly code itself.