This chapter traces the poetological and literary-historical dimension of arrogance in Geoffrey Chaucer's and William Shakespeare's treatments of the story of Troilus and Criseyde/Cressida. It situates arrogance within recent discussions of authorship, starting with Patrick Cheney's work on the deeply embedded bid to literary fame in Shakespeare's works, his counter-authorship. In Chaucer's Troilus, a poetics of arrogance emerges as the basis for alternative articulations of literary authorship, developed in the interplay between the Poet and 'his' Criseyde. Shakespeare's Troilus, however, inverts the Chaucerian conception of authorship: Cressidan humility is displaced as authorial arrogance. By Shakespeare's time, arrogant performances had become cornerstones of courtly self-presentation, associated with the Inns of Court where Troilus might have first been staged. The binary of medieval Trojans and Renaissance Greeks seem to organize the opposition of humble Trojan poets and supercilious Greek playwrights.
The Troilus and Criseyde/Cressida saga is a perfect vehicle for tracing the history of emotions, in that it offers an unparalleled darkening of mood over time. This chapter refers to William Thynne's great Chaucerian opera omnia and specifically to his including Robert Henryson's Testament of Cresseid immediately after Troilus and Criseyde. Giovanni Boccaccio marks the turn from pre-articulate emotional excess to regulated literary expression. James Simpson describes how Renaissance England essentially reduced and simplified the rich multiplicity of medieval literary forms and registers. Geoffrey Chaucer recognizes the popular aspects of Boccaccio's ottava rima verse form because many of its tags, tropes and epithets derived from the street singers of cantare are shared by an equivalent English verse tradition: tail rhyme romance. There is a solid internal evidence of William Shakespeare's familiarity with the Testament, or with the Troilus-Testament complex.
Hope and fear are the emotions that are lending themselves most easily to a metadramatic reading of Troilus and Cressida because they highlight the fact that the play draws on a well-known story. This chapter argues that, by emphasizing Troilus's and Cressida's hopes and fears, William Shakespeare sets in motion a triangle of narrative, emotion and temporality. It discusses the relationship between hope, fear and future as exhibited by the play. The play thus manages to pursue an aesthetic double strategy of movere and of initiating a conscious discourse on historicity. The chapter explores how Shakespeare uses this relation in an aesthetic strategy that seeks to unhinge the idea that a play is incapable of transcending a point of view defined by its historical situation. Literary works such as Ovid's Metamorphoses or Geoffrey Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde provide models for emotions such as hope and fear.
Reading, space and intimacy in Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde
Andrew James Johnston
In purely structural terms, Geoffrey Chaucer's poem Troilus and Criseyde erects a narrative edifice impressive for its classical austerity. Chaucer's main concern in Troilus and Criseyde is to demonstrate how deeply Trojan history is imbued with the 'Thebanness'. In Troilus and Criseyde, reading is a gender issue, and moreover, this chapter shows a question of the particular spaces where emotions are both gendered and engendered. The act of intimate reading produces exactly those powerful emotions that Pandarus had hoped to draw on previously when he was wooing Criseyde on behalf of Troilus. Pandarus's dismissive reaction would be a consequence of Criseyde's failure to read the courtly romance that he had hoped would facilitate his task. The act of reading is conceptualized as an act of intimacy, as an experience governed by and conducive to emotions.
Performing the politics of passion: Troilus and Criseyde and Troilus and Cressida and the literary tradition of love and history
Andrew James Johnston
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book treats the emotions in Troilus and Criseyde/Cressida as metatheatrical operators and, as a consequence, as more general metatemporal moderators. It suggests that hope and fear are central in William Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida because the two protagonists are aware of the way their reputations are being forged for eternity. The book scrutinizes a transhistorical regime of conflict-ridden affect. It also suggests that Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida situates itself within an affective temporality which is explicitly textualized. The book traces the genealogy of arrogance from one of the typified sins through to its development into an affective marker of novelty and innovation, finally being configured around the notion of authorship. The book explores the poetological dimension of arrogance in Geoffrey Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde and Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida.
In Troilus and Cressida, William Shakespeare invokes the trope of the speaking face, or the speaking body. But where Criseyde's face speaks silently and evocatively in a way that is utterly captivating to Troilus, Shakespeare's Ulysses 'reads' Cressida far more negatively. The examples from Geoffrey Chaucer and Shakespeare are very diverse, but all point to the inevitable ventriloquism in which authors make their characters speak, whether through spoken or unspoken words or through body language. In contrast to Chaucer's Troilus, and Giovanni Boccaccio's Criseida, Criseyde's expression is more complex. The rightly famous account of Criseyde's expression is of a different order from the other appearances of her face in the poem. Jill Mann invokes Criseyde's expressive face as one of the many means by which Chaucer produces the idea of a large 'reservoir of thoughts and feeling.
For the last three decades or so, literary studies, especially those dealing with premodern texts, have been dominated by the New Historicist paradigm. This book is a collection of essays explores medieval and early modern Troilus-texts from Chaucer to Shakespeare. The contributions show how medieval and early modern fictions of Troy use love and other emotions as a means of approaching the problem of tradition. The book argues that by emphasizing Troilus's and Cressida's hopes and fears, Shakespeare sets in motion a triangle of narrative, emotion and temporality. It is a spectacle of which tells something about the play but also about the relation between anticipatory emotion and temporality. The sense of multiple literary futures is shaped by Shakespeare's Chaucer, and in particular by Troilus and Criseyde. The book argues that the play's attempted violence upon a prototypical form of historical time is in part an attack on the literary narratives. Criseyde's beauty is described many times. The characters' predilection for sententiousness unfolds gradually. Through Criseyde, Chaucer's Poet displaces authorial humility as arrogance. The Troilus and Criseyde/Cressida saga begins with Boccaccio, who isolates and expands the love affair between Troiolo and Criseida to vent his sexual frustration. The poem appears to be linking an awareness of history and its continuing influence and impact on the present to hermeneutical acts conspicuously gendered female. The main late medieval Troy tradition does two things: it represents ferocious military combat, and also practises ferocious literary combat against other, competing traditions of Troy.
This chapter discusses Geoffrey Chaucer's fictionalizing treatment of the different concepts of love in his Trojan romance of Troilus and Criseyde as a kind of counterdiscursive 'literarization'. Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde is one of the first texts in English that is extensively deliberating on the subject of love in the fictionalized 'novelistic' form of romance. The chapter looks at William Shakespeare's use of the matière de Troie as a highly allusive satirical Inns of Court play, radically extending the scope of 'love' to all its levels. In contrast to Chaucer's narrative 'love poem', Shakespeare's theatrical play on Troilus and Cressida has always radically puzzled literary scholars. Shakespeare 'literally'/'literarily' manages to perform the passions of love without committing himself to the one variety that temporarily looks as if it were, contingently, the right one.
Shakespeare’s refurbishment of Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde
William Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida occupies an intermediate position, in its belated appearance in the Folio between Henry VIII and Coriolanus: between 'history' and 'tragedy', and in its title between two 'tragedies', Romeo and Juliet and Antony and Cleopatra. In Geoffrey Chaucer's poem, one of the acknowledged 'sources' of Shakespeare's play, the 'interiority of the subjects' is preserved, with emphasis upon the lovers' 'feelings'. E. Talbot Donaldson's intelligent view of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde is that of 'a portrait of a woman of almost mythological femininity, and readers respond to such a portrait by becoming their own mythmakers'. Criseyde's infidelity is a consequence of her inscription in a symbolic order that commits her to weakness in the face of masculine power. For Cressida, that 'madness of discourse' has always been a possibility, a protection against the power vested in patriarchy.
This chapter argues that Troilus and Cressida's attempted violence upon a prototypical form of historical time is in part an attack on the literary narratives. What the play lays bare is a nefarious temporality that is simultaneously condemned and underpinned, yet ultimately eroded by the relentless literary epochality of the successive Troy narratives. The chapter suggests that the past in William Shakespeare's Trojan War drama is a literary past. Emulation, in Shakespeare's vision, is at the heart of hierarchy, maintaining and exaggerating differences, and thus generating a fundamental social energy within a warlike aristocratic society. It also suggests that it is in the way that the chivalric texts accruing to the Troy narratives and the residual early modern ethos of a mythologized medievalism are relentlessly dismantled in a process of hyper-critique. The chapter focuses on the social and temporal threat that underpinning the masculine honour.