The Poem

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1155

When Troy is besieged by Greeks who come to avenge the abduction and rape of Queen Helen by Paris, son of Priamo, Calchas, a Trojan priest, foresees the fall of Troy and flees to the Greeks, leaving behind his widowed daughter, Griseida. When the Trojan people hear of Calchas’s treachery, they assemble to burn her house, but they are stopped by Hector, who says she can remain in Troy.

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Some days later Troilo happens to see Griseida at a religious festival and, overcome with her exquisite beauty, he immediately falls in love with her. In order to keep his love secret, however, he makes remarks about the stupidity of love. In private he praises Griseida’s beauty and declares his love for her. Soon he begins to fight fiercely against the Greeks in the hope that his feats will be pleasing to her, but she shows no signs of recognizing his love. With each day his pining for her grows worse until he cannot eat or sleep but spends his time imploring Love to tell Griseida of his pain.

Pandaro finds Troilo in this condition and asks what causes his grief. Pledging Pandaro to secrecy, Troilo tells of his unrequited love for Griseida. Pandaro, agreeing that Griseida is worthy of such love, assures Troilo that he will, with his cunning, find a way to win the girl for him.

Pandaro leaves Troilo and goes immediately to Griseida’s house to tell her that she is greatly loved by a noble and virtuous man of Troy. After considerable teasing Pandaro reveals Troilo’s name to her. Though she considers Troilo worthy, Griseida still grieves for her dead husband, and she tells Pandaro that Troilo’s love will pass. Pandaro persists in telling her of Troilo’s miserable state, and at last she is convinced.

After Pandaro accomplishes his mission, he returns to Troilo and tells him of his success. Troilo is overcome with joy. After praising Venus, he goes with Pandaro to behold Griseida’s beauty.

For a time Troilo is satisfied with the knowledge that Griseida acknowledges his love, but as his passion increases he desires more than brief glimpses of her. His grief soon returns. When he tells Pandaro of his frustration, his friend suggests that he write a letter that Pandaro will take to Griseida.

The heartrending letter is written and carried to Griseida. Again she is hesitant, fearing that if she answers the letter she will appear immodest. Again Pandaro convinces her, and she writes a letter telling Troilo that she desires to meet him; once more her better judgment restrains her. Pandaro returns to Griseida after delivering the response and tells her that mere words are not sufficient. After some argument he assures her that her reputation will not be injured, as the matter will be kept secret.

When Griseida consents to meet Troilo in a secret room in her house, Pandaro cautions Troilo to be prudent. The young lover goes to Griseida’s house. Upon meeting, the two lovers embrace and, after a few words, go to her bed chamber where they pass the evening in physical delight.

A few days later the two lovers have another opportunity to be together. Troilo again meets her in the secret chamber, and once more they make love. They curse the morning that ends their meeting and plan to meet again when they can. The consummation of his love completely changes Troilo. He becomes even more fierce as a soldier, and he continually praises Love and the happy state of those who share its bounties.

Meanwhile, after some savage fighting, the Greeks take many of the best Trojan warriors as prisoners. Priamo is granted a truce, however, and an exchange of prisoners takes place. Calchas, hearing of this exchange, asks the Greeks to give him one of the Trojan warriors to exchange for his daughter Griseida. He is given the mighty Antenor.

During the negotiations Troilo hears that Griseida will be exchanged, and, heartbroken that he might lose her, he swoons. When he recovers, without revealing the cause of his consternation, he returns to his palace. There he remains, desolate and sick, reviling Fortune for permitting such a loss to occur. Eventually he summons Pandaro, who consoles him by saying that Griseida is not the only beautiful woman in Troy and that a new love will drive away the memories of the old one. Troilo, failing to respond to Pandaro’s words, wishes only for death. At last Pandaro suggests that Troilo abduct his love from the Greeks, a plan to which Troilo agrees, provided Griseida will consent.

That night Troilo visits Griseida, and the two bemoan their fate. Griseida suggests that the war might end soon and she can return, or, at the least, they can see each other during the truces. Troilo, not convinced, suggests that they run away. Fearing the loss of her honor, Griseida rejects this proposal. She tells Troilo to wait patiently for her return, which she will arrange within ten days.

After a tearful farewell, Griseida is delivered to Diomede in exchange for Antenor. Troilo passes the following days lamenting his loss until, at the suggestion of Pandaro, he goes with his friend to a feast in order to make the time pass more quickly.

In the Greek camp, meanwhile, Diomede discovers Griseida weeping. Upon learning the cause of her sorrow, he convinces her that Troy will fall and her love for Troilo is unwise. Eventually Griseida is overcome by his arguments and his suit of love, and her feeling for Troilo lessens.

On the tenth day Troilo and Pandaro go to the city gate. There they wait expectantly for Griseida’s return, but she does not appear. For the next six days Troilo waits with hope at the gate. Soon he begins to lose his strength and to become sickly. Then, in a dream, he sees Griseida being ravished by a wild boar that he believes represents Diomede. Overcome by the vision, Troilo attempts to kill himself, but he is stopped by Pandaro, who tells him to verify the dream by writing to his love. He writes as Pandaro suggests, requesting that she return or quell his fears, but he receives no answer.

For a time he vents his anger in battle. Then he receives an answer from Griseida, reaffirming her love. Troilo, still believing that she is being held in the Greek camp against her will, sends numerous messages to which she responds favorably. During a battle, however, a Trojan soldier wounds Diomede and takes from him a brooch that Troilo identifies as a gift he gave Griseida. Feeling now that his suspicion is true, he seeks out Diomede in battle and the two fight fiercely, but neither is able to overcome the other. One day, after Troilo kills many Greeks, Achille slays Troilo and thus ends the ill-conceived love between Troilo and Griseida.

Bibliography

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 323

Further Reading

Bergin, Thomas G. Boccaccio. New York: Viking Penguin, 1981. Devotes a chapter to The Filostrato, summarizing the plot, examining the work’s literary origins, and analyzing its themes. Notes the importance of the work to Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde.

Boccaccio, Giovanni. Il Filostrato. Translated by Robert P. apRoberts and Anna Bruni-Seldis. Edited by Vincenzo Pernicone. New York: Garland, 1986. In a comprehensive introduction, the translators trace the history of the Troilus story, examine the autobiographical elements (including the now-discarded identifications of the woman to whom Boccaccio supposedly wrote his work), review Boccaccio’s ideas about courtly love, and recount the appearance of the story in English literature.

Gittes, Tobias Foster. Boccaccio’s Naked Muse: Eros, Culture, and the Mythopoeic Imagination. Toronto, Ont.: University of Toronto Press, 2008. Examines all of Boccaccio’s works, including The Filostrato, to demonstrate how he used an innovative and coherent system of mythology in order to express his cultural experience and to address the needs of his readers.

Kearney, Milo, and Mimosa Schraer. “The Flaw in Troilus.” Chaucer Review 22, no. 3 (1988): 185-191. Compares Chaucer’s work to Boccaccio’s, examining the scene in which Pandarus encourages Troilus to find other women if he cannot have Criseyde. Troilus’s failure to defend his love exemplifies several situations in which Chaucer makes his hero more passive than Boccaccio’s.

Serafini-Sauli, Judith Powers. Giovanni Boccaccio. Boston: Twayne, 1982. Examines The Filostrato with reference to its use of courtly love, character development, and Griseida’s betrayal of her lover.

Stillinger, Thomas C. The Song of Troilus: Lyric Authority in the Medieval Book. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992. Stillinger analyzes three narrative books that are in some way constructed around lyric poems: Boccaccio’s The Filostrato, Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, and Dante’s Vita Nuova(c. 1292). He maintains that these books attempt to achieve an unprecedented “lyric authority” that combines the subjectivity of courtly love poetry with the objective authority of biblical commentary.

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