The Poem

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Calchas, a Trojan prophet who has divined that Troy is doomed to defeat, flees to the Greeks, leaving behind his beautiful daughter, Criseyde, a young widow. One day in April, the citizens of Troy are observing the rites of the spring festival. Among those in the temple is Troilus, a son of King Priam of Troy. Troilus, who has always been scornful of the Trojan swains and their lovesickness, sees Criseyde and falls deeply in love with her at first sight. Himself now sick with the love malady, Troilus invokes the god of love to have pity on him. Because he feels that he has no hope of winning Criseyde, he becomes the scourge of the Greeks on the battlefield.

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Pandarus, Troilus’s friend, offers his advice and help when he learns that Troilus has lost his heart to a beautiful Trojan. When Troilus at length reveals that his lady is the fair Criseyde, Pandarus, who is Criseyde’s uncle, offers to become his mediator. Pandarus thereupon calls on his niece to gossip with her, and in their conversation he brings up the subject of Priam’s sons, praising the bravery of Troilus. Gradually he discloses to Criseyde that young Troilus is dying for love of her. Criseyde suspects that the intentions of neither Troilus nor Pandarus are honorable, and she cries out in distress, but Pandarus convinces her that Troilus’s love is pure. She feels herself drawn to the prince when she beholds his modesty as he rides past her house after a day of battle outside the walls of Troy. She decides, after much inner turmoil, that it would not be dishonorable to show friendship to Troilus to save the young man’s life.

At the suggestion of Pandarus, Troilus writes a letter to Criseyde, to which she responds in a restrained letter of her own. When Troilus, wishing to be with Criseyde, tires of this correspondence, Pandarus arranges a meeting by asking Deiphobus, Troilus’s brother, to invite the pair to his house for dinner. After the dinner, Criseyde gives Troilus permission to be in her service and to adore her.

Pandarus, eager to bring about a private meeting of the lovers, studies the stars and decides on a night that will be propitious for a tryst. He invites Criseyde to dine with him on that evening, with Troilus already hidden in his house. After they have dined, as the lady prepares to take her leave, it begins to rain, and Pandarus persuades her to stay. Through Pandarus’s wiles, the lovers are brought together. After yielding to Troilus, Criseyde gives him a brooch as a token of their love.

At about this time a great battle is fought between the Greeks and the Trojans, and several of the Trojan leaders are captured. In an exchange of prisoners, Calchas persuades the Greeks to ask for his daughter, Criseyde, in return for Antenor, a Trojan warrior. The Trojan parliament, after much debate, approves the transaction. Hector, another brother of Troilus, is unsuccessful in arguing that Criseyde should remain in Troy. Troilus is in despair.

After plans for the exchange have been made, Pandarus brings the lovers together again secretly. Criseyde, brokenhearted, tells the prince that their separation will not be for long, and that she will remain faithful to him. Troilus and his party accompany Criseyde to the place appointed for the exchange. There they meet Antenor, whom they are to conduct to Troy, and Diomedes, a young Greek warrior, leads Criseyde away to the Greek camp. Troilus returns to Troy to await the passing of ten days, at the end of which time Criseyde has promised she will return. Diomedes manages to seduce Criseyde by the tenth day, however, and she gives him the brooch that Troilus had given her at their parting. In return, Diomedes gives her a horse he had captured from Troilus in battle.

After several weeks of anxious waiting, Troilus writes to Criseyde. She answers him, weakly avowing her love for him and saying that she will return to...

(The entire section contains 1312 words.)

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