Troilus and Criseyde

by Geoffrey Chaucer

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"For Tyme Y-lost May Not Recovered Be"

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Last Updated on August 14, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 432

Context: As Chaucer got his story of Troilus and Criseyde, involved in the twelfth century B.C. siege of Troy, from Benôit and Boccaccio, so Shakespeare borrowed from Chaucer and Robert Henryson (1430–1506). And as Shakespeare transferred the local color from Troy to the days of the late Renaissance, so he modernized his heroine's name to Cressida. The Criseyde of Chaucer is a Trojan widow, attracted by a gallant young warrior who rides past her house to do battle with the Greeks besieging Troy. When her uncle Pandarus tells her that the young hero is dying of love for her, though she suspects there is nothing honorable about his intentions, she allows herself to attend a dinner with him, and with all the ceremony of a medieval court of love, gives him permission to adore her. Next her pandering uncle maneuvres her into spending the night at his house, where he brings the lovers together, without much resistance from her. Afterward she even gives Troilus a brooch as token of their eternal love. Book IV shows how eternal it was. In a battle, some of the Greek leaders are captured, including Antenor. Calchas, a Trojan prophet who has fled to the Greeks, arranges that Antenor will be released on condition that Criseyde, his daughter, be allowed to leave Troy and join him in the Greek camp. In the part from which this quotation comes, Criseyde and Troilus spend the last night together, and once more she promises to remain true, and to rejoin him shortly. However, her Greek escort, Diomedes, is too attractive. The change of affection of this girl of old Troy demonstrates that Greek women were as fickle as a Roman woman was proclaimed to be by the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto. She gives Diomedes another of her brooches. Troilus, seeing it, tries to kill her new sweetheart on the battlefield, only to fall beneath the sword of the mighty Achilles. Chaucer does not chide or criticize her; rather, in his wellrounded characterization, he shows that he understands her. As a result, he has produced a very early example of what we now call the psychological novel. In the bedroom scene, she promises:

For dredelees within a week or two
I shall ben here! . .
For which I wol not make long sermoun,
For tyme y-lost may not recovered be;
But I will gon to my conclusioun
(And to the best, in ought that I can see).
And for the love of God, for-yeve it me
If I speke ought against your hertes reste,
For trewely, I speak it for the beste.

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"It Is Nought Good A Sleeping Hound To Wake"