Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Only in the last ten years have critics worked to establish a more than superficial link between Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde and Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida. Part of the problem in this area of study was that scholars had ignored textual evidence proving that Shakespeare’s main source was Chaucer’s great poem. Current source-studies, outlined in the opening pages of this thesis, validate comparative treatments of the two texts.
This thesis steps beyond the issue of indebtedness into the realm of characterization, particularly the elements of Chaucer’s characterization of Troilus that Shakespeare chose to present to his Elizabethan audience and to incorporate into his own developing conception of tragedy.
This thesis examines the downfalls of Chaucer’s Troilus and Shakespeare’s Troilus, both of which result not from a single weakness of character but from a series of interrelated flaws. Comparing the characters as they develop, the thesis focuses first on the consuming sensuality coupled with pride which causes them to neglect their responsibility to the kingdom. Next their faith in worldly goods is explored, a faith which tears at the Troiluses’ nobility, honor, judgment and sense of value. This exploration leads to a discussion of their attempt to find spiritual happiness and order by adhering to a religion based on sensual love. Both Chaucer’s Troilus and Shakespeare’s Troilus allow their higher reason, sapientia, to be dominated by their lower reason, scientia. Blindly they surrender their wills to Fortune, an act which leaves them powerless to retaliate when she turns her wheel. We see that the Troiluses lose their identities. The object of their desire is taken away, their religion crumbles, they are betrayed, and ultimately, nothing is left for them to embrace except death.
Flesor, Laura Devon, "Chaucer's Troilus and Shakespeare's Troilus: A Comparison of Their Declines" (1989). Masters Theses. 2408.
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