English Literature

Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde

Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 61, fol. 1v
Language: English (Southeast Midland)
Manuscript date: ca. 1420

Chaucer wrote his “book of Troilus” about 1381–6; it survives in 16 manuscripts and the same number of fragments; Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, MS 61 is one of the earliest manuscripts. Only two others and an early Caxton print of the poem have illuminations, but the Corpus Christi College manuscript’s full-page illumination is much more ambitious (see also the images of the Canterbury Tales manuscripts, above). The intense blues, pinks, reds, oranges, and greens, and the stippled gold make for a vibrant prefatory page. The border, figures, and setting suggest French and Italian influences on what was perhaps more than one English illuminator. The manuscript’s decoration is otherwise incomplete, approximately ninety spaces existing for other images, several of which would also have been full page. Interpretations of the content of the two scenes (divided by rocks) are as specific as stating that the foreground shows Chaucer reciting the poem to an audience of identifiable nobles and the background as a particular scene in Troilus and Criseyde. However, other explications point to the generic and non-specific aspects of the oral performance in the foreground and probably a fifteenth-century interpretation of the poem in the background.


Troilus and Criseyde

Primary documents and further reading

McGregor, J. H. (1977) “The Iconography of Chaucer in Hoccleve’s De Regimine Principum and in the Troilus Frontispiece.” Chaucer Review 11: 338–50. Parkes, M. B. and E. Salter (Intro.) (1978) Troilus and Criseyde: A Facsimile of Corpus Christi College Cambridge MS 61. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer. Pearsall, D. (1977) “The Troilus Frontispiece and Chaucer’s Audience.” Yearbook of English Studies 7: 68–74. Salter, E. and D. Pearsall (1980) “Pictorial Illustration of Late Medieval Poetic Texts: The Role of the Frontispiece or Prefatory Picture.” In F. G. Andersen et al. (eds.) Medieval Iconography and Narrative: A Symposium. Odense: Odense University Press, 100–23. Scott, K. L. (2000) “Limner-Power: A Book Artist in England, c. 1420.” In F. Riddy (ed.) Prestige, Authority, and Power in Late Medieval Manuscripts and Texts. Woodbridge, Suffolk: York Medieval Press, 55–75. Windeatt, B. A. (ed.) (1984) Troilus and Criseyde: A New Edition of “The Book of Troilus.” New York: Longman.

47 thoughts on “Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde

  1. Everyone in my dream last night spoke Shakespeare English. Including myself. This is the second time this has happened. WHY?

  2. As this eventful year comes to an end, which book/author do you think defines the literary scene of 2012?

  3. Yes, I’m a literary snob. Yes, I will judge you if you consider 50 Shades of Grey good reading material. #50Shades

  4. 999 Good article Sameer sahib. Impressed at your use of Manto, an othewise forgotten character of literary history.

  5. The near-certain (unacknowledged, uncompensated) literary source for Spielberg-Kushner “Lincoln” (scroll to end).

  6. Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officer provides a literary take on a memorable December incident: Jacksonville, Fla. — …

  7. “: Keevins latest ‘article’ towards Peter Lawwell is the literary version of a blow job” haha literary’s a bit strong mind

  8. 84 Is it your contention that all “criticism” of Israel is motivated by genuine concern for peace? Part 1

  9. Del Bosque: I listen to criticism and value it: In the second of a two-part interview, Vicente Del Bosque chats …

  10. “The Vedas are the largest mass of sacred knowledge from the ancient world, and they are its most brilliant literary achievement.

  11. I don’t really feel like defining literary terms and I definitely don’t feel like playing the four truths one lie game.

  12. RT @1stCitizenKane: I’m a fucking literary genius; it’s just science, but my emotional retardation and societal loathing are beginning t …

  13. my hair is a mess, literary. That’s why I hate my real hair cause all I so is wanna straighten it, & my hair always breaks off ******

  14. When I think of anti-abortionists of this ilk, I don’t often associate them with excellent literary metaphors.

  15. 24 something to consider. Though as you say ‘general consensus’ is not necessarily a fantastic marker for literary merit…

  16. Yes i know… when i notice that Pierre do that i literary smash myself to the floor! haha i was so excited and happy about it!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.