Ambiguity and Understanding of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde

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Ambiguity and Understanding of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde

One of the aspects of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde that seemed most confusing at first was the apparent ambiguity or complete lack of motivation that the author provides for the main characters. Chaucer provides little explanation for why his major characters act the way that they do; when he does, his explanations are often ambiguous or contradictory. Pandarus is an excellent example of a character whose motives are ambiguous. The only motives clearly attributable to him based on the poem's text seem to be the friendship and affection he and Troilus have for each other, which is supported by the narrator's claim that "Pandarus ... [was] desirous to serve his
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(2.219)

In part, this confusion is also due to the fact that the narrator who supplies information to the reader is himself a character, a fictional historian-poet who quotes other fictional sources, such as "myn auctor called Lollius." (1.394) Although it may not be immediately obvious that Chaucer's narrator is not identical with Chaucer himself, it seems to be apparent from Chaucer's portrayal of the narrator in the story. For instance, the narrator claims he will translate "naught only in the sentence ... but pleinly, save oure tonges difference ... in al, that Troilus / Seyde in his song." (1.393-397) Of course, an exact, word-for-word report translated into another language is no longer an exact, word-for-word report, a logical fact of which Chaucer was doubtless aware, even if his fictional narrator was not. The fact that the narrator is merely another character is problematic because the narrator and he information he provides are not completely reliable. He makes questionable assertions about character motives and departs from the action of the story to make unexpected digressions. For instance, Chaucer's narrator makes a defense, in lines 2.666-686, against an accusation against Criseyde that is unlikely to occur to the reader: that she "lightly loved Troilus." (2.668)

Further complicating
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