In Chaucer's 'Troilus and Criseyde', Troilus is the hero, but Criseyde is the more appealing character. Discuss.

Essay by UnholySmokeUniversity, Ph.D.B+, April 2004

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One of the most striking elements of Troilus and Criseyde is the difference in Chaucer's presentation of the two lovers. Whereas Troilus is certainly the better person of the two, I intend to show that the reader ultimately finds it easier to identify with and believe in the character of Criseyde, since she is by far the more credibly human in her actions and thoughts.

One of the most essential factors in how the reader views the two characters is due to the narrator himself - from the first scene, the reader feels as though they know Troilus and the way in which he thinks. This is not difficult, since Troilus is, as soon as he sees Criseyde during Palladion's festival, almost unable to think straight with love. The reader feels sympathy for his situation - consumed by a love so intense he can do nothing but lie in his bedchamber.

However, the reader also feels a certain annoyance at Troilus' inability to act on his feelings, as well as at his self-absorption. It is not until the final act - when Troilus begins to take some responsibility for his own actions - that he truly fills his citation as the play's 'hero,' and in his realisation is reconciled with the reader.

What exactly do we mean by 'hero?' The word has two connotations in this instance. The first is that laid out in Aristotle's definition of classical tragedy, on which Troilus and Criseyde relies. Troilus is a tragic hero in every sense since he possesses all the relevant traits. These are, "having a high social position, not being overly good or bad, being persistent in their actions, arousing pity in the audience, a revelatory manifestation, and having a single flaw that brings about their own demise and the demise...