Courtly Romance - An essay on love in Chaucer's TROILUS AND...

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Smith 1 Lesley Smith English 380- Paper 3 Dr. Gwara 28 April 2011 I’ve Got the Power? Obligation is not a word that is normally used in conjunction with romance. Medieval marriages required obligation in towards one’s spouse, which had more to do with finances and less to do with love. In the tradition of courtly romance love is given and taken freely. Chaucer sums it up nicely in Book I of Troilus and Criseyde, in which he says, “A man…may love a woman till his heart will crack/But she is not obliged to love him back,” (I.87.5-7). There is where the exchange of power that is characteristic of courtly love comes into play and it means to keep the intentions of both parties known and to have no room for discrepancies when it comes to feelings. It is equally a preventative measure, for there is a very fine line between obligation and indebtedness that inherently involves manipulation by either or both sides. However, in Troilus and Criseyde they engage in an exchange of power that is more of a grasping for power and reluctance to let it go. The fact that is it transferred happens as a result of one of party unwillingly losing power; it is not given up freely. Whether it’s a critique on the genre of courtly romance or the concept of love, Troilus and Criseyde portrays that courtly romance has a script that must be acted out exactly as written, the biggest part of which is the exchange of power between the two parties. Thus the story of Troilus and his Criseyde is a sort of parody of courtly romance, especially when juxtaposed with the lais of Marie de France. Not only is the power exchange openly manipulated, but the authority is never given back to Troilus
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Smith 2 in the end, which is a convention of courtly love. Under these conditions their love is pretty much doomed from the start. Again, courtly love is based on equality, or the outward guise of it. Clearly, in Chaucer’s era gender-equality was not even a thought for most people, but the one exception seems to be in regards to courtly romance. Although there exists some manipulation in regards to courtly love, it is never done outwardly or maliciously. In opposition are Troilus and Criseyde who obviously manipulate the other and in some cases—more Criseyde than Troilus—seem to relish doing so. Troilus uses the same kind of manipulation throughout the story, but the feelings behind it transform into something different by the end of the poem. At the beginning he tells Pandarus that he is sure to die if Criseyde does not accept him as her lover. He throws himself at Pandarus’ feet and proclaims, “’My life and death I lay/in your good hands; help me!... God bless you;
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