Category: UCO

Criseyde, Briseida, and… Bella? On ‘Courtly Love’ and its Victims

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Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde and Benoît de Sainte-Maure’s Le Roman de Troie (the Romance of Troy) are two comparable epic poems both set during the Trojan War. Although itself not the origin of the story in general, Le Roman de Troie is the origin of the adapted characters found within Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, although in the original work, one of the two ill-fated lovers went by a slightly different name (Briseida, and not Criseyde—though she would later be adapted into Shakespeare’s perhaps more recognizable Cressida). Le Roman de Troie was incredibly influential, and would inspire a multitude of works that would come thereafter and which would deal with similar themes.

Because of the emphasis on the principles of courtly romance, this work was popular with the nobility the genre was typically aimed at; courtly romance was a genre (or perhaps more of a cultural fantasy, though it’s debatable whether it may or may not have reflected reality more so than not) which heavily emphasized the idea of love as suffering, and particularly a man who suffered in the pursuit of love. The man in such a courtly love would lament about the many terrible pains and ills that love brought upon him, and it was typical for love itself to be compared to injuries or illnesses. The male love interest and lead would whinge and wail about the absolute agony love was for him, as he had fallen for a woman who was unattainable to him in some way. Often, this meant a married woman; these romances often involved love triangles between a squire/knight, a lord, and a lady. Either way, by the end, the man could often expect to have won the woman over simply by refusing to take no for an answer enough times–if the story didn’t wrap up with an unhappy ending meant to exemplify just how tragic and painful love was. These stories were, as aforementioned, aimed at an audience of aristocrats, as the depicted lovers were always upper class as well—courtly love was (apparently) simply not meant for commoners.

Le Roman de Troie’s depiction of courtly love was particularly in a love triangle between Trojan prince Troilus, Briseida (daughter of Calchas), and the Greek soldier Diomedes. This love triangle would later be adapted almost wholecloth into Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde. In Chaucer’s version of the tale, a lot of significance is placed upon the concept of fate and how it acted upon the work’s characters; the romance’s occurrence at all is due to a punishment enacted upon Troilus by the god of love, and he spends half of the the rest of the narrative (once the initial ‘hope spot’ has passed for him) lamenting and cursing how fortune (and love) has ruined him. Troilus falls for and attempts to woo Criseyde, in part thanks to the interference of her uncle Pandarus, who in all honesty seems pretty lukewarm on the idea of dating him. Troilus and Pandarus will not relent, however.

http://www.harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=252

Calm and practical, Criseyde considers the potential pros and cons of agreeing to such a romance, and in the end seems willing to try as long as things remain discreet (and likely at least partially in the hopes that she will stop being pestered so about it). Much of the action taken by Criseyde in the story is due to the meddling and wheedling of others, who seem perfectly content to treat her as nothing more than an unfeeling object to be won as a prize and not a person with her own thoughts and emotions. Criseyde never seems to fully commit to the love she supposedly shares with Troilus (because of course she didn’t—she’s been pressured into it!), and in the end, her practicality wins out yet again, as she refuses to elope with Troilus and then ‘breaks his heart’ when she leaves him for another man (Diomedes) after making a very noncommittal sort of promise to him. Criseyde feels like barely a character, and it’s a shame; from what little we do come to understand of her, she seems rational and lever-headed, and certainly not deserving of the villainization she has received by audiences of this work.

The genre of courtly romance is one that can perhaps be pointed to as the likely origins of the trope of ‘wearing her down’ today. How many Adam Sandler movies have you seen wherein the male lead just has to keep bumbling his way forward steadily towards an assured romance, in spite of his love interest’s apparent lack of interest? The dedicated guy deserves the girl, or so we’re led to believe (nevermind that people are not the prizes at a Chuck-E-Cheese), and so we do not often question it, even when frankly creepy behaviors like the signs in Love Actually are portrayed as totally fine and totally romantic. The likelihood of a male hero ‘winning’ the lady of his choice in the end is often directly correlated with his likelihood of ignoring all attempts from her to turn him down.

 

It’s on these foundations that a lot of creepy romance tropes rest (although, in fairness, a lot of them are also just plain exemplary of the patriarchy as a whole and the values it tends to teach us). If the description of the courtly love genre earlier put you off, consider whether your favorite—or perhaps your parents’ favorite—romantic film would tick off almost all the same boxes. An easy example to point at is, of course, the Twilight series of books and films, and though much has been said already in the way of criticizing these works and their inherent misogyny, in the wake of 2020’s ‘Twilight renaissance’ (in which the work saw a resurgence of fans and discussion), it still feels relevant enough, and is an especially helpful point of reference in proving just how much these tropes have persisted to this day.

Consider, if you will, the general qualities of a courtly love: a man is drawn to a girl that is or should be in some way unattainable to him. Check—not only is Edward attracted to Bella romantically, he’s literally magically drawn to her blood because of vampire logic; he likens her to a personally targeted drug. The man complains about the suffering this love causes him. (Check! In fact, there’s a good deal of Edward creepily blaming Bella for daring to draw him in, as if she chose to have weird magic blood. The man nonetheless does pursue a romance with the girl, typically while ignoring her own boundaries outright. Check. Although there isn’t as much ‘wearing down’ in this franchise, the fact that Edward does things like consistently stand outside Bella’s house to watch her sleep should not go unacknowledged, even as frequently as critics of the series have called this behavior out. Not to mention his total disregard for her own personal agency in most cases. A love triangle? Check. What about the either tragic love-is-pain or more hopeful guy-gets-the-girl endings? Well, we’re in for a treat, because this series has both! If you want to read the courtly love tragedy, just stop the series after Edward’s abandonment of Bella (and her subsequent depression) in New Moon. The series really has it all. How romantic.

Obviously, this is anything but romantic in truth, but it speaks of a trope that’s all too common. Why have we not dropped the fantasy of courtly romances by now? Sure, we may have dropped the ‘courtly’ bit, but that’s really not saying much—the heart of the genre is still alive and well today, and I honestly think a good deal of our media has suffered for it. Perhaps in the time of Chaucer or de Sainte-Maure it could be excused (though I personally would not), but misogyny as romance has long outlived its welcome.

Artistic Analysis Canterbury Book Covers

I have chosen to analyze different book covers of The Canterbury Tales. The different illustrations show an evolution of how Chaucer is read and they show the publisher’s intention.

Stain Glasss

The difference between a sincere and earnest representation of women’s capabilities and a half-hearted attempt to make a sorry-not-sorry apology.

THE BOOK OF THE CITY OF LADIES AND THE LEGEND OF GOOD WOMEN

The difference between a sincere and earnest representation of women’s capabilities and a half-hearted attempt to make a sorry-not-sorry apology.

Christine De Pizan was a contemporary of Geoffrey Chaucer, writing around the same time as he was during the middle ages in Europe. Being an educated and capable woman in the middle ages, it irritated her to see many of her male contemporaries paint women in a negative or slanderous light. She got so fed up with this horrible misrepresentation of her gender that she wrote an entire book to refute many of the criticisms she’d heard against women. She set her story up with a framework where she is the main character and is visited by three celestial ladies sent to her by God, who inform her that she has been chosen to build a city just for awesome and worthy women from the past and present. So, like Noah’s Ark but without the whole flood thing and it’s really just a cool place for women to go and get away from all the men. It is compared to Amazonia, which you may recognize from either Greek Mythology, or Wonder Woman comics/movies.

NO BOYS ALLOWED Red White Sign on Timber Wall Background

De Pizan constructs her city with the help of these three ladies, Reason, Rectitude, and Justice. Since Christine has a lot of internalized misogyny going on due to all the men like Ovid constantly writing about how terrible women are, the first two-thirds of the book are reserved for Reason and Rectitude getting her out of that mindset. She asks questions like, “why do all these men say women are unfaithful?” and they tell her, “Stop reading Ovid! He was a player when he was young and now he tries to ruin everything for everyone else because he’s aged out of his salacious little lifestyle.”  Every time she asks a question like this, they give her numerous of examples of women who proved themselves to be faithful, intelligent, powerful, and otherwise worthy. All of these women, and any women from the past, present, and future who prove themselves worthy will all be able to Reside in the City of Ladies Christine is building.

Image title : “…splashy banner…thanks for another great year, peasants!” by cartoonsource on stock.adobe.com File #72669384 Also, pretend those three people are the Ladies Reason, Rectitude, and Justice. It’s funnier that way.

Chaucer wrote something similar, The Legend of Good Women, in that he gives a few examples of women who he thought were “good.” That’s pretty much where the similarities stop though, because Chaucer really didn’t seem as invested as De Pizan was in representing women and how they are just as capable intellectually and emotionally to men. Really, Chaucer seemed to be writing his Legend of Good Women more as a response to a slap on the wrist for portraying some women in his works unfavorably. He basically came out with Legend of Good Women as a way to say, “Hey, I’m not a bad guy! Here’s some women that I think are great!” and proceeds to primarily list women who don’t do much other than suffering for the men in their lives, usually enduring some pretty horrendous treatment and tragedy.

Chaucer spends the majority of The Legend of Good Women on the prologue where he, similarly to Pizan, is visited by celestial beings, only they are the God of Love and his Queen, and the God of Love is there to wreck him for being totally disrespectful to love in his works. Thankfully for Chaucer, the God of Love’s Queen Alceste intercedes and says that Chaucer just needs to pay some penance, do some community service and all that. She says that he needs to write a book about great women who were faithful despite the men in their lives being total garbage. And he needs to give the book to the Queen of England when he’s done.

Reading the two works, you can see the difference in conviction and motivations for Chaucer and De Pizan. Chaucer just clearly wants some people to get off his back. It’s like a modern day person saying, “How can you criticize my work for being misogynist? I totally love women!” and kind of going on a rant unrelated or irrelevant to the initial criticism. He spends very little time talking about most of the women, and he takes out all of the most interesting parts of one of Greek mythology’s best anti-heroes, Medea. (Although to be fair, De Pizan leaves out some of the more extreme stuff for Medea in order to make her appeal a bit more to her Christian ideology, too) The specific issue here seems representative of the whole work, where Chaucer does not really center the women in his Legend of Good Women. In Medea’s story her male counterpart is centered and she is reduced to how she was useful to him. In Legend of Good Women, Chaucer, in a sense, is reducing all of his female examples to their usefulness to his own purpose, redeeming his own reputation as a good guy.

De Pizan, however, gives us the perspective of a woman in the middle ages earnestly and seriously arguing that women are, in fact, capable and good and intelligent on their own. She’s not perfect, and unfortunately the ending of the Book of the City of Ladies is disappointing from a modern feminist perspective, but the first half of her book reads like an early version of Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication on the Rights of Women, which is pretty amazing. She uses similar arguments, one example on women’s lack of exposure to education and experience as the more logical reason to why women at the time may not have had the same knowledge as women, and that if they were exposed to the same educational resources and experiences they would be just as intellectually capable as men in learning. Who would have thought?! For some perspective, De Pizan published the Book of the City of Ladies a whopping 387 years before Wollstonecraft’s Vindication. So, although De Pizan ends her book with an appeal to women to put up with their awful and even abusive husbands so they can be rewarded in Heaven, which is, again, from a modern feminist perspective, pretty disappointing, it is amazing to read a woman’s work from the early 1400’s that stands up to the misogyny of her day and makes sound arguments in defense of women.

Vintage colorful woman power badge with beautiful strong girl in uniform with tattoo on arm isolated vector illustration

-Arielle S. Arnold

What is love? Chaucer and Petrarch

Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus’s Song is excerpt from his tragic romance, Troilus and Criseyde. Here is the song:

If no love is, O God, what fele I so?
And if love is, what thing and which is he?
If love be good, from whennes cometh my woo?
If it be wikke, a wonder thynketh me,
When ever torment and adversite
That cometh of hym, may to me savory thinke,
For ay thurst I, the more that ich it drynke.
And if that at myn owen lust I brenne,
From whennes cometh my waillynge and my pleynte?
If harm agree me, whereto pleyne I thenne?
I noot, ne whi unwery that I feynte.
O quike deth, O swete harm so queynte,
How may of the in me swich quantite,
But if that I consente that it be?
And if that I consente, I wrongfully
Compleyne, iwis.  Thus possed to and fro,
Al stereless withinne a boot am I
Amydde the see, betwixen wyndes two,
That in contrarie stonden evere mo.
Allas! what is this wondre maladie?
For hete of cold, for cold of hete, I dye.

My Middle English is not the best but Troilus is questioning love and his life after he feels that he has been betrayed by Criseyde.   Troilus begins by wondering, “If there is no love, God, what do I feel?” His perception of love is supposed to be positive but all he can express is pain. “If love is good, then from where comes my woe? Why do I thirst for it?” “Why does he wail and feel plaintive”

It’s a internal question about the pangs of love, and how it manifests itself so deep within us.  Troilus begins by wondering, paraphrased for your convenience, “If there is no love, God, what do I feel?”  Moving on with the assumption that it is love, he wants to know, “what thing and which” is love?  Love is thought of as positive, but Troilus feels pain from it.  “If love is good, then from where comes my woe?  If it’s wicked, why do I find its torments savory, why do I thirst for it?”  It’s the question we all ask:  “Why does love hurt if it’s good, why do I want it so badly, why can I not live without it?”  He feels like he is rudderless boat out at sea being tossed to and fro.  The poem is full of adjectives comparing love and pain.  He is feels he is dying in the heat and it is cold.  Here is a link to hear the video read.

Chaucer borrowed some of the feelings expressed in this song from Petrarch’s S’amor non e, che dunque e quel ch’io sento.  Here is Petrarch’s version:

What do I feel if this is not love?
But if it is love, God, what thing is this?
If good, why this effect: bitter, mortal?
If bad, then why is every suffering sweet?

If I desire to burn, why tears and grief?
If my state’s evil, what’s the use of grieving?
O living death, O delightful evil,
how can you be in me so, if I do not consent?

And if I consent, I am greatly wrong in sorrowing.
Among conflicting winds in a frail boat
I find myself on the deep sea without a helm,

so light in knowledge, so laden with error,
that I do not know what I wish myself,
and tremble in midsummer, burn in winter.

While I was reading both poems, a song from Haddaway came to mind. I have included a link to video and the lyrics are

What is love?
Oh baby, don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt me
No more

Oh baby, don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me
No more
What is love?
Yeah

No, I don’t know why you’re not fair
I give you my love, but you don’t care
So what is right and what is wrong?
Gimme a sign

What is love?
Oh baby, don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt me
No more

What is love?
Oh baby, don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt me
No more

Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, oh, oh
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, oh, oh

Oh, I don’t know, what can I do?
What else can I say? It’s up to you
I know we’re one, just me and you
I can’t go on

What is love?
Oh baby, don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt me
No more

What is love?
Oh baby, don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt me
No more

Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, oh, oh
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, oh, oh

What is love?
What is love?
What is love?
Oh baby, don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt me
No more

Don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt me

I want no other, no other lover
This is our life, our time
If we are together, I need you forever
Is it love?

What is love?
Oh baby, don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt me
No more

What is love?
Oh baby, don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt me
No more
Yeah, yeah

Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, oh, oh
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, oh, oh

What is love?
Oh baby, don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt me
No more

What is love?
Oh baby, don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt me
No more (whoa, whoa)

Oh baby, don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt me
No more (whoa, whoa)

Oh baby, don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt me
No more
What is love?

In conclusion, Chaucer and Petrarch are posing the question that we are still questioning today.  What is love and why does it have to hurt so bad when it is wrong?  We are afflicted with a deep, uncontrollable thirst that leaves us wanting more.

Michelle Stone

Ladies in Cities and Legends

Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Legend of Good Women” and Christine de Pizan’s “The Book of the City of Ladies” are inherently similar stories. A collection of stories presented to the reader as a prophetic dream, written down and translated into story for all to read, especially the female audience. I will say I can compare the two well, but the contrast between them is immense as well. The difference in these two stories is the intent of the author’s message to the readers. Although Chaucer exposed men’s villainous behavior in “The Legend of Good Women,” this was not how he had written on the subject of women in the past. Chaucer’s previous works, like portions of “The Canterbury Tales,” to be specific, “The Wife of Bath,” he portrays a woman who questions the bible and manipulates men in order to get her way. Although this is not a truly inaccurate assumption of women, it casted an untrustworthy light upon them, as if the women of the fifteenth century needed anything more to drag them down. “The Legend of Good Women” was a sharp change in contrast to Chaucer’s previous works. So why would he all of a sudden change his tune to the sound of Good Women?

The name in itself seems a bit ironic. Are “Good Women” only legend? During Chaucer’s writing of “The Legend of Good Women,” Richard II is ruling England with his Queen Anne of Bohemia. She was a known feminist and integrated the court with an abundance of women. Even Chaucer’s sister-in-law was connected with these ladies who lived at court, which means Chaucer himself was closely connected to the most powerful woman in England. In one of Chaucer’s drafted prologues for “The Legend of Good Women, Prologue F,” he pays Queen Anne a compliment and continues to paint his villainous picture of men. One can only imagine why he would want to suddenly change his tune as an author who was regularly read by women who frequented court often. Chaucer’s stories of Good Women taught lessons to women of all kinds- those who were of the gentry and those who had to labor through their days. His stories featured legends and tales of goddesses, historical figures like Cleopatra, myths, and martyrs. One thing all of the women in his stories shared in common was the struggles and pain they all endured. This was a relatable point for all women during the time that Chaucer wrote his book. These stories told of love lost, betrayals, and violence against women. Men were most often the villains of the stories, and this is yet another idea that common women could understand. These were not only stories for the common woman in Chaucer’s audience- but these ideas were also understood and related to on a personal level for most. Women had no rights or say in how their lives would unfold. They were mostly dependent on the men in their families. So, reading a story about a man who had betrayed a woman in his life was not so far fetched during this time. Women were not taught to think about love over comfort- it was about who would take care of them the best and make their lives easiest. This could result in lost love, like some of the stories told in Chaucer’s tales. Violence against women was common during this time as well, as women did not have the same standing as men. Women were lesser citizens and were seen more as property rather than true people.  Chaucer used his writing as a way to spotlight the wrongs against women, which may have gained him more readers. Assuming that Chaucer only used this stance to stand up for women, as a propaganda in order to gain favor from the women in court and more specifically, the queen, says that his story, although very similar to de Pizan’s “The Book of the City of Ladies,” was not from the same intention or genuine context.

Christine de Pizan’s “The Book of the City of Ladies” was written by a woman, which makes me believe personally that it is already more credible when considering intentions rather than Chaucer’s “The Legend of Good Women.” Christine de Pizan knew personally of the struggles women in her time faced every day. She knew exactly what it felt like to be considered property and to be treated badly because she was not a man. Her story came from a longing of wanting to protect women like herself, the women who came before her, and the women who would come after her. She knew that she could not do this realistically, so she did this in her mind and through her writing. In her story she meets three goddess type characters, which is similar to Chaucer’s story that comes to him in a vision type of setting, who come to her and give her instruction to build a city. Within this city, all the good women of the world would come and inhabit it. Christine de Pizan makes note that how a good woman is defined is not to be determined by a man. Men have twisted views of women based on their own personal experiences and are quick to condemn all women for something that only one or a few women had done. This denotes men and their opinion of women in general. They cannot be trusted to pass judgment when they are rather hypocritical according to Pizan. Within this city women from legend, religious stories, myths, and real history are invited to live all together. Mother Mary is chosen to be the leader of this city upon completion and all will follow her holy instruction. Perhaps this is how Pizan longs for the world to be: for the Mother of Christ to lead all people, protect the women, and keep the world’s order intact. Unfortunately, this was not reality, so Pizan could only create this type of world within her own story. Pizan wanted to defend women and keep them safe from men and their harsh judgments. This safe place is within the mind of a woman. If the woman keeps her mind strong, no man will ever be able to come in and take over her city. This story comes from a genuine place from Christine de Pizan. She did not write this story to impress the ladies at court or the queen, she wrote this because it was truly how she felt and what she longed for in a world that would never be fair to her.

Although the two stories are similar, they deliver two very different messages. Chaucer seems to give instruction on how to be a good woman like the ones from his compiled stories and Pizan seems to think that most ladies are good and deserve protection regardless. Both stories illustrate men as the villain in the lives of women, the struggles women face, and the promotion of better treatment for women.

 

 

 

-Britainy Plummer

The Perils of Bonding with a Father

What I was drawn to initially in the mirrored stories of The Cock and the Fox and “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” was how exactly both the Cock and Chauntecleer found themselves in the fox’s jaws. By this I mean not the moral of the fable, which is about the vulnerable state one can be in the embrace of vanity, but rather a specific tactic both foxes utilize. This tactic is bringing up their fathers, and more specifically it is a move of emotional manipulation by the foxes to leave both the cock and Chauntecleer vulnerable. This shared dialogue in both The Cock and the Fox and “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” is what gets both cocks’ necks ensnared by the foxes. This strategy by the fox made me think about how the shadow of a man’s father, either in the sense of positive close relationship or as a means to appease, has also lead both fictional and non-fictional people to states of consequential weakness that leads to a great vulnerability. The cock and Chauntecleer both have vain egos, but when the foxes mention them in the light of their fathers, the ego becomes internally questioned and must be solidified. Three entirely different figures I see this same dynamic in are Hamlet from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Luke Skywalker from in particular The Empire Strikes Back, and professional golfer Tiger Woods. While the reader may not know the relationship with the Cock, Chauntecleer, and their respective fathers, the same emotional nerve that the foxes struck is arguably the same nerve that Claudius struck in Hamlet, Darth Vader struck in Luke, and Earl Woods struck that nerve in his own son throughout his living presence in Tiger’s entire carrier.

As the foxes begin to flatter both the cock and Chauntecleer, their next phrases would appear to be intentional tactics to distract them into danger:

“I never heard a voice so clear except your father’s – Ah! poor dear! His voice rang clearly, loudly – but Most clearly, when his eyes were shut!” (France)

“But certeyn, ther nis no comparisoun bitwix the wisdom and discrecioun of youre fader, and of his subtiltee. Now singeth, sire, for seinte charitee! Let see, conne ye your fader countrefete?” (497-501)

These suggestions by the foxes get near immediate physical reactions to please, not unlike if they were trying to please their own fathers in real time. The cock does as the fox asks and closes his eyes, and then is subsequently snatched. Chauntecleer imitates his father as the fox asks, and in a following suggestion also “heeld his eyen cloos,” (512) which leads to him getting grabbed by the throat. These suggestions to be like their fathers became their motivations to do that through physical imitation. These actions allow them to be close to their fathers, and clearly they view their fathers in high regard by how much they react positively.

Hamlet

(David Tennant as Hamlet and Sir Patrick Stewart as Claudius) Picture by Robbie Jack

I would argue these actions on behalf of the father in The Cock and the Fox and “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” are mirrored emotionally by Hamlet in Hamlet. Hamlet, who is tortured by the untimely death of his father, is motivated to avenge him after a conversation with his father’s own ghost, by plotting to take the life of King Hamlet’s brother Claudius. What the reader can identify between these three tales is a respectful and loving view of their fathers. What can also be seen is that the cock, Chauntecleer, and Hamlet are all led by their emotions in wanting to do a very particular action in order to appease and be closer to their fathers. The cock and Chauntecleer both imitate him out of love in an almost childish manner, and Hamlet is ready and willing to avenge and appease his father with bloodshed. These motivations are what lead to their mutual fates through vulnerabilities: both the cock and Chauntecleer are dragged off by the foxes to be killed, and the cost of Hamlet’s path of revenge is his eventual death. If Hamlet had not been actively trying to avenge his father, he would have not been in a mind state that lead to him killing Polonius, because that is the event that lead to Laertes working with Claudius in plotting to kill Hamlet to avenge Polonius, his father. These motivations that lead to vulnerability in order to appease a father that are shared between The Cock and the Fox, “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale,” and Hamlet are further amplified with Laertes being led by these same motivations that lead to his own death.

Although the plot of Hamlet is in no way like “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale” or The Cock and the Fox, these same emotional mechanics tied to their fathers are very much the same at their core. These emotional mechanics work towards an end, or a means of resolution for better or worse. In all of these works of fiction, it is a vehicle for the plot to be eventually resolved. Hamlet is not the only work that these emotional mechanics are involved in. Luke Skywalker also wanted to be like his father, Anakin, and not unlike Hamlet he was willing to take a life in order to avenge him. This motivation is what led him to great danger and vulnerability in The Empire Strikes Back.

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in “The Empire Strikes Back”

Before Luke Skywalker finds out that his father is in fact Darth Vader (spoiler) and his motivation becomes bringing his father back from the dark side, his motivation is in fact to avenge his father by killing the at the time considered mutually exclusive Darth Vader. The reason why Luke wants to be a jedi is because his father was. After Darth Vader kills Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke’s secondary motivation, that is also mirrored in the cock and Chauntecleer, is to appease and avenge Obi-Wan as well as his father. This pursuit is what leads to his battle and moment of great vulnerability in The Empire Strikes Back. Luke is vulnerable because his motivations to appease his father and master, made him blind to the fact he was in no way ready to fight Darth Vader. This vulnerability is further compounded when Darth Vader tells Luke that he is in fact his father, leading Luke to wallow like a child. This specific moment is shared in entirety between The Cock and the Fox, “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale,” and The Empire Strikes Back by nature of the fact the cock, Chauntecleer, and Luke are all a moment away from having their lives ended as a consequence of their pursuit to appease a father, and they are all saved by their own hands or someone else’s in a moment of grace.

As opposed to Hamlet, The Cock and the Fox, “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale,” and The Empire Strikes Back all have a moment of a saving moment that allow the cock, Chauntecleer, and Luke Skywalker learn from the moral of their own tale. This motivation to appease the father is also existent in reality. The motivational force of a father on a young boy can allow for an enriched character, but that force can become daunting and at times negative in their lives. A contemporary example of this same emotional mechanic at work is Tiger Woods. Just like the cock, Chauntecleer, Hamlet, and Luke Skywalker, Tiger Wood’s desire to appease and emulate his father has lead as much to his success as much as it as his personal hardships, and subsequent vulnerability.

TIGER WOODS

(Tiger And Earl Woods) picture by Reuters

In light of Tiger Woods’ recent car accident, I would like to state first before this section of the blog, that the intention of it is not to critique Tiger Woods as a human being. Tiger Woods has faced many hardships in the pursuit of his goals, and what I am arguing is that his pursuit of goals was very much influenced by his father Earl Woods, and that influence has lead to vulnerable moments in his life. This is an aspect to the new Tiger Woods documentary called Tiger on HBO. The documentary makes sure to spend ample time dissecting the complicated but deep love between Tiger and his father. Earl Woods trained Tiger at a very early age, and his constant tutelage lead Tiger to the heights of his professional career. What the documentary argues simultaneously is that his father’s drive halted Tiger from having a normal childhood, which led to a repression and then acting out consequentially during moments of his life. He was deeply angry at his father at times, but his father’s constant support and adoration inspired him and kept him focused in his pursuits. He loved winning because it made his father proud. How Tiger Woods is linked to the cock, Chauntecleer, Hamlet, and Luke Skywalker is due to him pursuing his goals, which is an action in order to appease his father like all of the other fictional characters. In his pursuits to win and gain his fathers approval, Tiger Woods has had to struggle with addictions that started as ways to cope with the stress of his carrier. This struggle allowed for Tiger Woods to fall into states of vulnerability, which is all tied back to appeasing his father.

The motivations to appease a father shared by the cock, Chauntecleer, Hamlet, Luke Skywalker, and Tiger Woods, all subsequently show how that pursuit can lead to great vulnerability. These motivations are so valid for action that the reader can see them both in and out of reality. This progression elicits such a strong reaction due in part to it being relatable. Human beings want to appease their parents, and that can lead to both positive and negative outcomes. Your pursuit may fall short, and you feel weak in that moment, or you can commit so much to its accomplishment, you are blinded to other aspects of life. All of these people, real or not, are bonded by this singular pursuit of appeasement. Whether based in short story, play, movie, or real life, that pursuit perpetuated all of the subsequent events forward.

The Book of the City of Ladies Represented Through Beyoncé and Christina Aguilera

Ahh, the topic of oppressed women and the ability to obtain a true sense of equality and freedom through forms of expressive literature and music because, you know, women are constantly being stifled and labeled as “over-emotional.” Don’t you love upholding traditional values and ideologies? (Sarcasm heavily implied)

In The Book of the City of Ladies As Christine ponders over this despairing topic questioning how and why women are seen as such horrible beings. After a decent amount of self-torturing wondering why she was created as a woman and therefore predetermined to be as horrible as what the men say since everything they say is correct and the absolute truth with zero exaggeration (heavy eye-roll) she is then visited by these ladies who offer reassuring guidance as well as open Christine’s eyes to how strong women really are. How women can do great things. They tell stories about women accomplishing major feats. And this is where my comparison of Pizan’s book to pop culture songs comes in. I am going to use Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls)” and Christina Aguilera’s “Can’t Hold Us Down” because come on! These chicks are boss babes!

Looking at “Can’t Hold Us Down,” the song begins with the idea of women and their inability to stand up for themselves to a man by voicing their opinion and also the idea that women can’t express themselves freely without being considered temperamental or vile and be social (yes… that is what I will call it for the sanctity of what is appropriate) without being labeled as a deviant. Here are two sets of lyrics to evaluate:

[…] When a female fires back suddenly big talker don’t know how to act
So he does what every little boy would do
Makin’ up a few false rumors or two
That for sure is not a man for me, slanderin’ names for popularity
It’s sad you only get your fame through controversy
But now it’s time for me to come and give you more to say [….]

 

[…] Here’s something I just can’t understand
If the guy have three girls then he’s the man
He can even give her some head, or sex her off
But if a girl do the same, she’s a whore […]

 

These lyrics are pretty straight forward and parallel perfectly with passages from Pizan.

“Not only one or two and not even just this Mathélous […] but, more generally, judgng from the treatises of all philosophers and poets and from all the orators […] they all concur in one conclusion: that the behavior of women is inclined to and and full of every vice” (Pizan 4)

Christine De Pizan has had enough of the false words that philosophers and poets had to say about women. The countless books that they published and that circulated thematically aimed at how devilish women can be and how they are meant to be subordinate their husbands and such. This passage and the first lyric set of the song displays the idea of a double standard that is upheld in this male patriarch much like the one Christine is in.

Next, we have “Run the World (Girls).” Yes, we can get some mixed feelings about this song such as how the Queen B herself is bragging about her incredible persuasion abilities and how women naturally have it (Gee! Almost sounds like the Bawd, herself!) but she is also calling out to the women all around the world who are becoming influential to society and how their power is becoming evident and disrupting the male driven societies. These sets of lyrics demonstrate the “calling all women!” attitude that is aimed to spark a flame in women and show their strength:

[…] I’m repping for the girls
Who taking over the world
Have me raise a glass
For the college grads […]

 

[…] How we’re smart enough
To make these millions
Strong enough to bare the children […]

 

Beyoncé is praising women for working hard and achieving educational excellence, the ways that women have harnessed to be able to come out on top and be self-sufficient, and to have the ability to create human life! We can do it all! Pizan was also well educated and used her education to further the notion of demanding equality for women. Her book is her contribution to society that will be continuously studied in the ways of gender inequality.

The ladies tell their stories about the great queens, women warriors, wives, mothers, and so on to show Christine that there are so many worthy women in the world and not to be alluded to think otherwise because some men feel threatened.

Yep. Men who trash talk and like to talk about how nasty and horrendous women are in the ways of values, morality, social affiliation, and being opinionated, are really just threatened that they have power too and break from the oppression tradition and stereotypes that have stuck through the ages.

Women have accomplished so much. In contemporary views, you see a great deal of feminism pushing the boundaries and roles being broken. You rarely hear of the strong women that made a difference from way back when; the times when women could be put to death for a disobedient act.

Both songs embody the books main theme of women coming together to rise up and see how multiple voices together can continue to break down the walls of inequality and to destroy the double standard. And these music videos..!!! Powerful imagery. Beyoncé on that horse like a true conqueror. The outfit/costume choices in both videos conveying the stepping out of societal appropriation. The rebellion. By spreading these messages through forms of entertainment, they influence larger audiences and circulate and make and create a conversation.

 

 

 

Pizan, Christine. The Book of the City of Ladies. Persea Books , 1998

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dg8QgUIKXHw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBmMU_iwe6U

Pandarus’s Playbook

We all know a wingman. Some of us may be one and some of us may have one. Many of us know one of the most famous wingmen in television history as Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother. He was the type of guy to find a new woman every night and even had his own book of plays to get women to sleep with him. He could make up any reason in the world and be convincing enough about it to take a woman home that night. He also helped his friend, Ted, by using his playbook, as well.Ted was a hopeless romantic that just wanted to fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after.

I’m telling you this because there are some similarities between Pandarus from Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde and Barney Stinson from HIMYM.

Pandarus is Criseyde’s uncle and Troilus’s best friend. Obviously, Troilus is Ted in this scenario. Pandarus comes up with extremely convoluted plans to get Troilus and Criseyde to sleep together. He comes up with so many different crazy plans that somehow seem to work at times and other times are just so crazy that they’re impossible to pull off, such as: telling Troilus to kidnap Criseyde in order to keep her from going to the Greeks with her father.

Both Barney and Pandarus try their best to get their best friend laid, no matter what it takes. Barney’s most important scene of him being Ted’s wingman is called the “Have You Met Ted?” Now, I will explain it in all of its glory, although it is very simple. Ted will express interest in someone, most likely at the bar that the HIMYM crew hang out at. He will try to figure out a plan to go talk to that person but will ultimately not do it on his own. Barney will then approach said woman and say the exact phrase “Have you met Ted?” and that will start the conversation between
Ted and that woman enabling him to be able to talk her up. This is how Robin got introduced to the story of How I Met Your Mother.

How I Met Your Mother GIF

 

Pandarus did something similar to introduce Criseyde and Troilus. Once Troilus expressed interest in Criseyde, Pandarus went into full wingman mode. Pandarus went to visit his niece and decided it was time to talk up his bestie Troilus. Criseyde asks him about Hector and Pandarus says:

‘Ful wel, I thonk it God,’ quod Pandarus,

‘Save in his arm he hath a little wownde;

and ek his fresshe brother Troilus.

the wise, worthi Ector the secounde,

in whom that all vert list habounde,

as all troth and all gentilesse,

Wisdom, honor, fredom, and worthinesse.’

His oh-so-brave brother Troilus who is so kind and handsome and knightly and wise and did I mention handsome? Pandarus was out here really working hard for his best friend Troilus. Pandarus’s version of “Have you met Ted?” is the “Oh, have you met Troilus, Hector’s younger, handsomer, and still as great little brother?” Troilus also just shows up during this time while Pandarus is talking him up so Criseyde can see how great and amazing he is. It’s perfect for Troilus because that might have been the time where Criseyde would have wanted to talk to him. (It wasn’t, though.) It might have been a different story if Troilus had taken a page out of Barney’s playbook. But, Pandarus’s playbook in his mind was good enough to get Troilus a chance with Criseyde and that’s all that Barney would have wanted for him.

Coghlan, J., active early 19th cent., artist.

Honestly, it’s important to note that Troilus and Criseyde would not have gotten together without Pandarus in the same way that Ted and Robin may have never met without Barney. The wingmen are the comic relief of these shows but they are also the main reason that these stories were able to happen in the first place. Imagine Troilus trying to hit on Criseyde by himself. Would he even be able to form words while he’s fainting all the time? Probably not. Without Pandarus putting in work, this tragedy may not have happened. And, without Pandarus, this tragedy would not have been as fun and interesting to read without his ridiculous plans to get his niece to fall in love with his best friend. We would not have gotten to see this glorious story with that darn meddling Pandarus.

Troilus and Criseyde and Wayne’s World

It is my utmost pleasure to be able to draw parallels between the story of Troilus and Criseyde, one of Chaucer’s less critically received works, and the 90’s comedy masterpiece Wayne’s World.

Official Movie Poster from Wayne's World, 1993

Film poster for Wayne’s World – Copyright 1992, Paramount Pictures

Troilus can be compared directly with Wayne. At each story’s onset, both Troilus and Wayne (Mike Myers) are just living their daily lives and being exceptional at what they do: Troilus is such an exceptional knight that he’s second only to Hector and Wayne is such an exceptional public-access television personality that a bigshot producer wants to buy his show. Up until they are introduced to their respective romantic interests, they are each content in their situations and aren’t seeking love: Troilus spends his days hanging out and mocking his peers for being in love while Wayne also just wants to rock out with his bros and get away from his ex-girlfriend. Neither of them are expecting to have their worlds rocked by love at first sight, and neither of them are able to escape love’s grasp. In the same way Troilus immediately and completely falls for Criseyde when her sees her in the temple, Wayne does the same when he sees Cassandra (Tia Carrere) on stage performing with her metal band. Garth (Dana Carvey) could be compared to Pandarus in their roles as wingmen, but Pandarus goes much farther in obsessively pushing his goals for Troilus while Garth is more of an affable sidekick.

Wayne and Cassandra, screenshot from Wayne’s World – Copyright 1992, Paramount Pictures

Criseyde compares to Cassandra in more ways than just being the love interests for their respective male counterparts. They both display more control over their emotions than their significant others and are the ones in control of their relationships overall. It’s up to Troilus and Wayne to woo Criseyde and Cassandra, but not so much the other way around. They are also each brought into the same romantic conflict: an attractive outsider seeks to win their affections away from their current relationships, which links to our next character comparison.

Benjamin and Cassandra, screenshot from Wayne’s World – Copyright 1992, Paramount Pictures

The bigshot producer that bought Wayne and Garth’s show, Benjamin Kane (Rob Lowe), also has eyes for Cassandra and seeks to use his status and Hollywood connections to woo her. He promises that he can make her band famous and offers to produce music videos for them, which Cassandra is obligated to accept on behalf of her bandmates. He uses these video shoots to get closer to her. In the same way Benjamin capitalizes on a situation that is somewhat out of Cassandra’s control, Criseyde is approached by Diomede. Criseyde is vulnerable and surrounded by potential threats, so she accepts Diomede’s protection. Both men use their advantaged situations in an opportunistic way, although Diomede is notably more innocent as he is not aware of Criseyde’s relationship with Troilus in the same way that Benjamin is knowingly driving a wedge between Wayne and Cassandra.

To win Cassandra back, Wayne makes a grand gesture of hacking Benjamin’s TV network to broadcast Cassandra’s band to the entire United States. Here, the Wayne’s World continuity splits: the film did something funny and unique by having three alternate endings all play out in sequence, and one of the endings is directly comparable to the ending of Troilus and Criseyde. The “neutral ending” is a Scooby Doo parody where Wayne reveals that Benjamin is actually Old Man Withers. In the “super happy ending”: Wayne and Cassandra reunite, Cassandra signs a record deal, Garth gets a girlfriend, Benjamin learns a valuable lesson about self-worth, and everyone lives happily ever after. The super happy ending is canon ending as the film rolls credits. The first of the three alternate endings is the one that compares most equitably to Troilus and Criseyde: the “tragic ending”. After Wayne’s attempt to make Cassandra’s band famous, their record deal is immediately denied, Cassandra breaks up with Wayne and leaves with Benjamin, and then Wayne’s house (and the basement studio for his show) burns down. This is the ultimate defeat for Wayne as he loses everything. Cassandra chooses Benjamin just like how Criseyde ultimately goes with Diomede. Wayne loses his lover, his livelihood, and his home in the same way Troilus loses his lover, his life, and later all of Troy. Thankfully, Wayne decides that this ending is too much of a bummer and rewinds the film into the neutral and super happy endings. Troilus doesn’t get to rewrite events the same way, but he does get his own sort of super happy ending in that he has transcended the pain of mortal matters and gets to laugh at those mourning over him.

Overall, this was an extremely fun comparison to make and I was not expecting the plots to meld as well as they did. Party time. Excellent.

Party Time. Excellent. Screenshot from Wayne’s World – Copyright 1992, Paramount Pictures

“Fire” and “The Legend of Hypermnestra”

I chose to show a similar poem to “The Legend of Hypermnestra” because the poem “Fire” reminded me so much of the legend. I will be using a translated version of the legend since at the time we did not have the pages for “The Legend of Hypermnestra.”

“Fire” by Nikita Gill

“Remember what you must do

when thy undervalue you,

when they think

your softness is your weakness,

when they treat your kindness like it is their advantage.

 

You awaken

every dragon,

every wold,

every monster

that sleeps inside you

and you remind them

what hell looks like

when it wears the skin

of a gentle human.”

 

In the first stanza, I am reminded by the legend the most when Hypermnestra is first described, “//That Hypermnestra cannot handle a knife//” I saw this as them underestimating Hypermnestra. I am also reminded when after the wedding Hypermnestra’s father comes and tells her to kill her husband. Her father expected her to be soft and impressionable to him so she would do as she was told not realizing that her weakness was her strength to save her husband.

This poem and legend were a visual that not every stong woman has to wield a sword or have a way with words to be strong. A strong woman does not have to take a stand against an army to be considered strong. This poem shows that you can be kind and gentle and still be strong to stand up against something hurtful. This legend is showing us that we do not have to stand against an army but to stand where we feel like we should even if it is against our family.

(Davis and Rupi)

This quote/poem felt like it could be applied to the whole of “The Legend of Good Women.”  It can also be applied to “The Book of the City of Ladies” since they are both showing that women are good, strong, smart, and brave even though others (men) are saying that they are not any of those things.

 

Davis, Sarah S., and Nikita Gill. “25 Feminist Poems to Provoke and Inspire Nasty Women.” BOOK RIOT, 1 Apr. 2019, https://bookriot.com/2019/04/02/feminist-poems/.

Davis, Sarah S., and Rupi Kaur. “25 Feminist Poems to Provoke and Inspire Nasty Women.” BOOK RIOT, 1 Apr. 2019, https://bookriot.com/2019/04/02/feminist-poems/.