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Chaucer, epilogue, mythological love


Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde is often criticized by modern scholars for the abruptness of its epilogue rejecting earthly love. Paull Baum objects that the moral of the epilogue is not, in fact, the moral of the tale and suggests that Chaucer might better have concluded in the manner of the stilnovisti, with Criseyde as a transfigured "gloriosa donna." J. S. P. Tatlock protests that "the feeling of the Epilog is in no way foreshadowed at the beginning or elsewhere; it does not illumine or modify; it contradicts. The heartfelt worldly tale is interpreted in an unworldly sense." He is joined in that opinion by Elizabeth Salter, Dieter Mehl, E. T. Donaldson, and others, including Aldous Huxley, who refers to the "hurried and boggled conclusion" of the Troilus. B. L. Jefferson, D. W. Robertson, and Chauncey Wood, among others, have presented evidence that the message of the epilogue is, indeed, anticipated within the tale itself, but no one has mentioned the foreshadowing provided by Chaucer's allusions to the classical tales of love. These allusions—to Oenone, Tereus and Procne, Orpheus and Eurydice, and Myrrha—do not occur in Chaucer's main source for the Troilus, the Filostrato of Boccaccio. In light of the medieval use and interpretation of these myths, it seems likely that Chaucer added them not just for "local color" but for a purpose: to remind the reader that the love of Troilus and Criseyde must ultimately take its place among the "feynede loves" of pagan history.