The Power of Pandarus in Troilus and Criseyde Troi


lus Criseyde EssaysThe Power of Pandarus in Troilus and Criseyde

Aside from the actual narrator of the poem, the character Pandarus is the most influential force in shaping Book III of “Troilus and Criseyde”. Pandarus does claim at several points to be swept along with the course of events, insisting “Withouten hond, me seemeth that in towne,/ For this merveille ich here ech belle sown” (188-89). Ultimately, however, he takes responsibility for his actions while also acknowledging his need for secrecy. “But wo is me, that I, that cause al this” (271). Because the influence of Pandarus is so significant, any broad thematic discussions developed throughout the work as a whole are potentially qualified or compromised by the presence of Pandarus.

Pandarus is more than a mere catalyst, though; he positions himself to be in complete control of each encounter with Troilus and/or Criseyde. He manipulates, orchestrates their relationship down to the smallest detail. “For I ful wel shal shape your comynge” (196). In some sense, the love he helps to manufacture is nothing more than a game to him. “For the have I bigonne a gamen pleye” (250). His close friend and even his own niece are subject to his whims.

Pandarus does understand the all too real consequences of the deceptive games he plays. He is willing to accept these risks because he is convinced that Troilus’ motives are true. Pandarus does not, therefore, act out of malice toward either individual. In a discussion with Troilus, Pandarus counsels that his own role in their courtship must remain a secret. If discovered, “al the world upon it wolde crie,/ And seyn that I the werst trecherie/ Dide in this cas that ever was bigonne,” (277-79). He understands that wisdom can be distorted, harmed by well intentioned fools as well as villains. Ironically Pandarus asks Troilus to heed the advice of a proverb that Pandarus himself could never put into practise: ” ‘first vertu is to keep tonge” (293).

As an ever-present observer, Pandarus is both the author and audience to a sequence of events he essentially helps to create. There is at least the implicit suggestion that the narrative Pandarus helps to direct is designed and elaborated solely for his own amusement. Perhaps, if extended to the larger narrative frame, Chaucer’s narrator places the reader’s (and his own) enjoyment above or on equal footing with enlightenment.

Works Cited
Chaucer, Geoffrey. Troilus and Criseyde. Ed. R.A. Shoaf. East Lansing, MI: Colleagues Press, 1989.

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