Sarpedon's feast: A Homeric key to Chaucer's "Troilus and Criseyde"
Doctor of Philosophy thesis
Chaucer's insistence on the name of Sarpedon signals the importance of the Iliad, with its treatment both of the hero and the theme of necessity, for the development of his Troilus. Chaucer's access to the Iliad was second hand through the Italians who were cultural heirs to the Greeks. The story of Homer's Troy reached Chaucer through three traditions: the classical, euhemeristic, and epic recountings of the people and gods of Troy; the romance tales of the fall of Troy and its lovers; the Christian mythographic allegorizing of the Trojan material. The mythographic is itself an offshoot of the epic because it also treats of Gods and men while the romance debunks the otherworldly in favor of earthly affairs. Finally, Chaucer takes a pagan tale, views it through a Dantean lens, and presents it to a fourteenth century Christian audience, integrating the romance back into the epic by expanding its scope beyond the material universe ruled by fate to a world within the Dantean universe which uses fate as an instrument of Providence but leaves men free to choose. Chaucer's Troilus, developed from Priam's two word epitaph to the hero and derived from Sarpedon, Achilles, and Hector, becomes more understandable in light of Sarpedon's acknowledgment of fate and assertion of will. Chapter One traces Sarpedon and necessity from Homer to Chaucer through the epic material about Troy. Chapter Two develops the emergence of Chaucer's Troilus from the suppressed deeds and characteristics of Homer's Sarpedon, Achilles, and Hector. Chapter Three examines Chaucer's adaptation of the mythographic method. In place of Christian allegoresis he employs myth as subtext, using Sarpedon's feast as a center of a debate about fate and using Cassandra to join the fates of Thebes to Troy and Troy to London. Chapter Four explores the Thomistic synthesis, examining the necessity soliloquy as scholastic parody and comic center for Chaucer's theme of fate and will and using Dantes's Purgatorio to interpret Troilus' Christian apotheosis, beyond the pagan apotheosis of Sarpedon's immortalization as hero, by Troilus' removal to the spheres of the Dantean universe.
Literature, Medieval; History, Medieval