Abstract

Chaucer's deep interest in Boethius inspired several poetic contemplations of free will's status in a technically pagan classical past. The prime example is Troilus and Criseyde, in which Troilus charges the gods with tyranny before eventually accepting his own responsibility for the poem's tragic events. This article argues that Robert Henryson grants to Cresseid this same maturation process as regards her view of Providence. Cresseid begins by cursing Cupid and Venus for making her beautiful and then condemning her to lose both lovers and status. The gods' punishment for this “blasphemy” is to take away her beauty and “heit,” a response that draws an outcry from Cresseid, the poem's narrator, and the poem's critics. The punishments are, however, simply the physical manifestation of Cresseid's own decisions, received because of her refusal to accept personal responsibility for her actions, and overcome when she finally does accept that responsibility.

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