Abstract

This article reconsiders Chaucer's depiction of Criseyde's social constraints in the context of medieval theological debates on free will and natural inclination. Unlike Boethius's vision in the Consolation of Philosophy of God as the benevolent summum bonum toward which all humans naturally incline, Troilus and Criseyde powerfully explores the deterministic potential of secular society when its ideology subverts the Christian summum bonum. Although Criseyde declares, “I am myn owene womman” (II, 750), Chaucer's employment of words with circumscribing connotations, such as lusty leese and muwe, undercuts Criseyde's self-perception. In addition to this semantic slippage, Chaucer imbues his text with ghosts of the violent classical past to point towards the atemporal quality of the snare in which Criseyde is trapped, circumscribing her past, present, and future.

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