28 October 2013

Pandarus and Troilus and feelings (oh my!)

I have been having no end of difficulties with the latter half of Troilus and Criseyde. Is it just me, or are these people more insufferable than the cast of Seinfeld? Between that, the massive amount of reading of these last three books, and my attempts to reorganize my thoughts about the dream visions as I amass sources for my paper, this post is going to be woefully short.

That being said, I found something of interest about halfway through book three. After much of book three the poem thus far has been focused on Troilus and how bad he feels about everything (to quote Megg, "HE IS SO UPSET"), Criseyde is bedridden and Troilus is preparing to visit her,

"But Pandarus, that so wel koude feele
In every thyng, to pleye anon bigan,
And syde, "Nece, se how this lord kan knele!
Nor for youre trouthe, se this gentil man!"
And with that word he for a quysshen ran,
And seyde, "Kneleth now, while that yow leste;
There God youre hertes brynge soone at reste!" (III.960–66)

Barney glosses "that so wel koude feele" as "who had such good sense." However, given the feelings which have been at issue throughout so much of this poem, it certainly shouldn't be considered an accident that Chaucer used this particular term. According to the Middle English dictionary, the verb "felen" has primary meaning much like those in Modern English, including a tactile, physical "feeling" and an emotional sense of the word; it is not until later definitions that we see senses of investigating or understanding.

Polysemousness in Chaucer's lines certainly is nothing new, and both meanings allow for a line dripping with irony. Whether we consider Pandarus to be described as having good sense (clearly he doesn't) or having much in the way of feelings (sensitive he is not), Chaucer is clearly having a go at him. By using this sort of language to describe Pandarus, however, he also draws attention to many of the faults and foibles of the eponymous characters of the poem, as well.

1 comment :

  1. You might like to look at Sarah McNamer's entry in Paul Strohm's Middle English: 21st Century Approaches volume. It is on feeling. You are right on the money. They are so much worse than the Seinfeldt cast, and your gloss on this line is so so right!