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Troilus’ unwilling free will

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  1. External influences to which Troilus actively submits.
    1. Pandarus.
    2. The concept of courtly love.
    3. The idea of celestial authority personified as Nature, Love, Fortune, and Fate.
  2. Troilus's passivity in his love affair with Criseyde.
  3. Chaucer's toying with his audience.

Chaucer's ?Troilus and Criseyde? consistently and emphatically stresses the absolute nature of courtly love and its proclivity to incite moral responsibility with relation to one's sense of free will and personal obligation. Chaucer toys with the notion of Troilus' free will versus his manipulation by outside forces as a result of what J. Allan Mitchell in his essay, Romancing Ethics in Boethius, Chaucer, and Levinas: Fortune, Moral Luck and Erotic Adventure terms ?radical passivity.? (102). In Troilus' inaction in the face of courtly love, he surrenders his ability to choose and succumbs to the will of the external forces of Fate, Fortune, and Love. The subjection of one's self to a higher authority consequently results in action out of necessity; thus a disavowal of freewill that paves fatalistic avenues which eventually seal one's fate. After this ?point of choice,? (referring to the moment when an individual must act on behalf of his free will or remain passive (Patch, 236)) Troilus neglects any responsibility for his actions and instead relinquishes his fate to the will of external determinants. Simply put, the inaction of Troilus at decisive moments gives rise, or necessitates, the action of other forces ? his passivity causes the effects of his destiny. In true symmetrical form, Chaucer's narrative follows the same formula of cause and effect. The narrator acknowledges his sources as historical texts, therefore the reader already knows how the story ends from the very first page ? the deterministic path for which the plot will proceed. Furthermore, Chaucer's narrator frequently reminds the reader that he is merely relaying the story of other authors, displacing any authorial responsibility he might be held accountable for and thus submitting his freedom of choice to external forces ? his auctors. Essentially, Chaucer's narrative parallels the same fundamental question Troilus poses of predestination, allotting his character's a certain degree of independence, though their outcome is already known. (Owen, 440).

[...] ( 1.197 -203) By speaking with future contingency of what will happen once one does yield to the laws of Love, Troilus sets himself up to become the very victim of love he chastises. However, the final line in this stanza, ?Ther nys nat oon kan war by other or loosely translated in textual notes, ?There is not one who an be cautioned by another,? reveals that despite the theory of ?Oedipus effect,? there is still room for free will Troilus is not to the pain love can bring, and though he says one cannot be warned by another, he fails even to heed his own advice. [...]


[...] In book III Troilus and Criseyde consummate their love, emphasizing the physicality of their love and the strategic moves Troilus, or rather Pandarus, employs to achieve that love. Line 1683 if it erst was wel, tho was it confirms Troilus' view of courtly love as a game by juxtaposing the attainment of Criseyde's body was it or some sort of prize. Again Chaucer uses the notion of the ?game of love' in book V when Troilus laments his despair at having ?lost the cause of al my game.? (420). [...]


[...] Patch argues that one's ?character is partly a gift of nature? however, with lack of any practice in free will, as Troilus' severe passivity might suggest, one's character is inherently dictated solely by forces of Nature which compel them to act. In this way, Troilus evades any sense of responsibility for his actions, claiming exemption from culpability because he is moved by ?fyne force.? Patch states that ?moral tragedy? or what has been referred to as ?moral responsibility? in this essay, does not remove a character's liability for the choices they make or render their decisions merely that of ?action of irresponsible puppets.? (227). [...]

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