restricted access Troilus and Criseyde by Barry Windeatt (review)
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REVIEWS BARRY W1NDEATT. Troilus and Criseyde. Oxford Guides to Chaucer. Ox­ ford: Clarendon Press, 1992. Pp. xiv, 414. $79.00. The liner notes to Barry Windeatt's Troilus and Criseyde, the second in the series of Oxford Guides to Chaucer, advertise it as "the most comprehen­ sive introduction to Troilus and Criseyde yet produced." I agree. The vol­ umes in this series intend both to summarize the state ofscholarship and to offer new historically and theoretically informed interpretations of the poems in their purview. For the most part, Windeatt's guide achieves both purposes admirably and in fact does so better than Helen Cooper's well­ received Oxford Guide to The Canterbury Tales. Windeatt perhaps had a more manageable task-a single narrative rather than the multiple tales of the Canterbury collection-but he also has devoted more attention to the second of his twin purposes than did Cooper. The result is a volume that will be indispensable for graduate students but also useful for advanced undergraduates and for seasoned scholars. Members ofthe last group some­ times need to be reminded of what they already knew, and they are always grateful to find so much of that knowledge gathered so conveniently and turned toward such judicious and sensitive new interpretations. The volume includes chapters on dating, text, sources, genre, structure, themes, style, and reception (through 1700). These major sections are fur­ ther subdivided, and each subdivision is followed by a brief bibliographic section referring the reader to the most influential or relevant scholarship and criticism on the topic at hand. The format of presentation may be slightly misleading, for in fact the major categories overlap to some extent. Thus, for instance, in the chapter devoted to textual matters, there is very considerable information and in­ terpretation relevant also to source study, structure, themes, and character (a subcategory under themes here). The categories appear to be divided according to the nature of the evidence: in this instance a careful collation (complete with helpful charts) of manuscript variations, organized around (1) the inclusion or omission ofthree "philosophical" passages (3.1744-71, 4.953-1085, and 5.1807-27), all concerning Troilus; (2) variants closer to the parallel lines in II Filostrato, compared to other line readings, also apparently authentic but less closely related to Chaucer's main narrative source; and (3) other differences between manuscript groups over several possibly authentic versions ofthe same line. Windeatt cautions us that the tangled manuscript evidence suggests such a degree of scribal editing and conflation as to make patterns of interpretation or stages of composition 297 STUDIES IN THE AGE OF CHAUCER difficult to infer; the differences between extant copies of the poem, he shows, "resist interpretations as simply recording stages in a linear progress of authorial revision" (p. 24). Although devoting a separate section to the material evidence might in some hands imply a lack of sympathy with current efforts to rejoin philology and interpretation, Windeatt's approach here clearly suggests the importance of manuscript evidence for studies of source, theme, and style. In addition, in other chapters he frequently recurs to such manuscript evidence as marginal commentary and glosses, and he is very illuminating on what these can tell us about matters of interpreta­ tion and reception. The categories, then, are convenient but not determina­ tive in their divisions, and users of the guide should be alert both to the overlaps and to the ways in which the categories do not reflect Windeatt's actual approach to the poem. The section on sources is thorough and insightful. It offers substantial summaries of all the major backgrounds to Troilus: Boccaccio, Dares and Dictys, Benoit de Sainte-Maure, Guido delle Colonne, Boethius, Ovid, the Roman de la Rose, Machaut, the matter of Thebes, and Dante. Windeatt's treatment of the Italian sources is especially fine, which will not surprise anyone who has kept up with his past work, including the parallel text edition of the Troilus and I/ Filostrato. Windeatt does not, however, slight other sources, notably The Consolation of Philosophy: indeed, his sensitive discussion persuades me that Boethius suffuses the poem not only in overt philosophy, verbal echo, and tone but also in its very...


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