Abstract

abstract:

Much has been said about Troilus's lovesickness in Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde, but few have considered Troilus's medical condition to be a disability in the modern sense—that is, a physical and/or mental difference that is also socially constructed. Because the term "disability" is itself anachronistic, this article turns first to another text about a disabled tragic hero, the anonymous fifteenth-century poem Tale of Beryn, because it both draws on Chaucerian influences and offers useful terminology. It argues that the Beryn writer's description of Beryn as "semy-vif for sorow" is eminently applicable to Troilus because it describes a psychosomatic condition as much as it captures the physical, psychological, and social liminality of the medieval disabled. The term helps to clarify a number of instances in Troilus and Criseyde in which Chaucer uses disability imagery or metaphor to convey the tragic circumstances of his hero—the most notable example being Chaucer's description of Troilus's limp in Book V to convey his hero's despair at the loss of Criseyde. This article suggests that Chaucer's poem anticipates the personal tragedy model of disability of the modern era, in which some in the nondisabled community view people with disabilities as tragic figures burdened by fate rather than as individuals with natural mental or bodily variations.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1528-4204
Print ISSN
0009-2002
Pages
pp. 54-79
Launched on MUSE
2021-01-06
Open Access
No
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