Finding Lollius : empathy, textual knowledge, and the ending of Troilus and Criseyde
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The ending of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde has been a frequent source of dissatisfaction and confusion. After five full books centered on a doomed love between pagans, the final stanzas suddenly shift to an orthodox Christian rejection of worldly desire. Whether damning or praising the ending, critics generally recognize it as radically different from the lines preceding it. This report seeks to identify the root of that difference, and to explain its effect on the reading experience. The narrator of Troilus and Criseyde, a character in his own right, manipulates his putative source text--Lollius--to highlight the gaps left in his narrative. These gaps, in turn, constrict our perspective on the poem, preventing us from adopting either the Godlike Boethian viewpoint the Troilus appears to recommend or the melancholic attitude of the titular lovers. Instead, our point of identification is the narrator, who has read, as he persistently reminds us, a book that we cannot. Thus, even when the Troilus is read to the end, it feels incomplete. I ground this reading in both narratology and cognitive science, and illustrate it by examining two early printed "completions" of Chaucer's text: Wynkyn de Worde's colophon and Robert Henryson's Testament of Cresseid.