Chaucer retells the Trojan War

Geoffrey Chaucer (d. 1400)
The workes of Geffray Chaucer newlye printed, wyth dyuers workes whych were neuer in print before
London: John Reynes, 1542

The eventual source of the story of the doomed love affair of the royal warrior Troilus and the noblewoman Creseyde, set during the Trojan War, is the Iliad of Homer, but Chaucer was not acquainted with the Greek original. Instead the tale reached him by a complex descent through Latin, French and Italian texts. His primary model was the Italian poem Il filostrato by Giovanni Boccaccio, a writer just one generation older than himself (parts of Chaucer’s poem are close translations of Boccaccio), but further back in the genealogy of sources are works in verse and prose by Joseph of Exeter, Benoît of Sainte-Maure and Guido of Colonna. These in turn drew on texts from late antiquity purporting to derive from the legendary figures Dares the Phrygian and Dictys of Crete. This serpentine descent is a classic example of the passing-down of a narrative tradition over the course of many centuries.

Sel.2.2, f. clxvii

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