The Proem of Book One
- In the very first line we are alerted to the sorrowful
ending of the story by the narrator introducing the tale as “the double
sorwe of Troilus”.
- Introduction of the wheel of Fortune motif that appears
throughout the Book and the rest of the poem - “In lovyng, how his
aventures fellen / Fro wo to wele, and after out of joie” (lines 3-4) -
in Book One it is referred to again at lines 134-40 in reference to the
fall of Troy and at lines 836-54 when Troilus is angry at Fortune and
Pandarus seeks to comfort him.
- Line 5 begins “My purpose”, introducing the idea that as an
author Chaucer must have something to teach his readers or listeners.
- At line 6, the narrator calls upon the Fury Thesiphone; it was
more usual in a romance to invoke either God or the Virgin Mary, the
furies traditionally being agents of retribution, and thus this
invocation hints again at the tragic rather than romantic genre.
- At line 8 the narrator refers to Thesiphone as “thow goddesse of
torment” - this prefigures Troilus’ torment that begins in Book One.
- The narrator describes himself as “the sorwful instrument / That
helpeth lovers” (lines 10-11) - later on in Books One and Two, it is
Pandarus that becomes the ‘instrument’ who seeks to help Troilus fulfil
his love. This is also picked up at line 15, where the narrator
describes himself as one who the “God of Loves servantz serve” and
again at lines 19-21 where he presents himself as trying to aid lovers
however he can.
- At lines 22-8 the narrator appeals to his audience of lovers to
remember how love made them suffer, as they shall see Troilus suffer
later on in Book One. This is again referred to at lines 34-5 where he
presents Troilus as an example of the sorrows that love can bring.
- After earlier invoking one of the Furies, at line 32 the narrator
says that he also “preieth to God so dere”, perhaps anticipating the
religious aspects of the final stanzas of the poem.
- Narrator sees his place as “To prey for hem that Loves servauntz
be” (line 48), his Christianity contrasting to the paganism that we see
in the rest of the characters.
- The narrator describes his relationship to his characters: “As
though I were hire owne brother dere” - this befriending of those
suffering the pangs of love again links the narrator with the character
- The proem finishes by returning to the idea of Troilus’ “double
sorwes”, thus we know that when we see Troilus suffer the pangs of love
in the rest of the Book, his sorrows are only just beginning.
The Proem of Book Two
- Begins with the often used metaphor of the narrator as a
navigator guiding the ‘ship’ of the story. Here the narrator says that
“This see clepe I the tempestous matere / Of disespeir that Troilus was
inne”, representing not only the turbulent state of Troilus’ emotions,
but also foreshadowing the events to come.
- Refers to his work as “this book”, implying a reading
rather than listening audience (reading will be of importance in this
Book, with both Troilus and Criseyde writing and reading letters).
- At lines 12-13 the narrator excuses himself to lovers,
saying that he has no experience of love himself; in some ways this
links him to Pandarus, who has had little luck in love himself but
still aims to help Troilus.
- Refers to the story being “out of Latyn”, a number of references
to his fictional source Lollius.
- At lines 15-8, the narrator implies that he is merely a reporter
repeating his source; as with the weather imagery, this implies a lack
of control of the narrator over the course of events. In the rest of
the Book, Pandarus particularly makes plans and attempts to contrive a
scenario in which the lovers can be brought together - this is perhaps
a reminder that the characters are in fact still at the whim of
- This idea of changeability is emphasised by the narrator’s
references to how words and speech change over time and do not remain
constant (lines 22-5).
- After his previous reference to his work as a book, the narrator
at lines 30-1 refers to his listening audience of lovers again.
- At lines 33-5, the narrator asks his audience not to judge the
techniques that Troilus uses to court Criseyde, again emphasising how
styles of loving change over time.
- The narrator goes on to emphasise that hearing / reading about
different styles of love and courting is what makes these stories
interesting to an audience - he is perhaps also here attempting a
justification or asking for tolerance for the pagan customs of his
characters from his Christian audience.
- At lines 43-4, the narrator emphasises how no two people fall in
love in the same way, preparing us for the vast difference we will find
in Criseyde’s way of loving from what we have already seen of Troilus’s.