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Holding the Center: Chaucer’s Book of Troilus and Dante’s Commedia

Holding the Center: Chaucer’s Book of Troilus and Dante’s Commedia

Kaylor, N. H.

Medieval English Studies, vol. 8 (2000)

Abstract

In his “Retraction,” Chaucer names The Book of Troilus first among his “translacions and enditynges” to be revoked, and he names his Boece de Consolacione first among the works for which he thanks “oure Lord Jhesu Crist and his blisful Mooder, and alle the seintes of hevene.” Among Chaucer’s works, The Book of Troilus shows the greatest influence from the Boece, but in Chaucer’s final words addressed to his readers, it is prominently proscribed while the Boece is prominently praised. Such ambiguity is characteristic of all things Chaucerian―so much so, in fact, that if something is not ambiguous, it seems not to be Chaucerian. Apart from the influence of the Boece, The Book of Troilus also shows the influence of Dante’s Commedia; but Chaucer did not translate Dante, as he did Boethius. Their influence is apparent, but perhaps not so immediately striking as that of structures and arguments he borrows from Boethius because, as will be shown, Dante’s influence is primarily structural rather than thematic.

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