By Timothy D. O’Brien
Quidditas, Vol.23 (2002)
Introduction: In these pages I would like to consider the role of Medusa in Chaucer’s Troilus—a modest enough enterprise except for the fact that there is not a single reference to this puzzling figure in the entire work, or in any of Chaucer’s other works for that matter. Such an absence does not of course mean absence of influence. After all, Chaucer does not mention Boccaccio, even though his Il Filostrato supplies the narrative material for and fundamental shape of the Troilus. Obscuring authorial indebtedness because of some “anxiety of influence” is one thing; alluding to a figure from classical mythology, which Chaucer frequently and plainly does in his narratives, is quite another. A discussion of the ways in which the Medusa figure informs the Troilus requires then an answer to the question of how it can even be claimed that this mythological figure has a part in the narrative.