Chapter 8


TROILUS reaches the stars only after death and complete disillusionment with human love (disillusionment, we should note, is compatible with maintaining "trouthe"). Pandarus is interested in the stars, if at all, only as a means to forecast the weather (2.74-75); he never had any illusions, and that may be why he never cared much for "trouthe." Pandarus is an instrument--"`swich a meene / As maken wommen unto men to comen'" (3.254-55)--and he constantly practices instrumentality or expediency. His narcissism is relentless and finally more vulgar than Troilus's--as opportunism is always more vulgar than idealistic if naive striving.

But Pandarus is not to be dismissed in neat moral judgments. If he is an opportunist, he is also a consummate master of props. If he is illusionless, he is also remarkably sensitive. If he is expedient always, he is also aware--it may be only dimly--that there is more to life than expediency. No, Pandarus has too much energy to be simply dismissed. Moreover, he is too compelling an authority. Indeed, the narcissism and false coining of Pandarus are inseparable from his auctoritas in the story. To be sure, brief references, almost like cues, point to his narcissism: for example, in his first attempt to rewrite Criseyde for his and Troilus's script, at one point he looks into her face and muses to himself, "`on swich a mirour goode grace!'" (2.266; emphasis added). But it is chiefly as a poet or auctor, a worker in images, that Pandarus betrays his narcissism and falsification.

Pandarus emerges as the poet who will write or invent the "romance" of Troilus and Criseyde at the end of Book 1, where he goes musing like the poet in Geoffrey of Vinsauf's famous description (lines 1065-71).1 He is most obviously at work as the poet in Book 2, where, as Criseyde rightly perceives, he is about a "paynted proces" (lines 423-25):{115/116}

"Is this the verray mede of youre byheeste?
Is al this paynted proces seyd, allas! Right for this fyn?"
The word "paynted" can hardly fail to call attention to the "colores rhetorici" or indeed to the Horatian "ut pictura poesis."2 Criseyde recognizes Pandarus's dubious auctoritas. Moreover, she also discerns that, if Pandarus is poet and rhetorician, he is also lawyer, since "proces" means not only "story" but also "plea" or "case" (as explicitly at 2.1615); her sense, however dim, that Pandarus is prosecuting her is close to the truth.3 Finally, she also rightly intuits that, in addition to poet, rhetorician, and lawyer, Pandarus is also a merchant, trying very much to sell her and to sell her on something. "Mede," as we know from Piers Plowman, is an extremely volatile economic and commercial word; its meaning cannot be restricted merely to "reward."4 Furthermore, as the Man of Law makes clear, "biheste is dette" (MLT B2 41), and, as we already know, the "pandar" is a bargainer--little doubt can remain then that Pandarus is merchandizing with his "paynted proces." And, indeed, that is just what we would expect from a certain kind of poet and his rhetoric. In one of the most famous of the dictaminal treatises of the high Middle Ages, the Flores rhetorici, Alberic of Montecassino describes metaphor and its effect much as Pandarus would have probably done:
Metaphor's way of speaking is, as it were, a twist away from the proper meaning; a twist, so to speak, for innovation; innovation as if for dressing in a nuptial gown; and such dressing as if for selling at a dignified price (lit.: price of dignity). For what else is it, shall I say, except for selling, when, a story base in its simplicity, you celebrate by a kind of snootiness of variety and variation, representing it as always new, always pleasing?5
The dictaminist commits metaphor with intent to sell. The dictaminist, of course, writes for a living; and in a sense, Pandarus does, too. His "paint job," with its elaborate fin'amors tropes and metaphors, is definitely meant to sell Criseyde--he wants her to buy a "historiam," which is "vilem" in more than one sense. And, as she knows only too well, he would not go into debt for nothing: in exchange for the "mede" he would sell her, he will have-she probably already suspects as much--the vicarious enjoyment of her and Troilus's affair. As Donaldson (1975:288) so finely puts it, "Those who can, love; those who cannot, write about it."

Chaucer has several other ways, too, of suggesting that, because Pandarus cannot, he writes about it. Again in Book 2, for example, he is careful to assimilate Pandarus to the archetypal artist of this sublunary sphere, or Goddess Natura. Chaucer presents the Goddess in this role in The Physician's Tale {116/117} (C 11-28), and there he is almost certainly indebted to the Chartrians, especially to Alain de Lille's De planctu naturae (PL 210:456-60 especially). So also in the Troilus, where, after Criseyde, in Pandarus's company, has seen Troilus pass by on the street below, she begins to meditate favorably upon him and his suit, and "Pandare, which that stood hire faste by, / Felte iren hoot, and he bygan to smyte" (2.1275-76). The image calls forth Natura at her forge, where she hammers out new creatures to replenish the fallen world (Roman de la Rose 15861-16083). Related to this figure and its iconography is Natura's role, in the De planctu, as the moneyer of creation: for example, early in her instruction of Alain, she affirms "`Me . . . He /God/ appointed as a sort of deputy, a coiner for stamping the orders of things'."6 Hence the assimilation of Pandarus to Natura also suggests that he is "coining" Criseyde. Also in Book 2, Pandarus is most like Grammar personified. Near the end of Book 2 "this Pandarus gan newe his tong affile, / And al hire cas reherce, and that anon" (2.1681-82). Such filing is, with various tools, the business of Grammatica in Alain de Lille's Anticlaudianus and Martianus Capella's De nuptiis.7 Pandarus is, then, Grammar as well as Nature, writing as well as forging and coining the story of Troilus and Criseyde. Finally, and, as it were, crowning these many suggestions of Pandarus's auctoritas is the famous scene in Book 3, where he "fond his contenaunce / As for to looke upon an old romaunce" (3.979-80)-- this posture, almost emblematic, confirms and consummates the whole pattern of allusions.

Motivating this insistence on Pandarus's auctoritas is Chaucer's desire to separate and distinguish it from his own. Indeed, the whole of the Troilus can be seen as Chaucer's repudiation of the pandar's poetics--a poetics of imposition generating an auctoritas of "trecherye" (3.274-80; emphasis added):

"And were it wist that I, thorugh myn engyn
Hadde in my nece yput this fantasie,
To doon thi lust and holly to ben thyn,
Whi, al the world upon it wolde crie,
And seyn that I the werste trecherie
Dide in this cas, that evere was bigonne,
And she forlost, and thow right nought ywonne."
The text folds in a new complexity at this moment. "Engyn" translates medieval Latin ingenium, a word and a concept of crucial importance to later medieval literature.8 Among its many meanings, "ingenium" connotes that faculty of imagination by virtue of which poets invent their poems. Here, then, Pandarus is speaking explicitly as a poet, and his is definitely a poetics of imposition ("yput"). As if the theory of impositio ad placitum had been {117/118} taken literally and to a physical and possibly violent extreme, Pandarus has put his "fantasye" into his niece; and the sexual connotation, we should note, is as audible as the grammatical. He has to some extent made her his creature; and although he probably hopes to exorcise or at least to deflect the charge by remorsefully and self-protectively acknowledging his "trecherye," he cannot suppress the truth in his confession--truth which exceeds or escapes his intention. He is guilty and he knows it. And his is the guilt of perverted auctoritas--a guilt which Chaucer would just as soon not have to bear.

Pandarus perverts auctoritas to the point of playing god with the lives of Troilus and Criseyde. He manipulates them as if they were his "characters" and not creatures in their own right. As a poet and worker in images, he desires to make Troilus and Criseyde in his own image--and in his own image of "romance." This desire is his narcissism and hence the motive for his falsification of images. In the actual practice of his craft, then, Pandarus will betray himself--how he "handles" his "characters." With the pandar as his auctor, Troilus will become a perfect "character" of Amor, true to the type--until, of course, he walks out of the story Pandarus is writing and into one Pandarus can hardly understand, much less complete. Troilus will eventually discover a meaning in love beyond the rhetoric of love, though at a staggering price. But until such time, he remains a "character" in Pandarus's story, to be "written" as Pandarus sees fit. Hence, for example, Pandarus falsifies Troilus into a falsifier, the very image of his auctor, when he persuades him to lie to Criseyde about Horaste (3.701-702, 1156-58).9 Pandarus "writes" this image of Troilus, and many others, because he is finally more adept at talking love than loving. We know, of course, that he is involved in an affair of his own during the "writing" of Troilus and Criseyde's "romance"; but all that we ever hear of it is that it is not prospering.10 The increment of hints that his affair is not working out forces us to suspect that for Pandarus words replace reality. He experiences in language what he cannot experience in fact, and that is why Troilus is so important to him: Troilus and so also Criseyde (though any woman would do--see 4.400-406) represent the opportunity for Pandarus's words to take on flesh--to assume more reality than they and he would otherwise enjoy. Pandarus, in short, desires his word made flesh--and for Chaucer and his world that is the ultimate perversion of auctoritas.

If Pandarus falsifies Troilus, still Criseyde is his principal victim. He falsifies her so as to please or to pandar to Troilus. Up till now my judgments may have seemed excessively harsh, since Pandarus is so very attractive, though I have tried to be fair. Now, however, we enter a depth of the text where harsh judgments are inevitable if also regrettable. Pandarus does {118/119} violate the integrity of Criseyde's self or person to reduce her to his "character" and Troilus's ideal. The text adumbrates this violence with the allusion to Proigne which opens Book 2 (lines 64-70, 75-77):

The swalowe Proigne, with a sorowful lay,
Whan morwen com, gan make hire waymentynge,
Whi she forshapen was; and ever lay
Pandare abedde, half in a slomberynge,
Til she so neigh hym made hire cheterynge
How Tereus gan forth hire suster take,
That with the noyse of hire he gan awake,
and took his weye ful soone
Unto his neces palays ther biside.
Now Janus, god of entree, thow hym gyde!
It is hard not to imagine Pandarus as another Tereus about to "take" another Philomela in Criseyde. Indeed, the metaphors of violence which he freely uses of her strengthen our tendency to imagine just that. For example, as part of his effort to encourage Troilus's good hope and patience, he likens Criseyde in her Daunger to an oak tree hard to bring down (2.1380-86); or again, as he prepares Troilus for the first meeting with Criseyde, he exclaims, "`Lo, hold the at thi triste cloos, and I / Shal wel the deer unto thi bowe dryve'" (2.1534-35). Whether by ax or by bow, Criseyde is to suffer violence, and it is Pandarus who "engineers" that suffering. He, like another Tereus, will be the cause "whi she forshapen" is: not only will she be stamped with a new impress, that impress will also "metamorphose" her into a new creature (for a while, at least). Chaucer's verb "forshapen" is his way of acknowledging Ovid's Metamorphoses in the telling of one of its tales, as it is also his way of announcing the kind of change Criseyde is about to undergo at Pandarus's hands--violent, partly irrational, and in some sense (im)moral.11 If we add to the suggestion of Pandarus as Tereus his status as augurer or diviner (2.74-75), then his potential for violence, for calling up darkness or calling down thunder (3.519-22), as well as for releasing irrational forces, is, as Chaucer intended it to be, even more starkly visible. The concluding allusion to Janus (line 77) only confirms what by now is an unavoidable suspicion--that Pandarus is potentially a two-faced traitor, someone whose face may have only another face in back of it.

At the same time, of course, Criseyde is hardly an innocent. No widow could be. Moreover, her obscure but nonetheless certain intimate relationship with her uncle suggests in fact that she is in some ways a coconspirator with {119/120} him.12 All the same, she does not begin as guilty either. However guilty she eventually becomes, she begins as an ordinary, complicated, anxious, and partly self-deceived woman. Her fear, nearly a constant condition with her, is mentioned no fewer than seven times in Book 2;13 and her anxiety about appearances, which expresses itself pointedly enough in terms of religion, argues a person who cannot afford an easy commerce between her inner and her outer self. She is, in short, a very human woman, and she is therefore also very vulnerable. Pandarus knows this.

And he knows that she is most vulnerable perhaps in the area of appearances. Her father a traitor and herself a widow, she lives, she must feel, under surveillance in Troy. She must at all costs be proper--even to the point perhaps of falsifying herself in order to be proper--and the propriety she imagines (almost, "counterfeits") is that of religion. When Pandarus suggests, at their first meeting, that they "`daunce / And...don to May som observaunce'" (2.111-12), she exclaims, apparently in shocked dismay (2.113, 117-18; emphasis added):

"I? God forbede!" quod she....

"It sate me wel bet ay in a cave
To bidde
and rede on holy seyntes lyves."
Now Chaucer uses the imagery of conversion of both Troilus (1.999) and Criseyde (2.903): each converts to fin'amors. And it seems obvious that each has a predisposition to convert. But in Criseyde the predisposition is more an anxiety than a habit of will as it is, I feel, in Troilus's case. She is anxious to appear proper, and she assumes that propriety for a woman in her position would be that of the recluse or the anchorite (the anachronism-- there were no anchorites in ancient Troy--flavors the text with just enough strangeness to call just enough of the wrong kind of attention to Criseyde at this point). It would be premature as well as harsh to claim that she is interested only in appearances-- such a claim would reduce her to a very banal schemer, a falsifier merely, like Myrrha or Master Adam--but it would be just as erroneous to take the anxiety altogether seriously. Rather, Criseyde is a woman with enough fineness of character to sense the propriety of opting for religion in a case like hers, but she is also shrewd enough to know that it is "a case like hers"--that is, that her motive would not be free of expediency and hence of some degree of falsification, too (cf. 5.1149). Hence the peculiar sense of release when she later exclaims, trying (successfully) to persuade herself to love, "`What, par dieux! I am naught religious!'" (2.759)--she is just as happy to be rid of the anxiety, though she is aware of what she is now rid of. And it {120/121} is just this very ordinary if also very complex mixture of anxiety, fineness of character, and shrewdness which Pandarus presupposes for his opening ploy: when he adds to it Troilus's passion and his own rhetoric (itself a kind of passion), he will have his counterfeit coin.

Criseyde's curiosity, then, has intricate and deep origins; all Pandarus needs to do is play to it if he would falsify her. Consequently, in precisely a two-faced way, he sets up an obvious, even ostentatious discrepancy between his words and his intent so that the former compel Criseyde to guess at the latter, her curiosity whetted all the while. The more she hears, the more she does not know, and therefore the more and all the more she wants to know (2.309-12):

"Now, my good em, for Goddes love, I preye,"
Quod she, "come of, and telle me what it is!
For both I am agast what ye wol seye,
And ek me longeth it to wite, ywys'"
This discrepancy between words and intent is a crucial element in Chaucer's strategy to expose the pandar's poetics. The word "entente" occurs many times in Book 2--more than fifty times in the whole poem. The word usually occurs with reference to some form of auctoritas;14 and although the adjective often accompanies it, "entente" in the poem is rarely ever "playn." In fact, if Pandarus claims, as he does at one point in the first attempt to rewrite Criseyde, that "`this al and som, and pleynly oure entente. / God help me so, I nevere other mente'" (2.363-64), we can be fairly certain of just the opposite. Pandarus always "means other." And if Chaucer repeats the word "entente" so insistently, it is because he is problematizing authorial intentionality as an instance of the narcissism of instrumentality. His theory of mediation, unlike the pandar's poetics, will presuppose the direct interference of authorial intention in the text; and it will therefore also include a position on the necessary morality of the author--who must discount for his narcissism if he is to tell his story truly, if his version of the story is not to be a perversion of the story.

Pandarus never discounts for his narcissism, and because he always means himself he never says what he means: he always means more than and other than he says. He is forever undoing the prior text in order to construct his own. His "paynted process" is always a re-vel-ation, and for him the truth is only another veil-- precisely a process of substitution (recall Adam's "trapassar del segno"). Pandarus is the origin of representation in Chaucer's poem. To Troilus's ideal love he brings the body of Criseyde, and along with that body all the metaphoricity of fin'amors-- Daunger, for example. Criseyde {121/122} was not "daungerous" until Pandarus said she was (2.384)--if you will, coined her so. Pandarus writes the story and consumes the present in representation. Hence, when Troilus and Criseyde couple for the first time, he "fond his contenaunce, / As for to looke upon an old romaunce" (3.979-80). The origin of representation, Pandarus is also the "engineer" of "as" in the poem and hence the vector of the problem of reference. Twice, for example, he poses "as if's."15 The most comprehensive "as" of this arch-poser and type of all of Chaucer's posers to come, however, is his version of "romance," the version with which Troilus and Criseyde begin. Even so, his is not the version with which they end. To his claim that "it is but casuel plesaunce" (4.419) and to his offer to substitute another woman for Criseyde (4.400-406), Troilus opposes a "newe qualite" (3.1654) which writing and representation cannot consume. Rather than fit Pandarus's genre, Troilus dies. He does not reduce to Pandarus's (per)version of the lover. Pandarus cannot write the end of Troilus's romance. His last words in the poem are "`I kan namore seye'" (5.1743). Deprived of words--of representation, writing, and metaphoricity-Pandarus ceases to exist. In his stead the Narrator must finish the text. {122}