An Introduction to the Laud Troy Book
SHARON LYNN STEVENSON
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL
FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Sharon L. Stevenson
For Blaine and Zack
I would like to acknowledge my debt to Dr.
Richard A. Dwyer for helping me plan and write this study
and for his guidance throughout my program. I would like
to thank Drs. John Algeo and Claude Abraham for patiently
reading my work and offering invaluable advice. The
Department of English, particularly Drs. James Hodges and
Alton Morris, should be thanked for the appointments and
fellowship which made my training possible.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. INTRODUCTION 1
II. NARRATOR AND GENRE 20
III. 'STRUCTURE AND THEME 41
IV. CHARACTERIZATION AND THEME 79
V. DESCRIPTIVE TECHNIQUES 109
VI. CONCLUSIONS 119
APPENDIX I. SUMTIARY OF THE LAUD TROY BOOK
BY LINE NUMER 131
APPENDIX II. THE TWO STORIES OF TROY 141
APPENDIX III. ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY 147
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE LAUD TROY BOOK
Sharon Lynn Stevenson
Chairman: Richard A. Dwyer
Major Department: English
Scholars of the Italian Renaissance generally agree
that the rebirth was not a sudden phenomenon, but the
continuation of pre-existing interests. Most scholars of
English literature, too, believe there is a continuity between
the medieval and Renaissance periods, but few studies have
been done to point out precise areas of continuity.
.This study attempts to show that the Laud Troy Book,
a fifteenth century MS in the Bodleian Library, contains
ideas and techniques related to the Renaissance revenge
tragedies. The structure of the poem is investigated, and
comparisons to other versions of the fall of Troy, partic-
ularly to the Gest Hystcriale of the Destruction of Troy,
are made to delineate the predominant characteristics
of the poem. These characteristics are then related to
Comparisons to the other versions indicate that the
poet altered the story to emphasize revenge. This theme
is accompanied by motifs of madness, treachery, intrigue,
love, insult, and blood responsibility--motifs also present
in the revenge tragedies. The characterizations of the
strong men move from Hector, the most virtuous knight ever,
to Achilles, a sighing lover who sees the war as senseless
folly, to Pirrus, Achilles' son who not only kills innocent
women and old men, but also desecrates their bodies. This
characterization of Pirrus as the extreme model of revenge
is also found in Hamlet, but no direct influence is evident.
Because the characters become more and more vengeful, the
poem ends in total social destruction; only the traitors,
the weak, and the unheroic Greeks are left. Most revenge
tragedies also end with the death of the protagonists and
many of the antagonists.
Although the work is not a play, the poet dramatizes
his narrative by using motivation, conversation, soliloquy,
and realistic description to make the tale vivid. The
sensational passages describing brutality and death are also
related to the sensational horrors in plays like Titus
Andronicus. An examination of the passages spoken by the
narrator shows that the poet conceived of his work as a
tragedy caused by the actions of specific individuals. The
recognition of the individual as causal agent lies at the
heart of the great Renaissance portraits, and thus moves the
poem away from earlier explanations of Fate, Fortune, or
Providence as the cause of the fall.
The study indicates that medieval poets were interested
in the theme of revenge and that the theme carried with it
some techniques and subordinate motifs which are also
present in the Renaissance revenge tragedies. The similar-
ities spring not from a direct influence, but from a nucleus
of ideas which surrounded the theme in both periods. Thus,
the study establishes one area of continuity. The
continental sources of the revenge tragedy should be seen,
to some extent, as amplifying and psychologizing an
interest already present in native works.
The fifteenth century Italian Renaissance is often
spoken of as a rebirth, a flowering, or an awakening as if
it were an unprecedented phenomenon in that nation's
literature. Yet some historians argue that this Renais-
sance owed much to a twelfth century Latin Renaissance.1
Friederich Heer writes:
The poets and natural philosophers of
the Italian Renaissance of the fifteenth
and sixteenth centuries had their
predecessors in the humanists, Platonists,
natural philosophers, poets and
theoretical exponents of the ars amandi...
of the twelfth century.
Similarly, Frederick Artz says:
What the 'Renaissance of the Twelfth
Century' bad been on the verge of
accomplishing was achieved by Italy
in the fourteenth and fifteenth
centuries. The Italian humanists
came to be the heirs and successors
of the mediaeval rhetoricians.3
Herbert Muller also writes: "The more exuberant humanism
of the Renaissance was a continuation of the medieval
trend, not a sudden rebellion."4 There is debate and
qualification concerning the theory of a twelfth century
Renaissance,5 but few historians deny its existence and
influence. In view of the relationship between the two
periods, the later Renaissance becomes not so much a sudden
flowering as the culmination of a movement that began two
or three centuries earlier.
Despite these revisions in the theory of the Italian
Renaissance, students of medieval and Renaissance English
literature are only beginning to explore the continuity
between the two periods. The inaccessibility of manuscripts,
a situation now being alleviated by technology, and the
large body of literature which was apparently destroyed
encourage scholars to look to Italy and the continent for
the precursors of the English Renaissance rather than to
native sources. Yet the studies that have been done on
native sources indicate that a continuity between the two
periods does exist. For example, Walter Schirmer success-
fully demonstrates a relationship between Lydgate's Fall
of Princes, the Mirror for Magistrates, and Shakespeare's
history plays. Ranging over the whole of the middle
ages, Willard Farnham focuses on numerous ideas that were
ultimately fused in the production of Renaissance tragedies.
Mary Mroz indicates some medieval origins, both theological
and literary, for the ideas of divine vengeance contained
in Renaissance revenge tragedies.8 Marguerite Hearsey
links specific passages in The Complaint of Henry, Duke of
Buckingham with similar passages in Lydgate and Gower.9
Raymond Chapman traces the idea of Fortune in Shakespeare's
plays to the medieval traditions of Fortune.10 Even D.S.
Brewer admits that, despite his failure to distinguish
adequately between the terms "middle ages" and "Renaissance,"
Alain Renoir's emphasis on Lydgate as a transitional figure
is a "welcome" piece of scholarship. Brewer's statement
indicates the growing awareness of the need for studies in
the continuity between the two periods.
This dissertation investigates one small area of
continuity. It focuses on the Laud Troy Book (MS.595 in
the Bodleian Library), a fifteenth century version of the
fall of Troy, in an attempt to show that the ideas and
some of the techniques existing in the poem are related to
the Renaissance revenge tragedy. The analysis utilizes
point of view, organization, contrast, and repetition--
devices often associated with structuralism. Contemporary
structuralistic theory, playing on Eliot's idea of literature
as an entire existing order which alters with each new work,
welcomes studies which relate a specific work to the larger
body of literature:
To be transitively understood, to be
understood in such a way that it can
play its role in society, the work must
be placed among other works, and finally
among that ideal order of existing mon-
uments which Eliot mentioned.'
However, it is not possible to relate the poem to the
larger body of literature without first understanding
clearly what the nature of the work is and something about
what it meant to the medieval audience.13
The story of Brutus, a descendant of Aeneas who
founded Britain, was first introduced into English liter-
ature by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his pseudo-history of
England. Sebastian Evans, editor of Monmouth's history,
believes that the final form of the work was instigated by
the Norman ruling class, who wished to give the English
and the Normans a common heritage. If the Normans in
fact wanted the tale disseminated as history, then no
literary contrivance could have been more successful.
Various chronicles from Geoffrey of Monmouth to Milton
indicate the popularity of the legend.15 Its widespread
acceptance marks a change in the English perspective which
was essential for any renaissance to occur: the British
began looking to Rome, Greece, and Troy for their ancestry,
not to Germany, Denmark, and Scandinavia.6 The advantage
of this new perspective is evident; it brought both national
and international prestige. At a time when most of the
other countries of Europe had already claimed descent from
the Trojans, England could ill afford not to associate
itself with the splendor of the Mediterranean past. The
wonders of the East--the subtle compounds for preserving a
body after death, the golden trees which bore gold and
silver fruit, the marvelous architectural craftsmanship,
and sumptuous surroundings--were all a part of the English-
man's background. He was no barbarian. And the church,
of course, raised no objection to Geoffrey of Monmouth's
fabrication since it was consistent with the Providential
history of the world. Brutus could be traced to Aeneas;
and Aeneas, to Noah. Consequently, the story of Trojan
descent became the fashionable explanation for the mysteries
of the British past and its link, both secular and divine,
to the larger world. But more importantly, the essential
direction of the English Renaissance was shaped. An attitude
to the culture that produced the classics and the models
for the Renaissance was decided.
If the medieval man saw the splendor of the past,
he also saw the moral lesson contained in its destruction.
The earthly world is mutable; the sinful and the virtuous
alike are subject to misfortune. It matters little whether
the Trojans fell by Fortune, the machinations of Providence,
the influence of the stars, treason, false priests, the
nature of women, the worship of pagan gods, or the general
human desire for revenge. The people fell, and their
destruction effectively underscores the instability of the
world. This conception of the world as unstable lies at
the heart of the contemptus mundi idea:17 if this world
is mutable, then scorn it and trust in a world that is
unchanging. According to Willard Farnham, the conception
of the world as unstable, mutable, fickle, and unpredictable
is essential to Renaissance tragedy since that form deals
with a character's changing fortune. Similarly, the conflict
in the revenge play grows out of a character's desire to
stablize virtues in a mutable world. Hamlet and Hieronimo
try to establish justice; Romeo and Juliet, a lasting love.
As Farnham adequately shows, the medieval contemptus mundi
theme is closely related to the Renaissance tragedy.
In terms of history and morality, then, the Troy
legend was a part of the medieval man's understanding of
the world about him. Consequently, it is not surprising
to find a number of versions of the story still extant.
Most of them are based, not on Homer, but on the Latin
reconstructions of Dictys Cretensis' Ephemeria de Historia
Belli Trojani of about the fourth century and Dares Phrygius'
De Excidio Trojae Historia of about the sixth century. 18
N. E. Griffin indicates that Homer's use of the gods, his
removal in time from the actual events of the war as
compared to Dictys and Dares' claim to eyewitness authority,
and the medieval preference for Latin over Greek are major
reasons for the medieval choice of the Latin writers over
Homer.19 Although these two versions were often found
together in medieval manuscripts, they were sometimes not
the direct source for later works.
During the second half of the twelfth century, Benolt
de Ste.-Maure, a Norman-French poet, composed Le Roman de
Troie. a vernacular versification of the Troy story in over
30,000 verses.20 Although some authorities posit an
expanded Dares from which Beno'it drew much of his information,
that work is not extant; thus Benolt's poem must be assessed
as a highly creative elaboration of the story. In 1287
Guido de Columnis apparently condensed Benoit's verse into
a Latin prose version which omitted much of his model's
dramatization and ornamentation, generally leaving plot
episodes without descriptions, but sometimes inserting
his own interpretations and didactic passages. Guido
and Benolt are most often the sources for medieval English
versions of the Trojan war.
The Excidium Troiae, a Latin account preserved in a
manuscript from the ninth century, apparently influenced
one English version, The Seege or Batayle of Troy. As
a source, however, the Excidium Troiae is relatively
insignificant; its importance lies instead in its form--a
school exercise--and its content--Homeric or classical
material rather than that of Dictys and Dares. Carol C.
Esler in her work on Joseph of Exeter discusses other
school exercises based on classical materials.23 In
comparison to the Excidium, however, these poems are short
and obviously the work of students, not the text students
were to emulate.
The first lengthy work produced in England and devoted
in its entirety to the fall of Troy is the six-book, Latin
epic by Joseph of Exeter entitled De Bello Trojano. It
was composed around 1184 and uses Dares as its primary
source. Although popular in its own time and again in the
Renaissance, this Latin work did not serve as a source
for later English versions probably because its form and
epic conventions interested later writers less than the
conventions of the romance.2
Several fourteenth and fifteenth century English
versions of the Troy material are extant. The Seege or
Batayle of Troy, dating from the beginning of the fourteenth
century, is evidently of minstrel composition, relying
primarily on Dares and occasionally on Benott and the
Excidium Troiae.25 It is a highly compact work, emphasizing
plot action rather than description, didacticism, or theme.
The Gest Hystoriale of the Destruction of Troy, done in
long-line alliterative verse, dates from the end of the
fourteenth century and is a fairly close translation of
Guido.26 Chaucer's treatment of the Troilus episode was
also composed at the end of the fourteenth century.27
The Laud Troy Book, composed around 1400 or slightly before,
claims to be a Hector romance and is neither a close
translation nor a free rendering of any other extant work.28
Lydgate's Troy Book, begun around 1412, at the request of
Prince Henry, is a creative translation of Guido containing
numerous insertions of learned material from the author's
own reading.29 The Prose Siege of Troy, dating from the
second quarter of the fifteenth century, is a condensation
of Lydgate's Troy Book.30 In addition to these full-
length works, there are two Scottish Troy fragments
probably dating from the fifteenth century, although they
are sometimes attributed to John Barbour.31 Based
primarily on Guide, these English versions testify to the
widespread interest in the story.
Around 1474 Caxton translated and printed a prose
romance entitled The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye
based on a French work by Raoul Lefevre.32 It represents
a turning away from the Dictys-Dares tradition to a
restoration of classical accounts. The translation enjoyed
a number of editions and served as the basis for Thomas
Heywood's Great Britain's Troy, a long poem in ottava rima,
and The Four Ages, a series of plays; both works date
from the first quarter of the seventeenth century.33
Although Shakespeare evidently put together a number of
sources for his Troilus and Cressida, the inspiration for
his account is primarily classical.34
This historical resume indicates that the legend
underwent some significant changes in the later middle
ages.55 The end of the twelfth century fostered interest
in new sources of the legend, which in turn gave way to
classical sources again in the Renaissance; and the form
changed from episodic to full-length accounts. This
period between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries thus
represents a unique interlude in the English history of
the legend and opens the way for explorations of the
relationship between the legend and historical and sociolog-
ical factors which might have influenced the literary mode.
Such a study is obviously outside the scope of this
dissertation, but an understanding of the history of the
legend is important here because the Dictys-Dares tradition
is significantly different from the more familiar Homeric
tradition. The standard elements of the former should not
be mistaken for creative innovations by the Laud poet.
For the reader's convenience, a table of the major differences
is presented in Appendix II.
The numerous versions attest to the story's popularity
and also indicate that it represents a significant grouping
within the total body of medieval literature. Despite its
importance, the English Troy material has been the subject
of little scholarship. One reason for this inattention
may be that the works are of a lesser artistic caliber
than most of Chaucer's work, The Pearl, Sir Gawain and the
Green Knight, Piers Plowman, and the other cycles,
especially the Arthurian stories. The Laud Troy Book,
in particular, seems to lack artistic merit. It has
neither the stately alliterative movement of the Gest
Hystoriale of the Destruction of Troy nor the rhythmic,
minstrel brevity of the Seege or Batayle of Troy to
commend it. In fact, R. K. Root in a review of J. Ernst
WUlfing's edition of the Laud for the Early English Text
Though quite untouched by any breath of
true poesy, and extended to the weary
length of 18,664 verses of halting
octosyllabic couplets, the Laud Troy
Book is, nevertheless, so important a
document for the English development
of the great Troy cycle that students
of Middle English will gladly welcome
this edition of the poem....56
Here, then, is the medieval scholar's dilemma:
should a poem lacking in artistry be the subject of analysis?
In the case of the Laud, the answer is clearly affirmative
because the work is a precursor of the Renaissance revenge
tragedy and as such brings into question the whole theory
of the Renaissance as a kind of package suddenly imported
from Italy and then modified. Troilus and Criseyde can
be called the first psychological novel if psychological
means minutely portraying the frustrations of one man.
But Chaucer is extraordinary, a genius compared to the
other artists of his time; consequently, he is expected
to be a forerunner of later, more subtle developments.
But the Laud poet's powers are less extraordinary; and
consequently, his subject-matter and techniques are
probably a better indication of the popular literature of
the time than are Chaucer's. For these reasons, then, the
work of intermediate quality needs to be explored.37
Some preliminary investigations have been done, two
of them article-length studies. The first, by Dorothy
Kempe, takes the form of a brief introduction.8 She
presents a description of the manuscript, then hypothesizes
that the poem, because it fails to make elaborate use of
the Troilus-Criseyde material, was written before Chaucer's
romance. She also attempts to establish Guido, rather than
Benolt, as the immediate source. She considers the
illustrations of contemporary life the most interesting
element of the poem. Among these illustrations are the
naive mixture of paganism and Christianity not found in
Guido, Benolt, or Lydgate, and the descriptions of the
civic state, dress, armour, weapons, and architecture.
She concludes with an evaluation of the style, which she
finds almost devoid of literary skill. Any innovations in
the story are accomplished "without definite artistic_..
purpose" and the versification is "rough, often deficient
in grammar." According to Kempe, the poet's strong.points
seem to be innovations in dialogue, narrative expansions
of the Pirrus story, and descriptions of storms, battles,
and military life. She notes as "curious" the frequent
use of similes and indicates that "the author keeps completely
out of sight."40 Her article shows a number of insights
into the poem, but is most important in that it stimulated
Wulfing to complete his edition of the manuscript for the.
Early English Text Society.
Wulfing has also written an article which, in the
absence of a formal introduction to his edition, must serve
as a guide to his thoughts on the poem.41 This article
makes two major points. The first section supplements,
confirms, or corrects Dorothy Kempe's article; the second
deals with the problems of sources, and place and date of
composition. He presents several arguments indicating
that Guido's work was probably not the only material used
by the Laud poet for his composition. He indicates that
the Laud, the Gest and the Scottish Troy fragments are
based to some extent on another common source, probably
French. He believes that Benolt and Statius could have
been additional sources for the Laud. The date and place
of composition he assigns to the northwest Midlands between
the last quarter of the fourteenth century and the
first ten years of the fifteenth century. Although he
favors Dorothy Kempe's conclusion that-the poem was--
written before Chaucer's romance, he finds it impossible
to prove. The article contains no interpretation of the
poem, and Wulfing himself considers it a preliminary,
not a definitive study.
Two dissertations include passing discussions of
the Laud while investigating other, more comprehensive
topics dealing with the cycle as a whole. D. N. Hinton
treats the Laud in terms of a popular romance.42 He
finds that the words "curtays," "noblay," and "chivalrous"
occur only infrequently in the Gest, but are used regularly
in the Laud. He notices that marvelous qualities are
stressed throughout the Laud; for example, the description
of the fleece is lengthy and Medea's powers as sorceress
are not disclaimed. Banquets, music, dancing, dress, and
formal behavior, in short, attributes of courtly life, are
stressed. Warfare, including descriptions of armour and
battles, is emphasized, and Hector behaves according to'
the chivalric ideals of fourteenth century knighthood.
Because he considers the work to be a Hector romance,
Hinton finds the structure deficient: the hero enters
late and dies early. Strangely enough, he believes that
most of the material following Hector's death is a
straight translation of Guido; but such a view fails to -
consider the poet's treatment of the Achilles' episode
and the addition of the story of Pirrus which Dorothy
Kempe had previously noted as an apparently original
Gordon R. Wood sees the Laud as a translation of
Guido, but in the "new manner."43 This new manner is
signaled by the use of certain phrases to acknowledge
the poet's debt to his source--"of this matter I will
not tell," "these are the words of him whom I translate,"
"as the trety says"--or by the use of direct references
to the author being translated. Since Wood has chosen
to interpret the Laud as a translation of Guido, he must
account for its marked divergence from the other two
translations, the Gest and the Troy Book. His
explanation of the "new manner" is one attempted account,
and another is based on the purpose for translating:
If one can judge from the poet's silence,
he did not make the translation because
some patron ordered him to. From internal
evidence such as the poet's colloquial style
of writing (432-44, 484-500, 765-92), one
may conclude that he intended the poem for a
more general audience. If this is so, we
have, perhaps, an explanation of the
difference in content between the Laud
translation and those contemporary with
it: a translation designed to please a
general audience need not follow the source
closely. Its author, in order to keep
the attention of the audience, may reject
everything which stops the progress of the
story, and he may greatly elaborate those
things which he thinks will add to it.44
Such explanations of the differences between the Laud and
other versions cf the Troy story are not exhaustive and are
certainly biased by the initial assumption that the Laud is
a translation of Guido. Wood does, however, recognize
a number of important differences between the Laud and the
two other versions: the Laud poet "discards all elements not
relating to the Trojan war"; he adds "Hector's own words,"
"detailed accounts of armour and fighting," and "an analysis
of the emotions of the contestants"; and he leaves out the
These last two approaches to the Laud are less than
satisfactory because, of course, they do not focus primarily
on the Laud and thus are only partial and sometimes
inaccurate explanations. The first two approaches represent
exploratory studies which, for the most part, are concerned
with the circumstances of the manuscript and its composition
rather than with the contents. This study differs from the
previous studies in that it focuses solely on the Laud and
attempts to delineate its distinguishing characteristics,
relating it ultimately to the Renaissance revenge tragedies.
The division of the following work is based on
various aspects of the poem. One chapter focuses on the
narrator, another on theme, another on characterization,
and still another on descriptive techniques. An outline
of the contents of the Laud is presented in Appendix I,
and an annotated bibliography of relevant works is included
in Appendix III.
1Charles Homer Haskins The Renaissance of the Twelfth
Century (Cambridge, Mass., 1927-).
Friedrich Heer, The Medieval World: Europe 1100-
1350 (New York, 1962), p. 19.
3Frederick B. Artz, The Mind of the Middle Ages,
3rd ed. rev. (New York, 19581 pp. 434-435.
Herbert Muller, The Uses of the Past (New York,
5C. Warren Hollister, The Twelfth Century Renaissance
(New York, 1969), note particularly the bibliographic
essay, pp. 165-167.
6Walter F. Schirrer, "The Importance of the Fifteenth
Century for the Study of the English Renaissance with
Special Reference to Lydgate," English Studies Today, ed.
by C.L. Wrenn and G. Bullough (London, 1951), pp. 104-110.
7Willard Farnham, The Medieval Heritage of Elizabethan
Tragedy (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1936).
8Mary Bonaventure Mroz, Divine Vengeance: Philosophi-
cal Backgrounds of the Revenge Motif in Shakespeare's
Chronicle History Plays (Washington, D.C., 1941).
9Marguerite Hearsey (ed.), The Complaint of Henry,
Duke of Buckingham (New Haven, 1936).
1lRaymond Chapcan, "The Wheel of Fortune in Shakespeare's
History Plays," Review of English Studies, new series I
ID.S. Brewer, rev. of The Poetry of John L-.-'te,
by Alain Renoir, Speculum, XLIVTT(9), $17-518.
1Geoffrey Hartman, "Structuralism: The Anglo-
American adventure," Strutturalism, ed. by Jacques Ehrmann
(Garden City, New York, 1970, p. 148.
13Doroty Everett its: "Hoever the scholar ay
Dorothy Everett writes: the scholar may
sympathize with the natural reactions of his contemporaries
to any work of art, it is part of his business to make
clear its significance for the time in which it was
created..." "A Characterization of the English Medieval
Romances," E&S, XV (1929), 98-99.
14Sebastian Evans (trans. and ed.), Histories of the
KinRs of Britain, by Geoffrey of Monmouth (New York, 1911),
15Laura Keeler, Geoffrey of Monmouth and the Late
Latin Chroniclers 1300-1500 (Los Angeles and Berkeley,
1946), pp. 1-2.
16George Gordon, "The Trojans in Britain," E&S, IX
(1924), 28, and J.J. Jusserand, The English Novel in the
Time of Shakespeare, trans. by Elizabeth Lee (London, 1890),
17Farnham, p. 79.
18A.J. Valpy (ed.), Dictys Cretensis et Dares Phrygius
De bello Trojano, II (London, 1825). All citations are
from this edition.
19N.E. Griffin, Dictys and Dares: An Introduction
to the Study of the Medieval Story of Troy (Baltimore,
1907) and "The Un-Homeric Elements in the Medieval Story
of Troy," JEGP, VII (1908), 32-52.
2Leopold Constans (ed.), Le Roman de Troie, par
Benolt de Sainte-Maure, Societ6 des Anciens Textes Frangais,
6 vols., (Paris, 1904-1912). All citations are from this
21N.E. Griffin (ed.), Guido de Columnis. Historia
destructionis Troiae, (Cambridge, Mass., 1936). All
citations are from this edition.
E. Bagby Atwood and Virgil K. Whitaker (eds.),
Excidium Troiae (Cambridge, Mass., 1944).
Carol C. Esler, "Joseph of Exeter's Bellum Troianum:
A Literary Study and English Translation," Diss. Bryn
Mawr College, 1966.
Geoffrey B. Riddehough, "A Forgotteu Poet: Joseph
of Exeter," JEGP, XLVI (1947), 254.
25Mary E. Barnicle (ed.), The Seege or Batayle of
Troye, Early English Text Society, 172 (London, 1927).
2George A. Panton and David Donaldson (eds.), The
Gest Hystoriale of the Destruction of Troy, Early English
Text Society, 39, 56 (London, 1869-1874). All citations
are from this edition.
2Geoffrey Chaucer, The Complete Works of Geoffrey
Chaucer, ed. by Fred N. Robinson, 2nd ed. (Boston, 1l57).
All citations are from this edition.
J. Ernst Wulfing (ed.), The Laud Troy Book, Early
English Text Society, 121, 122 (London, 1902-1903). All
citations are from this edition.
29John Lydgate, Lydgate's Troy Book, ed. by Henry
Bergen, Early English Text Society, extra series 97, 103,
106, 126 (London,1906-1935). All citations are from this
30N.E. Griffin, "The Sege of Troy," PMLA, XXII (1907),
31Carl Horstmann, Barbour's, des schottischen
Nationaldichters, Legendensamnlung nebst den Framnenten
seines Trojanerkreiges, II (Heilbronn, 1881), 255ff.
32Raoul Lefevre, The Recuyell of the Historyes of
Troye, trans. by William Caxton, ed. by H.O. Sommer,
2 vols. (London, 1894).
3Thomas Heywood, "The Iron Age, Parts I and II,"
The Dramatic Works of Thomas Heywood, III (London, 1874);
Troia Britannica: Or, Great Britaines Troy (London, 1609).
34G.B. Harrison (ed.) Shakespeare: The Complete
Works (New York, 1948), p. 974. All citations are from
35E. Bagby Atwood and Virgil Whitaker discuss various
foreign versions of the tale in their introduction to
36R.K. Root, rev. of The Laud Troy Book, ed. by
J. Ernst Wilfing, JEGP, V (1903- 1905), 367-368.
37George Kane assesses the Laud as "first among the
works of intermediate quality." Micadle English LiterattLe
(London, 1951), p. 26.
8orothy Kempe, "A Middle English Tale of Troy,"
Englische Studien, XXIX (1901), 1-26.
39Kempe, pp. 22-25.
40Kempe, p. 25.
41J. Ernst illfing, "Das Laud Troy-Book Englische
Studien, CXIX (1901), 374-598.
4D.N. Hinton, "A Study of the Middle English Poems
Relating to the Destruction of Troy," Diss. Univ. of
4Gordon R. Wood, "The Middle English Alliterative
Destruction of Troy: A Critical Study," Diss. Princeton,
1952, p. 29.
4Wood, pp. 22-23.
45Wood, p. 27.
II. NARRATOR AND GENRE
The following chapter attempts to show that the
Laud Troy Book is narrated by a speaker who believes the
Trojans fell because they made a number of wrong decisions
and who also links his tale to other medieval tragedies
of Fortune, but does not offer Providential explanations
of the fall. This emphasis on the individual rather than
on Fortune or Providence helps to make the Laud a transi-
tional piece, standing somewhere between medieval and
First of all, the poem is narrated by a speaker who
is sympathetic to the Trojans and laments their fall. The
passages spoken by this narrator can be easily identified
because they all begin with similar phrases: "So weylaway
that it was so" (2705), "A, Priamus, if that thow wistes"
(3600), "Alas, Paris, what hastow do"(3352), "Alas, Ector!
he rewys my thought" (3356), "Alas, me rewes of Priamus"
(3367), "A noble Troye, that was rial" (3373). Each
passage laments the action of some indiviudal and foretells
disaster; and each one also emphasizes the element of
tragedy by underscoring the difference between what might
have been and what will actually come to pass.
The lamentations occur at strategic points in the
story. The first follows the proposal that Paris should
go to revenge his father on the Greeks. Cassandra
prophesies destruction if he does, but Priam refuses to
listen. At this point, the narrator interrupts to indicate
that if Paris had not gone to Greece, the destruction could
have been avoided:
So weylaway that it was so,
That he nolde afftir hir [Cassandr] do!
For hadde he don afftir hir rede,
Hadde he not so sone ben dede,
Ne the Cite not be brent,
Ne alle hir kyn so foule be schent.
In al the world such a Cite
Neuere was ne neuere schal be. (2705-2712)
Here Priam, by refusing to believe Cassandra's prophecy,
brings about total destruction of his lineage and city.
This pattern occurs at least two other times in the Laud:
during an .early council Helenus warns of destruction (2519-
2540), but is mocked by Troilus; and, again, Partheus,
during an open council, repeats his father's prophecy
(2635-2662), but the general citizenry cry out against
him (2663-2672). Thus, Priam hears three prophecies
against sending Paris on the mission to the Greeks, and
he chooses to disregard all three. His decision itself
does not constitute a tragic situation, but the narrator's
lamentation, which recalls the final effect of the decision,
forces the reader to see that this action will cause
ultimate destruction. From the narrator's point of view,
then, failing to act on true prophecy is a significant
element in the final tragedy.
Late in the council which finally sends Paris to
Greece, Hector offers a number of reasons why the Trojans
should not engage in a war against the Greeks (2319-2572),
but Priam also disregards this advice. The narrator then
A, Priamus, if that thow wistes
The sorwe that comes to the and thine
Off noble Troye the gret ruyne!
Haddest thow don be Ectores rede,
Then haddest thow not be dede.
Now comes thi sorwe and thi wo,
Alas, thi Ioye schal ouer-go! (3600-3606)
In the eyes of the narrator, Priam's failure to take
Hector's advice, like his failure to act on Cassandra's
prophecy, is directly related to the tragic outcome.
Priam also grants too many truces. The Greeks have
heavy losses; the weather sometimes works against them;
and they often need time to get supplies. Therefore, they
ask for truces under the guise of honoring the dead.
Because the Trojans are anxious for peace, they willingly
grant the truces, despite Hector's arguments (8160-8198).
The Laud poet increases the number of truces by almost
twice that found in the other narratives, and the narrator
shows that granting at least one of these truces is a
significant factor in the fall of Troy:
A, Priamus! that ftow was made,
When thow the trees so ly3tly granted!
For haddes thow thenne that batayle haunted
Thei schulde haue died with gret vilte,
With swerd at that gret mortalite! (9844-9848)
Thus, the narrator again emphasizes a wrong decision, one
which will ultimately bring about the fall of the city.
Some lamentations enumerate the tragic results of an
individual's action. When Paris finally brings Helen to
Troy and marries her, the narrator comments on the action:
Alas, Paris, what hastow do,
When thow leddest away Eleyne!
So many gode knyghtes for hir schul be sclayne,
And alle thi kyn to dethe was brought.
Alas, Ector! he rewys my thought,
That he schulde dye for his disert!
So strong he was In armes apert,
Ne neuere wrong he wolde do.
Alas, that thi god Appollo
Ne hadde throwe the In the salt-flom,
Er thow haddist brought hir hom!
By Ihesu Crist of Nazareth!
I wolde, thow haddist taken the dethe,
When thow wentist to Tytharie,
To here and se that melodye!
Alas, me rewes of Priamus,
Off Hectuba, and gode Troylus,
Off Pollexene, and Andromede!
That Paris made brend In a glede,
When thow leddest away Eleyne
Out of the temple of dame Vyane!
A noble Troye, that was rial
A-doun is thrown with ston arn wal;
That made Paris and his euel wit.
And elles hit scholde haue stonde 3it
As long as lerusalem,
Ne hadde Paris ben and his fals drem.
Now artow doun, and thi toures bye,
For Paris ffals a-voutrye! (3352-3380)
The passage is primarily a catalog of events which are all
the results of Paris' action. Here again a character's
failure to realize the ramifications of his action causes
the fall of Troy.
Hector also makes a mistake which affects others. He
decides to go to battle even though Andromache has had
a prophetic dream that he will be killed. This decision
prompts a one-hundred and fifteen line lamentation, by far
the longest the narrator ever delivers (9877-9992). It
consists of a catalog of events which will result from
Hector's foolish decision (9905-9908): Priam will lose his
nobility; Hecuba and Pollexena, their lives; Troilus, the
lands he might have ruled; Andromache, her husband and her
royal position; the knights, their happiness; and the
citizenry, their treasure and greatness. Here again the
narrator emphasizes the relationship between Hector's
action and the lives of all the people in Troy. According
to Willard Farnham, recognizing the individual and the
relationship of his specific action to the larger situation
is an important element in the growth of Renaissance
tragedy.1 Consequently, the narrator's analysis of
individual actions in relation to the outcome of the war
constitutes one factor which makes the Laud a transitional
The narrator's lamentations all have a similarity of
content and construction which link all the erroneous
actions of the Trojans, making them the cause of the fall.
The narrator thus serves a kind of analytic function in that
he points out the errors. Neither the Gest nor Lydgate's
Troy Book interpret the fall as the result of a number of
The Gest poet indicates that he is a serious translator,
rendering into English Guido's history:2
But A e truth for to telle & Aoe text euyn
Of at fight how it felle in a few yeres,
eat was clanly compiled with a clerk wise,.
On Gydo, a gome, 4at graidly bade soght,
And wist all e werks by weghes he hade,
That bothe were in batell while the batell last
And euber sawte & assembly see with Bere een.
In this shall faithfully be founden to the fer ende,
All be dedes by dene as Jai done were. (51-79)
The poet, following his source, blames lust in women for the
fall, specifically in Helenq who could not refrain from
going to the temple when she heard Paris was there.
According to the poem, her lust ultimately brings about
treason, war, and ruin (2920-2982). The poet also condemns
corruption and covetousness in priests, specifically in
that priest who sold the Palladium to Antenor (11768-11781),
and a long passage is devoted to the folly of idolatry,
which, of course, has no power to save (4295-4458). The
Gest, paralleling Guido's work, uses the tale for purposes
of moral edification.
Lydgate indicates that he, too, is translating, but
he feels free to fill his work with all kinds of scholarly
elaboration. Sometimes a sentence or even a name will
be enough to suggest a history or a fable to him. Consequently,
before Aeneas betrays Troy, Lydgate, who obviously knows the
Aeneid and wishes to excuse the hero of that work for his
inappropriate action in this poem, explains that the
unfavorable conjunction of the stars brought about the
treason (IV, 4440-4532). In this way the poet is able to
preserve the image that he has previously created, Aeneas
as the glorious founder of the Roman Empire. The implicit
suggestion here is that the fall of Troy was Providential.
These comparisons indicate that the Laud poet offers a
different explanation of the fall than most other versions
do, and this explanation looks forward to the Renaissance,
which also emphasizes the individual and his actions as
the cause of events.
In the Laud, however, the characters cannot clearly
see the end result of their actions. For this reason
Priam (1941-1943), Hector (2337-2342), Agamemnon (11418-
11422), Aeneas (7150-7160), and Achilles (12291-12292) all
indicate that men ought to be cautious in their behavior.
This, then, is their tragic flaw; they have not the power.
to know thefuture. On the other hand, Dephebus pragmati-
cally states their position:
...lordynges, if it were so,
Off eche a thyng that men schulde do,
If thei caste that noght be-falle,
Nis no man of vs nowhere, bonde ne thralle,
That any-thyng scholde be-gynne, fro drede
That he scholde fayle or euel spede. (2505-2510)
Thus, what the Trojans must do, when contrasted with what
they ought to do, clearly shows their tragic position in
the universe. They have limited knowledge, being unable to
recognize those prophecies and reasoning which, if followed,
would lead to their ultimate well-being, and yet they must
In an analysis of the lliterative Morte Arthure, Larry
Benson explains medieval tragedy as a kind of tension:
The tension is between two goods, between
the Christian detachment that is necessary
for ultimate happiness even on this earth
and the complete engagement with an earthly
ideal that is necessary for heroism.3
The Laud, then, has half the material for medieval tragedy;
the characters are forced to engage in the earthly ideals of
honor and obligation to a lord. But rather than presenting
the ideals of Christian detachment to create a tension, the
Laud poet emphasizes the idea of limited knowledge which
prevents the characters from both preserving their own well
being and doing the earthly things they must. According to
Frederick Artz, "The Renaissance, as it is commonly described,
is not the Middle Ages plus man, but the Middle Ages minus
God.... In comparison to Guido's history, the Gest, and
Lydgate's Troy Book, the Laud is unique because it does not
contain didactic passages praising or defending Christianity.
Neither does it present Boethian philosophy or scholastic
debate as do other medieval works. Despite passing refer-
ences to Christianity and the standard opening and closing,
the poem is free of direct Christian interpolation. By
focusing on individuals and their actions rather than on
Christian or Boethian philosophies, the Laud again fore-
shadows the Renaissance, which also focuses on men rather
than didactic messages.
Roy Battenhouse, in discussing the Shakespearean
conception of tragedy, underscores the idea of the tragic
In several [f the tragic characters, there
are faults he [Sakespear] has not named
or faults at a level deeper than he has
named, which contribute at least indirectly
to the disasters which ensue. An initial
self-righteousness in Cordelia, a mad
wilfulness in Lear, a superstitiousness in
Gloucester, and a weather--vane deviousness
in Polonius might be mentioned for instance.5
Thus, in Shakespeare's work, the tragedy grows not only
out of situation and action, but also out of the character's
inherent nature. H.R. Patch finds a similar trend in
If the suffering of the chief figure in
the scenes comes accidentally, then we
may indeed consider this a weak and
sentimental kind of tragedy. No doubt
that is how the term Fortune was under-
stood in the Middle Ages....But mediaeval
authors wrote better stories than those
of pure chance. We find many allusions
to the wanton pride of the hero before
his fall, a circumstance that makes the
action of Fortune more rational.0
This touch of pride can be found in Troilus' scorn of
lovers (I, 194-203) and again in the alliterative Morte
Arthure in Arthur's desire for conquests beyond Rome (3211).7
The Laud also presents a tragic flaw, but it is not
a flaw peculiar to one man; it is the nature of the species.
No one can know the future. According to Battenhouse, the
flaws portrayed in Shakespeare's characters are unique to
the particular personality. That is, not everyone suffers
from superstition or self-righteousness, but a number of
people do. Consequently, the portraits are pleasing because
they are true to life. But the flaw as found in the Laud
retains the medieval quality of Everyman. In fact,
characterization in general lacks detailed development in
the Laud. As George Kane says, "The charming intimacy of
romances like Beues of Hamptoun or Hauelok, where we
attach our sympathies to the fortunes of a single character,
is wanting here." Since it lacks an intimate account of
the central character with whom the reader can identify,
the poem is not as moving as the Morte Arthure or Troilus and
Criseyde; consequently, the tragic effect of the fall is
lessened. Since the flaw is inherent in the species and
is not a quality a man might presumably control if he
tried, the Laud, then, stands somewhere between the earlier
medieval tragedy in which the fall is due primarily to
uncontrollable cosmic factors and the great Renaissance
portraits of individuals who, through their own actions,
bring about destruction.
The Laud is a transitional work, too, in terms of its
Fortune motif. A few minor references to the goddess are
sprinkled throughout the work, but the only major passage
is spoken by the narrator following Hector's decision to
withdraw his troops in the first formal battle:
But Ector was that day vnblessed,
Off grace certes that day he myssed,
He myght that day the batayl haue ent
And alle the Gregeis clene haue schent,
That thei schulde neuere haue passed the see
With lyff ne lym to here centre;
But destene, that fortune ledes,
When he beholdis that men best spedis
With sicur traist of wel spedyng,
He makes hem leue somtyme a thyng
That he may haue at his will,
That he schal neuere come ther-tille.
For I haue herd. offte say,
That he that wil not whan he may,
When he wolde, he getis it noght,
Then hit were ful faire be-sought,
Som tyme, as good hap nere,
That comes not ones In seuene 3ere. (5883-5906)
A description of Fortune and a catalog of those she has
undone--Alexander, Caesar, Arthur, and Hector--complete the
These references to Fortune and Destiny suggest that
the poet may be offering a Providential explanation for the
fall, rather than an explanation based primarily on indiv-
idual behavior; but such is not actually the case because
Fortune never assumes an active role in the poem. She is
termed "fficul" (5909), "frele" (5909), "variable" (5915),
and unstable (5916). She "be-trayes" (5912), "be-swykes"
(5918), and "aruses" (5959). She is motivated by hate (8563)
and desire (9851); and she is often a "foo mortel" (9849),
an image of battle which fits nicely with the plot action,
but is not developed. She also turneds and trendeles as
doth a bal" (5953), a stance related to the graphic
depictions of her standing on a ball.9 But none of these
descriptions are developed to form any recurrent theme.
Similarly, the image of the wheel is absent. There are
oblique references to it, as when Fortune desires Priam's
"blysse doun" (9851), but there are no explicit references.
If the poet was familiar, as he undoubtedly was, with the
four positions on the wheel as rising, reigning, falling,
and being cast off, he may have been reluctant to use this
image of the life of a prince for material depicting the
fall of a city.
Destiny, whom Fortune leads (5889), is barely described
at all. His principle role seems to be to lead men away
from things they might easily attain, as he leads Hector
from victory in the first formal battle (5889-5894).
Destiny also prompts one of the few truisms in the Laud:
often a man will not do what he may, and later cannot do
what he would (5091-5096). The idea is essentially
Boethian; but like other poets of the period, the author.
of the Laud does not attempt to make any explanation of
the precise connection between destiny and free will.
He does indicate, however, that Destiny can be over-
come by men's free will: the narrator assures the reader
twice that Hector could have had the victory in thefirst
formal battle had he chosen to take the opportunity (5894-
5899, 5955-5959). Again, before Hector's final battle, the
narrator indicates that if the hero had not gone this day,
he would subsequently have led the Trojans to victory
(10006-10008). Priam, too, says before this final battle
that it is possible for Hector to beat his destiny if he
remains at home (10146-10150 but after he rides off
despite Priam's command, the narrator says it is now
impossible to avoid the tragedy (10549-10550). This
series of comments implies a relationship between destiny
and free will, but nowhere does the poet explicitly
investigate the problems involved in relating the two as
Chaucer does in Troilus' famous speech on predestination
and free will (IV, 958-1079). In fact, the poem in
comparison to Troilus and Criseyde is quite devoid of
philosophical import. Unlike Chaucer's work, the references
to Fortune and Destiny in the Laud form no significant and
well-developed nucleus for the poem. They seem rather to
provide a traditional framework which links the poem, not
to the catalog of romances presented in.the introduction
(15-24), but to the catalog of tragedies presented by the
narrator in the gnomic interpolation of Fortune. Because
Fortune and Destiny never become active or causal agents in
the poem, then, they are primarily of artistic importance,
providing a tradition for understanding the poem, rather
than a philosophical or theological explanation for the
misfortunes that come even to the virtuous.
In his thorough explication of the medieval ideas on
Fortune, H.R. Patch writes:
Of course the greatest injuries one can
receive from Fortune nearly all consist
in the fall from a state of honor.....Since
this change in man's fortune is what
really constitutes the medieval idea of
tragedy, we may call this the "tragic
theme." ...The literary type of the
tragedy caused by Fortune was firmly
established and well recognized in the
Chaucer's translation of Boethius' De consolation
contains a famous passage showing the link between the
medieval concepts of fortune and tragedy: "What other
thyng bywaylen the cryinges of tragedyes but only the
deedes of Fortune, that with unwar strook overturneth
the realmes of great nobleye?" (ii, pr. 2). Lydgate's
Troy Book contains a similar linkage:
But tragidie, who so list to know,
It begynneth in prosperity,
And endeth euer in aduersite;
And it also doth +e conquest trete
Of riche kynges and of lordys grete,
Of my3ty men and olde conquerouTs,
Which by fraude of Fortunys schowris
Ben ouercast & whelmed from her glorie.
If the medieval poets did indeed recognize a group of tales
related through their emphasis on Fortune and through a
plot structure moving from happiness to woe, then the Laud
poet undoubtedly associated his poem with that group of
tales. Thus, the Fortune motif in the poem indicates that
the poet probably conceived of his work as a tragedy. But
because Fortune is primarily an artistic device denoting
genre and is not the focal point of the narrative, the
Laud can be described as moving away from earlier medieval
poems which attempt to explain the working of Fortune
toward the later tragedies which often curse or lament
Fortune but seldom focus on explaining her behavior.
Other aspects of a Providential fall are also missing.
In Chaucer's poem Fortune and Destiny are linked to God,
but the Laud poet attempts no such linkage. The narrator
does, however, mention several times that the Trojans are
Alas Troye! what is thi grace?
To the fel neuere gode trace,
To the fel neuere gode chance,
Ne non of alle thi retenaunce!
Thoow thow be gay & glorious,
Thow were euere on-gracious!
Off thow hede of Cites were,
Blysful hap to the fel neuere! (14687-14694)
Allas! that day he[Hector]hadde no grace
To be at home, as hin radde wace. (10547-10548)
Kyng Priamus, where was thi grace?
Thi happe was take fro the, alas! (8547-8548)
But the references to grace, like the personifications of
Fortune and Destiny, are never explicitly related to God,
and the standard explanation,that man without God's grace
cannot always make those choices that will create a favor-
able destiny for him, is also missing, despite the obvious
opportunity to introduce it. No lengthy condemnation of
paganism is presented as is the case in both the Gest (4256-
4458) and Lydgate's Troy Book (IV, 6921-7034). Although
the medieval reader, through connotation, may have compared
his own opportunity to attain grace to the pagan's
graceless state, the poem itself contains no such comparison.
Apparently the poet deliberately avoids making theological
or philosophical concerns the focus of his work.
Since he never specifically links Fortune, Destiny,
or grace to God, the Laud poet is never forced to explain
God's rationale for destroying Troy, and he never discusses
necessity or God's unlimited knowledge. He even omits
episodes and explanations that would lead the reader to
see how the fall was necessary to the subsequent pattern
of history. For example, he never identifies Aeneas as
the central figure in Virgil's poem or the founder of the
Roman republic, as Guido, the Gest poet, and Lydgate do;
and he never gives a chronology of the subsequent settlement
of the European world by the survivors of Troy as Lydgate
does (I, 805-917). By ignoring even these standard
implications of Providential history, the poet focuses his
work on men's actions in the strict context of the fall of
This analysis of the narrator's lamentations and
gnomic interpolations indicates that the poet probably
designed his work in terms of medieval tragedy of Fortune,
despite his statements about romance, and that the poem
focuses on individual actions as the primary cause of the
fall of Troy. Hinton, in his discussion of the Laud, fails
to recognize that the poem is a tragedy of Fortune, depicting
the fall of a city, not the fall of a prince. He indicates
that the poem is not unified because the hero enters late
and dies early,ll a charge which is true enough if the
poem is analyzed only in terms of a Hector romance. In the
introduction to the poem, the author himself encourages
such a reading:
Many speken of men that romaunces rede
That were sumtyme doughti in dede,
The while that god hem lyff lente,
That now ben ded and hennes wente:
But of the worthiest wyght in wede
That euere by-strod any stede,
Spekes no man, ne in romance redes
Off his batayle ne of his dedis. (11-30)
This passage, of course, is the prelude to the announcement
of Hector as the hero of the poem. But the poet indicates,
too, that glorifying Hector is only a part of his intended
purpose; he also plans to tell all the deeds of the Trojan
Herkenes now, and 3e may here
The were sothe alle plenere:
What was the forme enchesoun,
The forest skyl and resoun,
That alle the kynges of Grecis formast Inued
And the Troyens so long pursued;
And how the batayle was first be-gunnen,
And how Troye was sithen y-wonnen;
And--as the store here beris recorde--
Alle the dedis of euery lorde,
And alle the dayes that thei caught there,
And alle the dedis as thei were
Of alle the lordes that their caught,
And which of hem here dethe 4er laught;
And how fele terms and treweb
Where take be-twene Troyens and Gruwes,
And how long euery trewe last,
And how thai spedde when thei were paste;
And alle here wo and al here breste;
And how many tymes that thei reste
With-Inne ten 5ere that thei were thore,
Er that the toun destroyed wore. (65-86)
This passage is a realistic statement of the scope of the
Laud; the poet gives a detailed account of the war: the
battles, the truces, the men, and the deeds. The second
half of the author's purpose, though not so interesting
critically as his statement about creating a Hector romance,
nonetheless, receives an equal amount of attention from the
poet both in the above passage and also in a subsequent
passage which again states his purpose (3272-3296). Hinton's
analysis, then, is less than satisfactory because it fails
to consider the poet's larger purpose which aims at vividly
depicting bhe tragic fall of Troy.
Gordon Wood indicates that the Laud was written for a
general audience, not for a specific patron, and that under
these circumstances the Laud poet's treatment of the legend
could afford to be freer than either the Gest or Lydgate's
Troy Book.12 If in fact written for no specific patron,
the Laud would have to rely, at least to some extent, on an
appeal to contemporary literary interests. The catalog
of other romance heroes is certainly meant to stimulate the
audience's interest in this particular work by associating
it with other well-known works. In view of the author's
situation, if he was indeed not writing for a specific
individual, it is perhaps best to understand the opening
remarks on Hector and romance as an attempt to revitalize
familiar material by giving it a fashionable form. The
Laud's reputation as a Hector romance, then, is probably a
modern exaggeration based on the author's own eagerness to
make his story appealing. A re-evaluation ought to be
based on the poet's total statement of purpose--that is,
on both the idea of a Hector romance and the narration of
all the events of the war--and on the framework he creates
through his emphasis on Fortune. The Laud, like Chaucer's
romance Troilus and Criseyde, ought to be discussed in
terms of tragedy;13 and the critical charges of disunity
ought to be reassessed, again in terms of the author's.
total statement of purpose and the framework he creates.
Any assessment of the poem, however, would have to
conclude that the poet fails to create a real feeling of
tragedy because he does not sufficiently develop a
character or a set of characters with whom the reader can
identify. The poem also lacks a building plot line so that
the Aristotelian principle of unity and the subordination
of all the parts to one objective is not immediately
apparent. The role of the narrator lends a dramatic
atmosphere to the poem, but unfortunately this atmosphere
is offset and obscured by the length of the poem and the
tedious repetition of the battles. The Laud does make a
distinct innovation in the Troy story, however, by developing
a persona who focuses on the tragic nature of the fall.
Both the Gest and Lydgate's Troy Book are narrated by the
poet-translators themselves, who aim at moral and scholastic
edification. But the Laud poet does not rely on Guido's
extensive proverbs.to give his work a moral tenor. Instead
he focuses on the action itself, using the narrator as a
device to highlight those actions which he wishes to empha-
size. Admittedly then, the poem is not a highly success-
ful tragedy, but in the development of the tale itself
the Laud turns away from the older didactic traditions
and moves into the realm of the story for the sake of
entertainment, leaving the reader to draw his own moral
conclusions from the action itself and the narrator's
1Willard Farnham, The Medieval Heritage of Eliza-
bethan Tragedy (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1936), p. 124.
A discussion of the Gest poet's purpose in
translating and the major deviations from his source is
presented in Gordon R. Wood's "The Middle English Allit-
erative Destruction of Troy: A Critical Study," Diss.
Larry A. Benson, "The Alliterative Morte Arthure
and Medieval Tragedy," TSL, XI (1965), 80-81.
Frederick B. Artz, Les idees et les lettres, trans.
by C.W. Hollister (Paris, 1932), p. 192, quoted in The
Twelfth Century Renaissance, ed. by C.W. Hollister (New
York, 1969), p. 85.
5Roy Battenhouse, Shakespeare's Tragedy: Its Art
and Its Christian Premises (Bloomington, 1969), p. 138.
6Howard R. Patch, The Goddess Fortuna in Medieval
Literature (Cambridge, Mass., 1927), p. 69.
7Edmund Brock (ed.), Morte Arthure; or, the Death
of Arthur, Early English Text Society, 8 (London, 1871).
8George Kane, Middle English Literature (London,
1951), p. 27.
9Patch, pp. 45, 61, 148.
lOPatch, pp. 67-72.
11D.N. Hinton, "A Study of the Middle English Poems
Relating to the Destruction of Troy," Diss. Univ. of
Wisconsin, 1957, p. 194.
12Gordon R. Wood, "The Middle English Alliterative
Destruction of Troy: A Critical Study," Diss. Princeton,
1952, pp. 22-25.
13D.W. Robertson, Jr., "Chaucerian Tragedy,".ELH,
XIX (1952), 1-57.
III. STRUCTURE AND THEME
The theme of revenge is usually associated with the
Renaissance, primarily because the revenge tragedy became
fashionable at that time. But the middle ages was also
interested in revenge. Fredson Bowers shows that social
concerns go back even to the Old English period. Mary
Mroz finds that medieval theologians and poets were inter-
ested in the subject. William Matthews discusses revenge
in the alliterative Morte Arthure, and many episodes of
the Canterbury Tales involve revenge. Despite the avail-
able material, however, revenge is seldom associated with
the middle ages in the same way that it is with the Renais-
sance. The association with the Renaissance is due in part
to the striking form of the revenge tragedy, which usually
involves sensational horrors, a scheming villain, insanity,
and intrigue--characteristics making it easy to identify and
discuss. Such a striking form does not usually accompany
the motif in the medieval period; consequently, the idea
receives little scholarly attention. The following
chapter tries to show that the Laud, though not a drama,
contains most of the characteristics of the Renaissance
revenge tragedy and is, thus, a transitional piece between
the earlier period, which was interested in the theme,
and the later period, which adopted a striking form for
the theme. A comparison of similar episodes in the Laud
and the Gest indicates that the Laud poet consistently
emphasizes revenge, making it the dominant theme of the
poem. Madness, treachery, brutality, and love are all
complementary or contrasting themes. The presence ofeach
idea is first demonstrated and then related to the
Renaissance revenge plays.
The greater part of the Laud, that is, the recitation
of the second destruction of Troy, is episodic, focusing
for the most part on each day's battle. The poet usually
tells first of the preparation, then of the general battle
scene, then of the personal encounters, and finally of the
night's activities. These day-to-day accounts of the
war are relieved with episodes of truce. Truces most
often involve councils, burials, and recoveries, but are
always closely linked with the preceding or following
war activities. Since the battle scenes form the heart of
the narrative, they will be investigated first, and the
truces will be related to them.
Generally, the battles contain an interior continuity;
that is, the individual encounters within the larger battle
are related to each other. For example, in the Gest
Penthesilea's first encounter with the Greeks begins
"Pantasilia so presit proud Menelaus,/at he gird hym to
ground with a grym dynt" (10873-10874). The Laud, however,
records the action this way:
Menelaus hadde grete envy
Off that quene Pantasaly,
That sche the Gregais so defouled;
On hir that tyme ful foule he schouled
And seyde: "that he wolde to hir ride ....
To se whether sche wolde him abyde."
He rode to hir with mochel Ire. (16155-16161)
Here Penthesilea does not press Menelaus; rather, he
approaches her through the specific motivation of envy for
her success in killing his compatriots. In the Gest
Penthesilea's attack is not related to any preceding event,
but in the Laud her previous action prompts Menelaus'
action. This is only one of many instances in which the
Laud poet alters the usual narrative to provide motivation
for a character's action.
In the Gest, the next encounter is recorded this way:
Dyomede the derfe drofe to )e qwene,
With a course of his caple, and a kene speire.
at mighty hym met with a mayn stroke,
at he bend in the back to fe bare sadell,
Vnneth held hym on horse for harme pat he olet.
The Laud, however, gives this version:
Diomedes, that dou3ti kyng,
By-held that tyme that lustyng,
He saw the kyng falle a-doun,
Vp the fete & doun the croun;
His hors was lorn, & he on fote,
He seyde: "ther-on he scholde do bote,
That sturdy strok scholde sche abye."
He rode thanne to Pantasalye
With al the myght that euere he hadde. (16169-16177)
Here Diomedes' action is prompted by a desire to make
Penthesilea abyee," "pay for," her treatment of a fellow
warrior. Thus, the Laud poet shows that the two actions,
Menelaus' attack on Penthesilea and Diomedes' vengeance,
are clearly connected, one being motivated by the other
through revenge. The Gest poet, however, leaves the two
encounters essentially unconnected because he never overtly
says that Diomedes wants to revenge Menelaus.
This is not to say that the Gest poet never uses one
encounter to motivate another. Occasionally a character
in the Gest does act on vengeful motives. For example,
Thelamon turns to Penthesilea "To venge of hir velany" (10885)
in besting Diomedes. This phrase is the only indication of
vengeance in the episode; no elaboration is made. But the
Laud presents a more emphatic version:
Kyng Thelaman stode euere alone
And saw the dedis that sche had done,
Gret envy hadde he ther-ate,
Opon bys hors their he sate;
He wex for tene blak as Cole,
That schame myght he no lengur thole
That sche hadde done the kynges two,
He wolde assaye what he myght do:
He toke a spere of stalworthe tre,--
For he on hir wolde venged be. (16191-16208)
The Laud paints more than the vengeance; it makes clear the
motivations to vengeance--envy, anger, and shame. By
simply expanding the description of a character's attitude,
the poet focuses on revenge.
The Laud poet also alters the narrative to show the
all-encompassing nature of revenge. The Gest indicates that
Diomedes acts out of concern for Thelamcn, who is taken
prisoner by Penthesilea:
Diomede, at Duke was duly beside,
Negh wode of his wit for be wale kyng;
So he fore tere in fight with his fell strokes,
pat the lede fro the ladis laws away past.
The Laud poet, however, extends the personal revenge so that
it affects the total battlefield:
But Diomedes, when he was resen,
Saw Thelaman was taken to prison,
Toward the toun he saw him go,--
Lord god, that him was wo!
He blewe his horn & samed his men,
Ther come about him thousand ten
He seyde: 'felawes, may 3e not se
How Thelaman, that doghti kny3t,
With hem of Troye is discomfy3t?
Lo! where thei lede him toward toun
Ouer dale and ouer doun!
But sicurly, if I may spede,
Thei schal him not to Troye lede.
I 3ow be-seke, falawes myne alle,
For any-thing that may be-falle:
In this gret nede fayle me not,
Til I haue him fro hem y-brou3t!' (16225-162l4)
Here the Laud poet stresses Diomedes' emotional reaction and
dramatizes his desire for revenge. By involving all
Diomedes' men, the poet also shows that everyone in a
situation of war is prone to revenge.
In the Gest, this series of encounters finally prompts
Penthesilea to win victory on the battlefield:
an Pantasilia the pert with a pure steuyn,
riet on hir company with a cant will;
Assemblit hir sorte on a sad hepe,
And so fuersly Ji faght with the felle grekes,
Thurgh helpe of pat hynd, and hir hed maidons,
Alat all fell to fe flight, & the feld leuyt.
But in the Laud, Penthesilea definitely acts out of vengeance
and communicates motivations of revenge to her followers:
When the quene herde it say
How he from hem was led away,
For wratthe sche wax ner wode,--
So sterne sche was In hir mode.
That ladi thanne, Pantasalye,
To hir Maydenes by-gan to crye
And gadered hem vpon a route;
When thei were comen hir about,
Sche seyde: 'are 3e not ashamed
That this kyng is take fro 3ow?
Felawes myn, I pray 3ow now:
For so haue I euere gode chance,
Thei schal bye his Thelamon's lyueraunce.'
Again the poet stresses the character's emotional reaction
and dramatizes her desire for revenge. He also shows how
one vengeful action leads to another until whole groups of
people are involved.
These comparisons show that the Laud poet alters the
tale, even in minor episodes, to emphasize the idea of
revenge. The structural difference between the two versions
of this episode is that the Laud makes clear the connections
between encounters, whether single or massive, showing them
to be related by a personal desire for revenge which
springs from envy, anger, or shame; while the Gest makes
clear the connections between encounters, whether single
or massive, showing them to be related by a personal
desire for revenge which springs from envy, anger, or
shame; while the Gest makes no such connection. The Laud
poet provides motivation, an essential part of drama, and
through conversation, dramatizes the action.
Although every encounter in the Laud is not prompted
by revenge, it is usually the principle underlying the
progression of each day's events, a progression which ends
with an encounter between two major characters, be it
Hector and Achilles, Achilles and Memnon, or Penthesilea
and Diomedes. By using such a structure, the poet achieves
a building plot action within each battle. For example, in
the battle beginning with line 12473, the following
encounters occur: Dephebus kills Croesus; the Greeks take
general revenge in which Thelamon kills Sisene, Priam's
son; Dephebus wounds Thelamon; Palamydes fatally wounds
Dephebus and kills Sarpedon; Paris kills Palamydes and
retreats; the Greeks retreat with their dead leader
Palamydes; the Trojans turn and overrun the Greek camp;
and Nestor and Thelamon, now well enough to fight, stave
off the attack until night. In this battle the action
all leads to the encounter between Palamydes and Paris;
the rest of the action is largely resultant. This episode
and the one previously examined typify the structure of
the battles because nearly all of them depend on the
revenge motif for continuity.
Since the Laud lacks a building plot line over all,
the rising action of each battle helps to maintain the
reader's interest. Unfortunately, the battles are repe-
titious because they all center on revenge and because so
many battles are recited. The success of the tragedy in
the alliterative Morte Arthure depends partially on the
growing victory in battle as opposed to Arthur's declining
morality. Similarly, the building action of the love
affair in Troilus and Criseyde intensifies the final
separation and thus underscores the tragedy: the lovers
move gradually together, but are suddenly wrenched apart.
The Laud contains no building plot action to engross the
reader. Instead, each episode moves deeper and deeper into
the revenge motif, and the nature of the characters grows
successively worse so that finally Pirrus, the avenger
who also desecrates the bodies of his victims, and Antenor
and Aeneas, the betrayers of Troy, are the focus of the
reader's attention. The steady decline is almost more
overwhelming than tragic, and the suspense within each
battle is lost in the morass of battles. Consequently,
the Laud is structurally deficient; but it does have a
theme which unifies theepisodes, and it clearly defines
the emotions of envy, anger, and shame as factors moti-
Incidents which provoke revenge are also clearly
delineated by the Laud poet. In the battle relating
Palamydes' death (12473ff outlined above), the individual
encounters all spring from the desire to avenge friends or
relatives, and the melodramatic scenes during and after the
battle in which the wounded Dephebus spurs Paris to revenge
further elaborate the theme. Although other versions of
the Troy story link some conflicts to revenge for injury to
friends or relatives, the Laud poet exaggerates the theme
by making it the motivating factor in most encounters. In
fact, avenging the death or injury of a loved one becomes
so important an explanation for action on the battlefield
that the narrator summarizes the action of one battle
solely in terms of encounters prompted by concern for
Euerychon wolde his friend rescowe,
Than comes he & he'also
And girdes his bak euen a-two.
And thus ferd thei fro that thei met,
Til the sonne was doun set. (9684-9688)
The vengeance need not always be taken to right a
wrong done a friend or relative, as Paris avenges Dephebus,
or to satisfy one's own envy of another's prowess, as
Menelaus attempts to avenge himself on Penthesilea;
vengeance may be taken as the result of a verbal insult.
For example, in the Gest, Episcropus and Cedius set upon
Ephistafus hym Hector]presit with his proude words,
As a ribold with reueray in his Roide speche,
Sythen spurnit hym dispitously with aspeire felle;
But he hurt not 4at hynd, ne hade hym to ground;
Ne the deire of his dynt dasit hym but litle...
Ector, wrathed at his words, waynit at the kyng,
at he gird to .e ground and the gost yald;
en warpid he ps words in his wild hate:--
'ffor -fou of flytyng was fuerse with frekes vppon lyue
Go dre se pe to dedmen, & dyn pere a while." (7650-7659)
The Laud poet expands the insult, making it both an
emphatic motivation for the battle and an opportunity to
Episcropus, that ape and owle,
Spak to Ector words foule,
He called him "fitz-a-.putayn,"
And seyth: "he was a cherl velayn."
Than seide Ector: 'as I am knypt,
Thow schalt of me haue a foul dispit,
Of me, thow kyng Episcropus,--
Thow hast defouled me thus!' (7445-7452)
When Episcropus defies him again, Hector launches into
a twenty-four line defense of himself and his lineage,
ending with personal invective against his attacker:
Whi scholde I now fle a glotoun,
Suche a caytyff, such a wrecche!
I holde the not worth a fecche! (7476-7478)
Then the actual encounter begins which in turn sets off
a chain of events that involves both armies and much
The Laud poet expands this scene by adding vitu-
perative dialogue. While quarrels in the Gest seldom
take the form of direct discourse, in the Laud they are
often recounted directly and at great length. Through
these elaborations the poet underscores insult as one
cause of revenge. Renaissance drama, too, is full of
insults and invective which lead to revenge; the opening
scene of Romeo and Juliet is a familiar example. There
the dialogue is more sophisticated than the threats and
name-calling in the Laud; but the tradition is the same.
Both works show insult as one cause of revenge.
Vengeance may also be prompted by personal injury, as
when Hector takes revenge after Achilles unhorses him:
Ector slees and Ector felles;
His hors takyng dere he selles;
He riues helmes and cleues hedes;
Ther is no Gregeis that him (ne) dredes.
Ther died for him on that sound
Sixti that neuere layde on him hond. (7863-7868)
Sometimes the injury is only attempted as when an unnamed
Greek duke presses Hector fiercely:
Ector was with-al anoyed:
'Now is my my3t strongly destroyed,'
Ector sayde, 'whan I schal thole
Off on that is not worth a cole
Suche vilony and such repruse.
I may wel say, I am refuse
Off alle the kynges sones of Troye,
When that I suffre of such a boye
Suche vilonye to me be done,--
Ne se I neuere sonne ne mone!
But thow schalt dere thi strokes a-bye,
Thi hardines and thi folye!
I schal kembe thi 3elowe lokke!'
He 3aff the duk such a knokke,
That helm and coyfe In-sunder 3ede;
He cleue him doun vnto his stede,
That he fel doun on that other side.
'Now wil thow 'iff me leue for to ride,
Where that I loue & thow not me lette!
Now hastow that I the be-hette!" (7671-7690)
This encounter, including Hector's speech, is not contained
in the Gest or Lydgate's Troy Book. The Laud poet appar-
ently expanded his material to include still another
episode dramatizing the idea of revenge.
George Hofstrand indicates that the Laud poet's
version of the Troy story as compared to the Gest and
Lydgate's Troy Book is the result of a more imaginative
mind.5 Imagination is undoubtedly a distinguishing
characteristic of the poem when compared to the other
two versions, but the Laud poet goes beyond translation.
He restructures and expands the tale so that the entire
work focuses on the idea of revenge. In the poem the
situations of war, including insult, injury, and death,
provoke retaliation; consequently, nearly every event of
the war is the result of someone's personal revenge. The
poet explains the massive destruction in terms of individual
actions, but these actions spring from similar types of
provocation. The Laud does not present a full-blown
concept of individualism in terms of the causes of revenge,
but it does alter the standard narrative to stress individual
acts of revenge.
Revenge in the Laud is either planned or it arises
spontaneously from the situation. As the poet represents
it, revenge occurring on the battlefield is usually not
premeditated. It develops naturally out of a character's
reactions to the immediate circumstances. Usually these
reactions consist of an excessive emotion, often described
in terms of madness or animalism. Thus, Hector at the
death of Margariton completely changes:
His colour changed, his herte ros,
For tene Ector he wode gos:
He rolled his eyen as best ramage,
As he hadde fallen In a rage. (10511-10514)
Achilles, forgetting Pollexena and rushing to battle, is
described as follows:
Achilles rides as a man mad,
For his men was he not glad;
He myght that tene no longer thole,
He brende In yre as any cole;
When he herde hem so grysly grone,
For hem he made moche mone:
As lyoun rampyng forth he went. (14191-14197)
Although these reactions are somewhat stylized, they
represent a distinctive interpretation of the Troy material.
For example, the Egerton MS. of the Seege makes only three
references to "wodness" and those all consist of the
simile as a "wood" lion (1137, 1403, 1476). Lydgate uses
it often, but for a variety of purposes. Sometimes it
means something like "lunatic": a person would have to be
"wood" to trust women (I, 1845), to believe he could know
Fortune's course (II, 3036), or to do observances to the gods
(IV, 6992). Sometimes, however, the word is used to
indicate animal irrationality: Priam enters battle like a
"wood" lion (I, 4118); Pelleus, on the battlefield, is
"wood, as he wer falle in rage" (I, 4133); and Hercules is
like a "lyoun, wood and dispitous" (I, 4283). Sometimes
the usage is closer to anger than lunacy or excessive
emotionalism: the bulls Jason must tame are "wood and
irous" (I, 284) and Achilles has a "wood" visage when the
Greek leaders fail to agree to a peace (IV, 1154). In
other words, Lydgate uses the term in its full range of
lexical meanings. He does not, as the Laud poet does,
confine his usage to descriptions of the emotional excess
accompanying grief or anger, nor does he use it in any
singular set of circumstances, as the Laud poet does.
On the other hand, the Gest and the Laud are alike in
that "wode" or "wodness" occurs often and primarily in
connection with battle scenes. Usually, however, the
alliterative line in the Gest determines the usage.
Consequently, three formulaic patterns account for most of
the occurrences of the term. When the phrase "wod of
(or in) his wit" falls in the second half-line, the word
"wex" most often occurs in the first half. If the phrase
falls in the first half-line, any of a number of words
appear--"wan," "wild," "wale," "wo," "walt"--but most
often "wild" as in "as wode in his wit as a wild bore"
(6813). "Wode" is often used to modify nouns--"wode ire,"
longerr," "hate," "anger," "stoure"--and it is sometimes
found in the phrase "walte (or welt) into wodnes." The
Gest contains only two instances which amplify the idea of
madness. One occurs before Achilles goes to battle to
save his Myrmidons from Troilus' fury:
je] Welt into wodnes, wan to his armys,
Strode on a stith horse, stroke into batell.
He fore with his fos in his felle angur,
As a wolfe in his wodenes with wethurs in fold.
The repetition of "wodnes" and the introduction of a non-
formulaic simile emphasize Achilles' irrationality. The
passage is a good introduction to an action which ends
ultimately in dragging Troilus' corpse around the battle-
field. The other amplification of madness describes
Hecuba's reaction to the murder of Pollexena:
Scho welt into wodnes, & hir wit leuyt,
And ran further rauis ruthe to beholde.
Scho bete hom bitturly with hir bare teth,
And with stonys in 4e strete strok hom to ground.
The restatement of madness in terms of raging and the
immediate action of madness emphasize the phrase "welt
The Laud poet, too, uses madness sometimes in an
almost formulaic way, completing the second half of one
line in a couplet with the phrase "as he (or thei) were
wode." But he usually elaborates the motif, describing
specific actions that show the extent of the madness. For
example, when Hector is unhorsed, he is described as follows:
He looked about as he were wode,
And swor I-tened and he sporles,
The blod ran out at his nase-throlles;
When he fro him his hors saw lede,
Mouthe & nase began to blede,
For tene & wo his hew changed. (7834-7839)
When Achilles learns that Troilus is slaying the Myrmidons,
he reacts emotionally:
Achilles changed al his mode,
He looked about as he were wode
When he herde this tydynges:
He clapped his hondes, and alle his rynges
Sicurly In-sonder brast;
To and fro his armes he cast,
As he hadde ben a wod man;
Wel harde to swete he be-gan. (14157-14164)
The responses here are certainly melodramatic exaggerations,
but they vividly detail the character's emotional intensity.
The Laud poet uses madness almost exclusively to
describe men's reactions to battle situations, and generally
it precedes a specific slaying or encounter. Thus, Hector,
as he rides to Patroclus, is described as pricking his
steed "as he were wode, /That alle his sides ran on blode"
(4965-4966), and just before the slaying, "he wex thenne
wood and wroth I-now" (4981). Achilles, describing the
death of Patroclus, emphasizes the quality of madness
I hate the mochel, for my friend
That thow sclow the formast day
In thi wodenes and thi deray. (8318-8320)
Madness obstructs any reasoning process that might
normally be involved in making a decision. Hector is
shown as wise and reasonable in the first council scene
when he tells his father why the Trojans should not risk
a war with the Greeks (2319-2372), and the narrator later
tells us Priam should have listened to his son (3600-5606).
Yet Hector's emotional response to Margariton's death drowns
out the more cautious voices of Andromache, Hecuba, and
Priam. In fact, events of the war and of this battle in
particular have led him to shun his own advice. He says
to Troilus before the first formal battle:
By-fore these kynges)& kny3tes here,
That thow be wyse and not sauage;
5if the not to outrage!
I drede me sore, thi hastines,
Thi noble herte, and thi sardines
Schal make the bold and vs schent;
But thow take gode avisement,
Vnto thi-self to-day take hede! (4758-4765)
In haste and outrage, Hector goes to battle, though ordered
not to, so that he can avenge the death of his brother,
Margariton, and is ultimately killed. Through his madness
Hector fulfills a destiny he might otherwise have overcome
had he chosen to stay home (9906-9908).
This particular amplification in the Laud accounts for
Hector's behavior and thus is different from other English
versions. The Gest says briefly:
Ector, wode of his wit for woo of his brother,
Haspit on his helme, & his horse toke;
Went out wightly, vnwetyng his fader. (8592-8594)
Lydgate describes Hector as furious: "Of verray Ire his
herte gan to colde, /And seide, platly, with-oute more delay,
/He wolde avenge his Margariton's] death pe same day" (III,
5238-5240). But the Laud, by using the phrases "as best
ramage," "fallen In a rage," and "rolled his eyen" in
addition to the bald statement that "he wode gos,"
emphasizes Hector's irrationality.
Some revenge actions, then, are the result of madness
stemming from emotional responses to events on the battlefield.
They are not the result of reasoned action and are some-
times quite contrary to the actor's normal character. The
major characters are not the only ones subject to madness;
the Greeks and Trojans are often described as running against
one another madly:
Eche slo other, as thei were wode. (9677)
Euerychon of hem on other renne,
Thei ferde as it had ben wod menne. (11721)
Thei ran togeder as wode things. (13683)
Echon of hem on other schet--
As thei hadde ben wode & mad. (13926-13927)
Yet in times of truce the two peoples are described as
singing, dancing, hunting, and visiting together:
Then were the Troiens mury & glad,
When thei leue of Ector had,
That thei scholde reste so long;
Many man for Ioye songe.
Hit was gret murthe & Ioye
'bhem of Grece and eke of Troye,
That trewe is tane and last so long;
That thei myght bothe ride & gonge
To take her murthe and her solace,
Eche man is glad In that place. (8199-8208)
And al the while the trewes held,
The(i) speke to-geder In toune & ffeld. (8227-8228)
The while the festes thus endured,
And eueryche were to other ensured,
Thei of Troye hadde here coming
To hem of Grece & here spekyng;
And Gregeis com In-to the toun
And where thei wolde vp & doun,
Saue & sound where so hem liked;
Thei fond no man that hem be-swiked. (11941-11948)
The constrasts here show the effects of war on human
behavior. As Hector's actions on the battlefield are
different from those in the council scenes, so are a__
people's actions different in battle than in peace. The
mad behavior of men in wartime results in the slaughter
of the same men who shared the happier experiences of
The activities of both the Trojans and the Greeks
during peace also contrast with the extreme suffering
caused by the war. Rather than breaking the narrative
into books as Guido, the Gest poet, and Lydgate do, the
Laud poet inserts descriptions of the night's activities
and of preparations for battle. These descriptions stress
the effects of war in terms of the suffering and sorrow
that has occurred or that will occur. For example,
the approaching battles are often preceded by descriptions
of general apprehension among the people:
Now eche man to fyght him 3ares,
Now euery wiff ffor hir lord cares
A-3eyn that nexte semble,
For no man wot how it schal be,--
When thei gon out at morwen-tyde,
Who schal dye, and who schal abyde?
Alle curses that ilke man,
On hem the were furst by-gan,
Fader and Moder and alle his kyn
For sorwe and wo that thei ben In. (8607-8616)
The night's activities often show the weariness of the
fighters and the general atmosphere of sorrow for the day's
Thei 3ede euen home to her house,
Thei fond their many a sori spous,
That sori were for here husbondis;
Some lay dede on the sondes:
The wyues of Troye made gret morning;
Amonges the Gregeis was gret roryng,
Thei blew and cried--as wilde bere brayes--
For her frendes that died tho dayes. (8007-8014)
At the end of a truce, mirth is often juxtaposed to the
Thei wente alle hom to here ostel,
Thei daunsed & sang & made revel.
The terme is went & passed a-way,
The more next schal be her day
That thei schal fyght to-gedur In feld,
Ther schal be reuen many a scheld,
Many a bryght basenet
Schal be with blod foule y-wet. (13315-13322)
These passages describing life apart from the battlefield,
then, tend to emphasize the opposite effects which the
situations of war and peace have on the people; and the
mad behavior, an outgrowth of the warring situation, is
the direct cause of the ultimate sorrow.
Madness, of course, is a major and often disputed
aspect of Renaissance revenge tragedy. In Hamlet and the
Spanish Tragedy madness grows out of sorrow for the death
of a loved one and out of the frustrated urge to vengeance.
Hieronimo's revenge is accomplished while he is in one of
these states of frenzy; biting off his tongue is certainly
an indication of the emotional level he has reached. Yet,
like the characters in the Laud who ride off madly seeking
revenge in battle, Hieronimo has enough sanity to carry
out his plan. His urge to revenge, like Hector's, is a
form of temporary madness obliterating other alternatives
that may be more reasonable than the actual course of
action taken. The exact nature of Hamlet's madness has
plagued critics for some time. Whether it is real, as his
distraught behavior in Ophelia's chamber seems to indicate,
or whether it is only feigned, as he implies to Horatio and
Marcellus it will be, Hamlet's madness is not the pathetic
variety Ophelia's is. If he is mad, then his madness is
akin to Hieronimo's, arising out of anxiety and frustration
and yet allowing him to plan revenge, though not to carry
it out. The preceding analysis of madness in the Laud
indicates that there is probably a literary tradition in
which madness, a natural outgrowth of grief or anger, often
precedes or accompanies revenge, but does not render the
wenger incapable of carrying out his plan.
In the individual conflicts, especially the ones
involving madness, revenge is usually unpremeditated,
arising from responses to immediate situations; but two
major episodes in the Troy story involve planned retali-
ation--Achilles and the Greeks plan revenge on Hector, and
Hecuba plots against Achilles. The Laud poet generally
gives a much fuller account of these episodes than the
Gest poet or Lydgate. For example, after the second
formal battle of the war, Agamemnon calls a council to
decide what strategy the Greeks should pursue. The Gest
poet reports the meeting in eighteen lines; there is no
dramatization. In the Laud, the council is preceded by the
Greek army lamenting Hector's strength and their own
inadequacy. Because he is aware of this feeling of unrest
among the people, Agamemnon decides Hector must be killed.
He calls a council specifically for discussing that matter.
Including such dramatic material builds the character of
Hector, provides motivation for calling the council, and
in general adds plausibility to the episode.
Through exchange of dialogue in the council, the
Laud poet continues the dramatization and underscores the
idea of trickery. The Gest records only one reference to
"soteltie" (7359). In the Laud, however, Agamemnon's
first speech introduces the idea of "quayntise" in the
killing of Hector. A general response is made by those
present, but Agamemnon interrupts their list of reasons for
killing Hector by appealing to their manhood and again
urges trickery: "Whi ne scle 3e him, and make him die
/With som tresoun and ffelonye?" (6449-6450). When members
of the council appeal to Achilles to carry out the plan, they
indicate that he is not to do it by strength:
Opon thi strength trustee thow nought,
But on thi wit and on thi scleyght,
And holde the euere fro him on heyght;
Whan thow him sees in a myscheef,
Than schaltow him dedly greef
By thi strength and thi wit;
So schal we of him be qwit. (6480-6486)
The Laud poet's interpretation of the scene emphasizes
Hector's awesome strength and the Greeks' determination to
In the ensuing battle Achilles attempts to carry
out his assignment. The Gest briefly records the encounter:
1en Achilles cherfull, & his choise cosyn
Toax, at other, a tore mon of strenght,
Ayren vnto Ector angardly sore!
With the strenght of hor stroke, & hor store fare,
The helme of his hed pai hurlit to peces; ._ .
Woundit hym wickedly with weapon aboue,
+at -e Rinels of red blode ran doun his chekes.
Hector then retaliates by cutting off half Thoas' nose, and
the encounter ends when Hector's brothers come to aid him.
The sequence of events within the encounter is the same in
the Laud, but again showsdramatization. Achilles calls
Thoas to him and delivers a speech. He first pictures
Hector's slaughter of the Greeks and then suggests that
because Hector is tired the two of them should attack and
overpower him. Achilles' final words are "And so schal
we on him be broken!" (6873), introducing the specific
idea of revenge as his motivation. The Laud poet's
interpretation of the encounter suggests that he is
trying to link it overtly with the previous council scene.
Rather than simply motivating his characters to attack
Hector out of anger (Gest, 7503), the Laud poet indicates
their behavior is a revenge trick: Hector is now tired
and the two Greeks can easily overpower him.
The revenge motif between Achilles and Hector is
again elaborated during the ensuing truce when Hector
goes to the Greek camp and is invited to Achilles' tent.
The Laud and the Gest handle the account comparably,
up to the point of Hector's reply. This speech is
significant because it supplies plausible motivation for
Hector's challenge to Achilles:
Ther was neuere theff In no hostage,
That wayted better his a-vauntage,
To do his stelthe and his robrye,
Than thow waytest me In skolkerye;
But thow hast ben glad al-wey, to ride
With broken hede and blody syde. (8357-8362)
By challenging Achilles to fight openly, Hector undercuts
the Greek scheme to kill him by sleight. Achilles' reply,
a speech contained in no other English version, indicates
that the Greek hero interprets the challenge as a counter-
move by Hector to stop the Greek plot:
I se ri3t wel thi couetise:
Thow settes on me In alle wyse,
To fight with me In feld alone. (8443-8445)
Hector suggests that individual combat is the honorable
way to end the war since it involves only two people and
not both armies:
And 3it may thow almes the wynne,--
For we do euel and mychel synne,
Off mannes blod that we don spille,--
Iff that thow wol holde ther-tille. (8411-8414)
By emphasizing treachery in this scene, the Laud
poet successfully links it to the two previous passages
involving treachery, thus establishing a kind of narrative
motif which recurs periodically and ends with Achilles'
murder of the unarmed Hector. By contrasting Hector's
openness to Achilles' covert intentions, the poet stresses
the unchivalric nature of Achilles' revenge through treachery;
and because this method of revenge was determined by the
Greek council, the entire Greek leadership is presented
In this whole series of encounters between Hector and
Achilles, the Laud poet expands the standard narrative to
emphasize treachery. This same principle is involved in
Hecuba's revenge on Achilles. Her motivation for revenge
is rooted in the shame she feels when Priam reprimands
her for condoning the Pollexena-Achilles match:
Hectuba was sore aschamed
Off here lord that sche was blamed,
Hir Angred sore that euere spak sche
Ther-of words two or there;
Sche cursed offte his wickednesse,
His gylrie and his falsnesse. (14339-14344)
In the Gest and Lydgate's Troy Book Hecuba is prompted to
revenge by the death of Troilus. But the Laud poet
motivates her to vengeance as he has motivated his other
characters, through the emotions of shame and anger.
The actual murder of Achilles in the temple is brutal
enough, but the horror is intensified by Achilles' high
spirits at.the prospect of the marriage ceremony. Two
passages describe Achilles' joy and anticipation (15325-15331;
15355-15360). The contrast makes Hecuba's revenge just as
dastardly as Achilles' revenge on the unarmed Hector. After
the murder, the narrator delivers the only antifeminist
passage in the whole of the Laud. Significantly enough,
the woman is condemned not for her lust, as Helen and Medea
are in the Gest and Lydgate's Troy Book, or for her
faithlessness, as Criseyde sometimes is, but for her
And thus was Achilles done to ded
Thorow a wicked woman red,
Thorow her sleght & consayl
Died the knyght with-oute fayl.
And so hath many a-nother man
Died thorow red of a woman:
That neuere were so gode knyghtes
Off ffairnes, of connyng, ne of myghtes,
The beste body that euere ete bred
Thorow fals wymmen haue ben ded. (15439-15448)
The narrator indicates that this premeditated revenge,
which can only be accomplished through deceit, is, in both
cases, dishonorable. Yet the narrator makes no commentary
on individual acts of spontaneous revenge. He laments the
numbers killed and disparages the awful slaughter that
revenge causes, but he never calls Hector or any of the
other characters "false" or "wicked" for running madly out
to slaughter the enemy. Of the two types of revenge, the
one that occurs immediately out of the circumstances and
emotional excesses is somehow more justifiable than the
revenge that is rationally planned and carried out.
The.Renaissance revenge plays also depict these two
types of revenge. Hamlet can not murder the praying
Claudius and still be heroic. He can, however, respond
spontaneously to the King's clear treachery in the final
scene and still be worthy of the reader's admiration. In
the Spanish Tragedy, Hieronimo is vindicated because he is
possessed with a madness, originating in grief, that will
finally bring about justice. In Titus Andronicus, however,
there is no motif of madness, although the perfect
opportunity for such a motif is developed. Tamora pleads
with Titus to save her son Alarbus; but instead of falling
into madness when Alarbus is killed, she immediately swears
revenge on Titus and his progeny. She is then motivated
throughout the rest of the play by a hatred that condones
deception, torture, and murder. In the examples of
Hieronimo and Hamlet, the poets have created a situation
in which the avenger seeks justice, but can find no means
outside his own efficacy to accomplish that justice. In
the case of Tamora, all principles of justice are eradi-
cated; the innocent Lavinia suffers for a crime she had no
Both types of revenge are contained in the Laud;
and although the narrator laments the effects of both
kinds, his sympathy lies with Hector's spontaneous revenge
rather than with Hecuba's relentless plot. In the same way,
the readers' sympathies lie with Hamlet when he spontaneously
avenges himself as they probably would not, had he murdered
Claudius while the latter was in prayer.
The important revenge plots in the Laud center about
Achilles and Hector, Achilles and Memnon, Achilles and
Troilus, Hecuba and Achilles, Pirrus and Penthesilea, and
Aeneas and Priam. When one of these characters success-
fully bests the other, a new character steps in to avenge
the dead member. Because of this structure, revenge is
represented as a kind of on-going process which ends in
the total destruction of one line.
Total destruction of those characters who claimed
the reader's sympathy and of many characters who did not
is another characteristic of the revenge tragedy. Few of
the most prominent characters are left alive and often the
stage is littered with bodies at the close of the play.
Of course no stage or actors are involved in the Laud,
but the narrative does end in the slaughter of all the
Trojans except the priest Helenus, the traitors, and two
women--Andromache and Helen. Thus, the best of the Trojan
line is annihilated, and only the unchivalric Greeks are
left, much reduced in number with nothing to show for
their victory except the spoils of a once great people.
Thus, the poem and the plays both recognize the massive
effects of revenge.
By expanding the standard narrative in both major and
minor episodes, the Laud poet achieves an overwhelming
thematic effect. He shows the varied nature of revenge,
both premeditated and spontaneous, the emotions that
precede it, and the circumstances that cause it. Since
one revenge encounter naturally motivates another, the
poet is able to use the theme as a structural device to
establish a narrative continuity. The poem shows that in
wartime all the characters, heroic and unheroic alike,
are motivated by revenge.
One love story breaks the preoccupation with revenge.
Achilles sees Pollexena in the temple during a truce, falls
in love with her, asks for her hand in marriage on the
condition that he persuade the Greeks to leave, and then
refuses to go to battle to accomplish his promise. He
ultimately does go, however, when his concern for the
Myrmidons changes to overwhelming rage.
The elaboration of this love story in comparison to
the near exclusion of the Troilus-Criseyde story has led
some critics to the conclusion that the poem was written
before Chaucer's famous Troy romance; otherwise, the
Laud poet would probably have capitalized on the reputation
of the Troilus story by including it in his own work.6
A poet so well-read in romance as the author of the Laud
declares himself to be (15-24) would surely have read
Chaucer's work and used the name Criseyde, rather Breseida.
Since Lydgate's versions of the Troy tale includes a
lengthy reference to Chaucer's work, the Laud poet would
probably have done the same had he written after Chaucer.
Lumiansky, not wishing to sDeculate on what the Laud
poet would or would not have done, attempts to explain
the exclusion of the Troilus-Criseyde romance on thematic
grounds.7 He assumes that the poet's sole purpose is to
create a Hector romance. Therefore, the introduction of
the Troilus story when it normally appears in the tale
would have undercut the interest in the heroism of Hector
which the poet was attempting to create. An examination
of the battle preceding the exchange of Antenor for Thoas
reveals that the Laud poet has added several passages which
presumably are his own since they do not appear in any other
extant version, and they are important in emphasizing the
deeds of Hector. But after examining the author's
statements about his purpose, which includes equally the
deeds of Hector and an account of the war; and after
investigating the dominant theme of the work, other
conclusions about the Troilus-Criseyde story may be reached.
For example, the poet is highly concerned about
motivating the individual encounters on the battlefield.
He is, in fact, so concerned that, at times when there is
no explanation to offer for an attack, Hector asks, "What
eyles the? /Whi hastow thus smetyn me?" (7383-7384).
This is not to say every attack in the poem is sufficiently
motivated; but when a major character is involved, the
poet attempts to offer explanations for the enmity, either
in terms of emotions--envy, anger, or shame--or in terms
of previous events--injuries, insults, or killings. When
Achilles refuses to go to battle, the poet must develop
sufficient enmity between two other characters so that the
battle scenes can still be organized around vengeance.
Instead of using the Troilus story to break the war
encounters, the Laud poet inserts it into a battle scene
to explain the motivation for the Troilus-Diomedes revenge
motif. Whether the Laud poet knew Chaucer's work or not -
is irrelevant, especially considering that the Gest poet
indicates that even at the time of his composition there
was a well-known version of the Troilus story (8053-8054);
thus, the Laud poet might have capitalized on that version
had he been intent on examining the nature of love or
relieving the war accounts with romance interludes. The
story, as he actually handles it, effectively supports his
theme of revenge, conforms to his other explanations of
motivation, and preserves his major focus on war.
The Achilles-Pollexena episode does not offer the
same possibilities for relieving the monotony of the battle
scenes that the Troilus story offers. Given the existing
situation, no intimate romance scenes are possible between
Achilles and Pollexena. Consequently, no romantic love
interests comparable to those in the Troilus story are
developed or even attempted. Furthermore, the ideals of
courtly love are not introduced in the Laud: Jason marries
Medea; Paris marries Helen; and Achilles asks for Pollexena
in marriage. The point of interest for the Laud poet is not
the nature of the love relationship itself, but the effect
of love on man's actions in a situation of war.
Most of the elaborations that make the Laud distinct
from other versions are not contained in the preliminary
episodes of the Achilles-Pollexena affair; that is, aside
from dramatizing, the poet follows closely the standard
accounts of Achilles' feelings for Pollexena and of the
message to Hecuba. Significant differences in content begin
to appear when Achilles addresses the Greek leaders. His
ideas echo those of the narrator. For example, his attempt
to stop the war is in keeping with the narrator's sentiments:
I holde: he hadde gret synne
That furst the were of hem by-gan,
For he was bane of many a man. (12948-12950)
Later, Achilles pictures the agonies the Greeks have
suffered in coming to Troy and concludes that a man is
foolish to trust his strength: "He is a fole that him
ensures /In his strength & In his myght" (12296-12297).
The narrator has earlier commented on the ineffectiveness
of strength against death:
Wo is him that with the death wrasteles!
For sicurly he goth the with,
Or thow him brekes lym or lyth,
That he may not a- eyn vp-rise
For my3t ne strength In no wyse;
For he schal dye In this world,--
So did this kny3t Hecto3, that 3e haue herd.
Be he neuere so strong ne bold,
He is for-seten & nou3t of told,
When he is ded & hennes past;
In erthe is none that euere may last.
Achilles also argues that the Greeks can go home
without shame because they have killed Hector (12331-12344),
but the Greek leaders feel that raising the siege would
be an act of cowardice (12355-12358). Through irony the
narrator conveys similar ideas about cowardice:
Amonges hem alle was no coward,
Echon other to sle coueytes,
And alle men to sle waytes:
Many a man to ground was feld;
But their was non that euere him 3eld,
While thei myght hold swerd In honde,
Or on her feet while thei my3t stonde.
The passage indicates that the factors contributing to the
continuation of the war are misconceived views of manhood
and the fear of being charged with cowardice.
In a subsequent speech to Agamemnon's ambassadors,
Achilles says it is "more honour /At Priamus to aske the
pes, /Then be to-hewen as other wes" (15180-13182). The
ambassadors return to Agamemnon and repeat the idea. The
narrator's many comments on the folly of the war and the
senseless killing are obviously similar. Through repetition,
the poet emphasizes the point that peace is the honorable
and sensible way.
Achilles' change in character is the result of the
power of love. During one of the battles Achilles asks a
sergeant how the Greeks fare, and the sergeant's reply,
an elaboration found only in the Laud, is that if Achilles
will go to battle now, he will win lasting fame (12772-
12776). But Achilles reasons to himself that it is better
to lose fame than love (12815-12816). Here the poet
attributes Achilles' new values to his desire to attain
success in love (12815-12814). It is not strange then to
find Achilles, who unheroically killed Hector, suddenly the
champion of idealistic and virtuous goals. In his abstin-
ence from battle and his interactions with his colleagues
he has shown the change love is capable of working. In his
speeches he acknowledges that shame, cowardice, honor, and
fame are unworthy motivations to war, ideas all consonant
with the narrator's ideas.
In war, however, numerous allegiance pull at a man.
Many of the elaborations occurring late in the episode show
Achilles being torn between his love for Pollexena and his
love for the Myrmi.dons. The first of these elaborations
occurs when he sends his men into battle alone. He calls
the Myrmidons to him, charges them to fight for Agamemnon,
and gives them a new ensign. The narrator describes
Achilles at their departure: "Achilles weped an hundred
teres /At her wendyng vpon his leres" (13651-13652). After
the Myrmidons return from battle and Achilles has counted
them, the Laud poet inserts a passage stressing Achilles'
He seyde: 'alas, that I was bounden
In womannes loue & womannes bounde!'
I'han so many were ded found,
He siked sore for hem & drouped.
Ful litel mete that nyght he souped,
To his bed Achilles went -
With carful herte & gret torment:
He wolde him-self hadde ben ded,
He wist neuere what was his red,
Whether he myght to batayle wende
To venge his men or eke his frende,
Or he scholde 3it abyde
To wete wat grace my3t be-tyde. (13868-13880)
The passage continues for thirty more lines, indicating
Achilles' sleeplessness and his decisions now to "venge"
his men and now to keep his promise. The elaboration
focuses on Achilles' anguish and indecision, and the two
forces pulling at him are clearly drawn as love and vengeance.
His decision to go to battle, of course, comes only
when Troilus, leading the Trojans, is about to overrun the
Greek camp. The Laud poet modifies the situation by
focusing on Achilles' reaction. He is described as "wod"
(14191), "a man mad" (14191), "a lyoun ramping forth" (14197),
and "a deuel of helle" (14223). He grows so angry that he
He was so ful of tene & ire
That he bad fecche his atire;
He for-sate their Polexene
And al that he be-het the owene. (14183-14186)
Thus, no rational decision to return to battle is ever
made; Achilles simply rushes off in a fit of anger.
Vengeance, prompted by his anger, ultimately overcomes
his love. In the Laud the Achilles-Pollexena love affair-.
disparages ideas of honor, manhood, and fame as motivations
to war, shows the relative power of love and vengeance in
a war situation, and introduces a new revenge motif--
Achilles vs. Hecuba.
The story of Achilles and Pollexena is a tale of love
ruined by the circumstances of war. The only other love
episode of any length in the Laud is the story of Jason and
Medea, which occurs at the opening of the narrative
before the war ever begins. Hinton finds this episode
extraneous, included only because the poet wanted to render
a full translation of his source. But a close analysis
of the episode and its relationship to the larger structure
reveals that it is an intregal part of the overall theme.
The Laud poet's treatment of Medea differs from that
in most versions. In the Gest she is presented as a
necromancer famed for powers over heaven and earth, a
fame the poet decries because these powers belong only to
God (403-430). Before the lovers pass into Medea's
chamber, the Gest poet moralizes on the outcome of this
relationship: Jason is false and all Medea's feigned
powers of foresight are worthless (714-747). Thus, the
reader.is specifically reminded of the unhappy outcome of
the love affair and of the falsened-' of both paties.
In Lydgate, Medea is again characterized as a
sorceress, and a lengthy antifeminist passage follows her
introduction into the tale; women are changeable, untrust-
worthy, inconstant, lustful, and false (1593-1800, 1823-
1948). Two passages also portray Jason's deceitfulness and
the outcome of the relationship (2072-2108, 2868-2935).
Both the Gest poet and Lydgate agree on the fated nature of
this romance and the lovers involved. They specifically
relate the beginning of the love affair as somewhat
unsavory, a fit prelude to the outcome.
The Laud poet explains Medea's powers, but makes no
judgment on them as false or evil; in fact, they are
presented in much the same vein that he presents other
exotic elements in the Troy story: the Archer who is half
man, half horse, the embalming of Hector, the background
of the Amazons, and the eagle removing the sacrifice from
the temple to the Greek ships. No mention is made of
Jason's guile or of the ultimate outcome of the relationship.
Since the lovers return safely to Jason's home and are
never mentioned again, the poet presents a love story entire
in its recitation. The story becomes, then, a contrast to
the Achilles-Pollexena story. With Jason and Medea the
affair takes place in peacetime; no atrocities have been
committed by one member against the other's family; the
lovers can arrange to see each other; promises are kept
by both parties; and a satisfactory relationship is estab-
Contrast is a method used often by the Laud poet:
Hector's opennesswith Achilles' covertness; Achilles'
behavior in love with his behavior in war; and the attitudes
and actions of men during the truces with their attitudes
and actions during battle. If the only reason for including
Jason's quest for the golden fleece is to show how Lamedon
offended the Greeks, then there is no apparent necessity
for including the particulars of the Jason-Medea romance.
Yet the Laud poet includes this material in a fairly
lengthy form, when he excludes other similar material:
the Troilus-Criseyde story and the romantic exchanges
between Helen and Paris. In addition, the Laud poet
handles the love story in a markedly different manner from
other poets, making it a complete episode and giving no
hint of its connections with evil. These facts suggest
that the poet was consciously attempting to reshape the
episode to make it consistent with his aims for the overall
structure. A comparison of the two love episodes shows
that each is concerned with the power of love in overcoming
the obstacles of a specific situation. The comparison
intensifies the revenge theme by showing how the wartime
impulse to revenge eclipses the normally powerful impulse
to romantic love. Romeo and Juliet is, of course, the
most important Renaissance play juxtaposing love and
revenge. Like the Laud poet, Shakespeare portrays
vengeance as a force strong enough to obliterate the better
intentions of man.
As the preceding discussion indicates, the Laud is
structured so that every episode either elaborates or
serves as a contrast to the idea of revenge. In the light
of these findings, Dorothy Kempe's statement that the poet
made all his changes "unconsciously and without definite
artistic purpose"9 is now questionable. The poet covers
many aspects of revenge: the two kinds, the motivations
causing it, the circumstances from which it arises, the
element of madness, and the power it has as compared to
other forces driving men. Nearly all of these aspects
are also present in the Renaissance revenge tragedies.
The similarities spring not, of course, from the Laud's
impact as a source of the plays, but simply from the
nucleus of ideas which surrounded the subject of revenge,
a nucleus which was evidently present in the middle ages
as well as in the Renaissance. The Laud brings many of
these ideas together in a narrative form that stresses
motivation and direct discourse; thus it can be seen as
a transitional piece which moves the theme of revenge
toward its familiar Renaissance form.
IFredson Bowers Elizabethan Revenge Tragedy, 1587-
1642 (Princeton, 19403.
Mary Bonaventure Mroz, Divine Vengeance: Philosoph-
ical Backgrounds of the Revenge Motif in Shakespeare's
Chronicle History Plays (Washington, D.C., 1941).
3William Matthews, The Tragedy of Arthur (Berkeley
and Los Angeles, 1960).
4Larry A. Benson, "The Alliterative Morte Arthure and
Medieval Tragedy," TSL, XI (1965), 81.
5G. Hofstrand, The Seege of Troye: A Study in the
Intertextual Relations of the Middle English Romance the
Seege or Batayle of Troye (Lund, 1936), 186-187.
Dorothy Kempe, "A Middle English Tale of Troy,"
Englische Studien, XXIX (1901), 5.
7R.M. Lumiansky, "The Story of Troilus and Briseida
in the Laud Troy Book," MLO, XVII (1956), 238-239.
8N.D. Hinton, "A Study of the Middle English Poems
Relating to the Destruction of Troy," Diss. Univ. of
Wisconsin, 1957, p. 194.
9Kempe, p. 22.
IV. CHARACTERIZATION AND THEME
Three characters--Hector, Achilles, and Pirrus--
become more significant in the Laud than in the other
English versions. Material is added concerning Hector's
character, making him primarily a virtuous pagan; Achilles'
character, making him a sighing lover who at last sees the
war as inane; and Pirrus' character, making him the ulti-
mate avenger. The three are successively the strong men
in the poem, but their characterizations range from virtue
in Hector to vengeance in Pirrus. Such a degenerative
movement reflects the narrator's view of time: the world
is moving away from the golden age to degeneracy and
destruction. Revenge plays a significant role in this
movement because it is through the unprincipled methods of
revenge that the virtuous characters are slain. The
revenge tragedies also carry a note of pessimism about the
future, particularly since the protagonists like Hieronimo,
Hamlet, and Romeo and Juliet die in the process of
overcoming the antagonists. In both the plays and the poem
the effect of revenge on the future is the same.
The Laud is usually described as a Hector romance
and the poetic elaborations indicate that Hector is the
central figure early in the war. An individual character-
ization is developed which focuses on the hero's prowess in
battle and his virtue. The central passage on Hector is
a simple declaration by the narrator attesting to both
Glorious kyng lord Ihesu!
Who-so hadde sen Ector vertu,
How he the Gregeis their reuerced,
Helmes and hauberk how he persed,
How he hem sclow by two and on,--
He wolde haue sworn by Peter and Ion,
By Marie bry3t and persons there:
That god that is In vnite
Made neuere man that was so goode,
Ne so many schedde of mannes blode,
Ne non so strong as Ector was.
By him mygt no man pas,
That he my3t take or hent,
That the lyff a-way ne went. (7413-7426)
Although the passage does not Christianize Hector, it
indicates that from a Christian point of view--that is,
from the point of view of one who swears by Peter, John,
Mary, and the Trinity--Hector was one of the best and
strongest men who ever lived.
The narrator reiterates this idea in another place,
but expresses it in terms of comparison:
I trowe, god made neuere such a kny3t,
Ne 3af neuere man such a my3t,
That euere was borne In toun or port,
But it were only to Sampsoun fort,
For he (was) seker with-oute pere
Off alle the men that euere were.
Off Sampson hadde ben their that tyde
And al that day hadde reden him be-syde,
He ne my3t haue don no more then he
For al his my3t and his pouste.
Red I neuere of kny3t ne man,
That born was of woman,
That dede the dedis that Ector did;
Alas, that euere him mys-be-tid! (6721-6734)
Sampson, the virtuous Old Testament strong man, is compared
to Hector, the virtuous pagan strong man. At another time
the narrator indulges in exaggeration to show Hector's
bTho may with-stonde such An enemy?
It was neuere man 3aff such strokes;
Off a man were made of okes,
Off Marbil gray and grete stones,
And yren and stele were alle his bones,
He wolde hem al to-cleue--
By him that made Adam and Eue! (6384-6390)
The key passages on Hector's character, then, are
spoken by the narrator, and the recitation of the action
supports the narrator's declarations. A short catalog
is often employed to demonstrate Hector's skill in battle:
Ector was be-fore al-weyes,
He belan neuere to scle the Gregeis,
He cleues hem, and thorow strikes,
And throws hem In clyf and dikes,
He makes here hedes naked and bare,
The bodyes cleue In-to the share,
He drow here scheldes fro here nekkes,
Ther aketons ferd as toren sekkes;
Off his scheld made he present
To alle that wolde 3eue strok or bent;
His sword was wel with alle a-kuoynt
With kyng, and duke, and prince anoynt. (6511-6522)
Other passages employ hyperbole, simile, and the
attitude of the people about him to establish character-
istics of skill and courage. Often these passages end
with statements of his unearthly or superhuman power:
Ector rides & raykes a-boute,
Off no man hadde he no doute,
Off no mannes pride he ne thou3te,
Off no mannes leuyng told he nou3t,
He fau3t euere-more In one,
He leues stondyng be-fore him none,
He is to hem an euel gest,
He fighters euere with-outen rest:
He sclow two thousand, er he be-lan;
Thei seyde he was non erthely man. (10885-10896)
But in other situations, like his fight with Episcropus
and Cedius, Hector asserts his own nobility:
Saide Ector, 'I was neuere thral,
I am fre, and my kynde al;
In al my kyn is no throle,
But kyng and duk, kny3t & erle;
My ffader is a gentil kyng,
Suche is non In thyn ospreyng:
Fyfftene kynges, genteler than thow,
Doth him omage and fewte now;
And I, his sone, kny3t, and Air,
Vndir me is man and mair,
Duke and Prince, and kny3tes strong,
And alle that euere to him long.
My moder is a gentil quene,
A trewe lady, and euere hath bene;
Sche did her lord neuere falshede,
But euere was tree In word and dede.
It semes wel thanne, that I am fre,
I may be skyl no cherl be! (7455-7472)
This passage is almost in the tradition of the epic hero's
boast, appearing somewhat out of place in the speech of
a good knight, but presumably Hector meant to defend his
family rather than prove his own superiority. On the point
of modesty, however, Hector can hardly be compared to Gawain.
Perhaps the most artistic of all the elaborations
concerning Hector's strength and skill is the speech given
to Agamemnon after the hero's death:
It is to vs wel more a-vauntage
That he is ded & loken In cage,
Then we hadde sclayn In fight felle
Halff the men that with him dwelle.
For he sclow mo him-selff alone
Then alle that other did euerychone,
And we be now--I vnderstande--
Mo then sixti hundred thousand
Off Mennes bodies gode and able,
That ben a-pert and defendable. (11555-11364)
The next forty lines constitute an impressive catalog,
naming the most prominent men Hector killed. By giving
this testimony of Hector's strength to the leader of the
Greeks, the poet creates the illusion that everyone involved
in the war--Trojan and Greek alike--agreesthat Hector was
the strongest man there.
The poet establishes Hector's prowess through the
narrator's assertions, through Hector's deeds on the
battlefield and his own assertions about himself, and
through Agamemnon's eulogy. On the other hand, the poet
establishes the hero's goodness largely through descriptive
techniques. As the two central passages indicate, the
author associates Christian characteristics with Hector. He
supports this association through the use of Christian
terminology. When Hector is wounded, he does his "penuance"
(9445), and before he rides to battle, his father blesses
him (4877-4884; 9781).
The author also associates Hector with Christianity
through descriptions of the hero's environment. The hall
of Ilion, where Hector recovers from his wounds, has a
marvelous, supernatural quality. All the parts are
covered with gold, and the walls are set with precious
stone, particularly with carbuncle stones that shine as
bright as day even at midnight (9465-9430), The hall is'
supported by twelve magnificent alabaster columns:
On stones twelue was hit al set
Off Alabaster that wele were wrou3t,
It was gret meruayle how thei were bou3t
Vnto that werk to rayse that ground,
It was meruayle where men thei found. (9484-9488)
The floor is made of crystal, and in the corners are images
so life-like they are often mistaken for living people
(9491-9503). The towers reach above the clouds (9511-
9518), and outside the door is a golden tree whose gold and
silver branches bear every kind of fruit in the world, but
the fruit, too, is made of gold and silver (9529-9540).
The hall itself contains a great gold image of Jupiter
that anyone might come and worship when he pleases (9545-
9568). The poet relies on Dares as his authority for the
existence of these marvels (9504-9506), but at the same
time stresses the incredibility of the hall:
If thow wolt that hall discryue,
Sicurly 3e wolde not leue
The wonder werk of the Pyleres;
Man wolde holde hem grete lyeres,
Man wolde wene that men did lye,
And holde it alle for fairie.
But man wolde wene In his thought,
That such werk myght neuere be wroght.
Far from being evil, however, Ilion is associated with a
virtue and glory that no longer exist :
For now is non so glorious,
Ne non In this world so vertuous,
As Ilion was the while it stode. (9461-9463)
These descriptions do not Christianize Hector, as the image
of Jupiter indicates. The poet attempts only to make the
hero virtuous by associating him with virtue: the
"vertuous" and marvelous hall of Ilion, the virtuous
Sampson, and various Christian figures--Mary, John, and
After Hector's death, Priam attempts to sanctify the
body. He frees it temporarily from odor and decay, pre-
serving it with all its life-like qualities in a cage in
the temple of Apollo, where the citizenry might view it
(11208-11290). The tabernacle is set before the altar and
the four golden pillars which support it have images that
resemble angels. The walls, roof, and steps of the
tabernacle are nearly as sumptuous as those of the hall
of Ilion. Four mortars that can be quenched by no substance
on earth burn day and night around the tomb. This treat-
ment of the corpse represents a kind of consecration, but
definitely not a Christian consecration since the taber-
nacle is set before the altar of Apollo. Nevertheless, the
body is treated with more reverence and honor than that
of any other Trojan or Greek including Troilus, Paris,
Virtue, marvelousness, and sanctification are
elements often connected with saints' legends. While the
poet does not make Hector a saint, he apparently borrows
techniques from those legends to build the characterization.
Dorothy Everett indicates that saints' lives and romances
have distinctly different ends, but that they often use
the same motifs.1 Ojars Kratins also finds parallels
between Amis and Amiloun and the saints' lives: leprosy,
poverty, child sacrifice, and revitalization are motifs
borrowed from the saints' lives and applied to the heroes
of the romance, Amis and Amiloun, to make them pious,
though not saints. This technique for building character-
ization is evidently not unusual in medieval literature.
The preceding comparisons with the Gest indicate that
the Laud poet expands both the description of Ilion and
the embalming of Hector. The marvelous and exotic is a
standard element of romance, but the other English versions
of Troy, following Guido's history, condemn the marvellous.
For example, Lydgate says, "Yit God forbede we schulde 3if
credence" to Medea's powers (I, 1711), and the Gest poet
devotes 299 lines to explaining how the sun and moon did
not spring from the soil of Delos island (4264-4464).
The Laud poet, however, specifically relates the marvellous
nature of Ilion to virtue and glory. This relationship,
since it differs from other versions of Troy, may indicate
that the poet is using techniques of comparison similar to
those found by Everett and Kratins. Since he makes
explicit use of comparisons in other places to build
character, it is possible he borrowed elements from relig-
ious literature to give his hero a virtuous, though non-
Christian, characterization. The poet thus establishes
both virtue and prowess in one character.
The character of Achilles shows a three part develop-
ment. Before the death of Hector, the poet's elaborations
in Achilles' characterization are aimed at creating a
foil to the Trojan hero. From the time he sees Pollexena
(11987) until he returns to battle (14157), Achilles the
lover is emphasized. From the time he returns to battle
(14157) until just before his death (15408), he becomes
again the treacherous strong man, foil this time to
Troilus and Mennon. As the progression suggests, the
characterization fluctuates: Achilles is at one time the
treacherous and vengeful enemy and, at another, the
distraught, but well-intentioned lover. Both roles are
functionally important to the revenge motif. The one
indicates how war may breed unchivalric behavior, and the
other demonstrates the relationship between romantic love
and revenge. The following discussion attempts to show
the differences in development, and something of the overall
effect of this dichotomous, though perhaps not inconsistent,
For most of the first 1,100 lines, Achilles is
simply the strong, but treacherous Greek adversary for
Hector. The poet's early elaborations emphasize his
strength in battle:
The furst batayle sir Achilles
To lede that day for-sothe ches;
Out of his tent he is now yssed,
To kyng Hupoun was he wel wyssed,
A dou3ti kny3t of gret a-fere;
But him thought euel that he come there:
Hupoun was michel and long,
Hey and brod, mechel & strong,
He was mechel as a geaunt;
But him hadde ben better to haue ben at Gaunt
Or haue leyn seke in his bed,
Then he that day batayle hadde led.
Achilles smot him with a spere,
That al his Armes gan to-tere,
He smot him thorow bothe flesch & bone
And thorow his armes euerychone;
Thoow he were mechel and long,
Out of his sadel he him sclong. (7359-7376)
Hupon is a fearful adversary here, the word "michel"
being used three times for him, and yet the contest was
ridiculous since Achilles won easily.
The Greek hero's strength, however, is clearly second
Achilles then, that lordly sire,
Wolde not abide him[Hector]In his Ire,
But euere (held) fro him alone,
Euere til Ector were gone.
Hadde he a-biden him In his wratthe,
He scholde haue had an euel battle,
He scholde haue bathed In his blode. (10573-10579)
At no time is Achilles' strength ever related to virtue or
compared to that of Sampson's. In fact, quite opposite
descriptions are given of Achilles:
Achilles come thenne ffast ridande
As a deuel with foule semblande,
With alle the kny3tes that he ledde. (8795-8797)
Thus, the poet through short descriptions creates a strong
man and formidable enemy, yet the antithesis of Hector.
Achilles' treachery and cowardice are emphasized in
his many attempts to kill Hector through guile:
Achilles holdes him euere asyde,
He maketh him redi to wayte his tyde;
As ffische is dreven to the bayte,
So waytes he him at som defaute;
T(h)er-vpon he euere duelles,
For he atentis to no-thyng elles,
For whan he may his tyme se
Opon Ector venged to be. (6527-6534)
This passage is intensified by its position in the text.
It occurs in the middle of a long account of Hector's
heroic actions in battle.
Achilles' treacherous and vengeful nature is
emphasized in later episodes, especially those against
For tene his herte wex grete,
That Troyle did him the vilony;
He hadde to him gret envy,
He swore by god that dwelled In heuene
He scholde him scle for odde or euene.
When the Myrmidons surround Troilus, Achilles is glad:
"Achilles--lord! that he was glad! /Off alle the world
no more he bad!" (14859-14860). During one of his
recuperations, the Greek hero spends his time thinking
how he will slay Trojans:
Achilles thinks day & nyghtis,
How he may sle dou3ti kny3tis;
He nolde it lette for non au3t
That any man him 3eue mau3t. (14641-14644)
The poet adequately shows Achilles' villainy, but
through the entire portrait he is little more than evil
foil to the virtuous Hector and subsequently to Troilus
and Mennon. For this particular aspect of Achilles'
character, the poet makes only sporadic expansion of
traits already suggested by other medieval versions of
the story, while with the character of Hector, he expands
at nearly every opportunity and develops some lengthy
passages which are completely independent of other versions.
Because the poet relies on simile and plot action rather
than didacticisms to establish Achilles' characterization,
the Laud is perhaps slightly superior to versions like the
Gest, which makes a blatant statement of Achilles'unchivalric
behavior and berates Homer for praising him (10312-10362).
Because the poet attempts to keep Achilles, the
formidable enemy, before the reader, he must give a running
account of Achilles' activities. Consequently, many short
passages on the Greek hero appear in the Laud which are
not contained in the Gest. He thinks in battle (6617-
6620; 10779-10810); he keeps out of Hector's way (6527-
6530; 10573-10579); he plots with others to kill Hector
(6391-6396; 10764-10770); and he reacts to a death
(10841-10842). When he is wounded, short commentaries on
his condition are inserted (11291-11306; 14605-14619), and
transition passages such as "Now of Ector lete we be, /And
of Achilles speke we" (11291-11292) are not uncommon.
Frequently the Greeks entertain their wounded hero and
bring him expert physicians:
Lord, the Ioye that Gregeis made!
Thei ete & drank & made him glade
With pipes & daunces & Iolyffte;
Gret Ioye it was her murthe to se.
Achilles thei dede alle glade,
Mechel murthe thei him made,
And dight him gode fisiciens,
With leche-crafft thes surgiens;
Alle the helpe that thei myght
Thei it dede by day & nyght.
And thonked here godis In that place
That hadde sent hem som grace,
To scle him that hadde hem most anoyed
And her Gregeis so foule distroied.
These elaborations expand Achilles' role, but sometimes
do little to further his characterization. They serve
primarily to draw attention to the character so that,
although he is not the central figure in the poem, he is
still before the reader as a representation of Greek
power and the Trojans' chief enemy.
All these passages on Achilles show no unique
method of character development. There are no central
passages spoken by the narrator indicating the precise-
nature of Achilles' character. In fact, Priam's speech
when he finds that Achilles has broken his oath to make
the Greeks withdraw is one of the few explicit judgments
of Achilles in the Laud:
But he is fals & euel thynkand
And doth alle thyng with gylerye,
With no manhed ne chyualrie. (14336-14338)
There are no catalogs of his deeds in battle, no recurrent
exaggerations, and no elaborate associations comparable
to the associations of Hector with saintliness and virtue.
The passages simply describe his actions, have no unique
development, and are, therefore, largely undifferentiated
from other descriptions in the poem.
Achilles' role as distraught lover, however, shows
definite development through dramatization. The point of
the characterization is to show how the situation produces
an inner conflict by forcing the character to choose
between two allegiance. The Laud poet presents the
conflict through Achilles' interactions with those around
him and through soliloquies which describe his inner
Achilles' conflicting encounters with others begin
in the councils he calls to persuade the Greeks to go home.
Additions to these council scenes were discussed in the
preceding chapter. Their.importance for Achilles'
characterization lies in the fact that his views on war
become consonant with the narrator's, a fact which stimu-
lates the reader's sympathy for him.
The Laud poet demonstrates Achilles' determination to
abstain from the war through a melodramatic scene with Heber.
Achilles, of course, refuses to fight because he has
promised Hecuba he will get the Greeks to raise the siege.
IIeber, mortally wounded, rushes to Achilles' tent to
berate him for not assisting the Greeks. The Gest reports
the content of the speech:
He chalinget Achilles with a chere fell,
Reproued hym prudly of his proud will,
-'at lurket in his loge, list not to help,
And segh his folke so fallyn, & in fight end,
pat with his monhede so mykell, & with his mayn strenght,
Might soucour his Soudiours, & saue hom alyue.
The Laud poet dramatizes the encounter by presenting direct
And thow myght saue hem [Greeka fro this wo
Iff thow wolde to fight go,
With thi strength & thi myght,
Iff thow hadde ben to-day at fight.
Hit comes the of euel wil,
That thow schalt holde the thus still
And wol not helpe thi contre-men,
Thow hast lorn of hem M ten.
How myght tbow--he sayde--In herte fynde
To thi people be so vn--kynde,
And wolde not haue of hem mercy?
It is so sothe thi vilony!
Men wol say opon the tresoun,
Sithen throw leuest with-oute resoun. (12711-12726)
The Gest then indicates that the "trunchyn" was pulled
out and "the buerne deghet" (9550-9551). The Laud poet