“Fin Amors” & Chaucer in Troilus and Cresieyde

“Fin amors”, a “discourse for governing or expressing relations among the sexes… was so complete a code that… as an expression of human eroticism was felt as a religion or “a kind of worship” lingua franca in the time of Geoffrey Chaucer(Shoaf, xxiii). Although seen as quaint, it was a literary concept that as a historian, Chaucer understood the implications of when composing Troilus and Cresieyde. “Fin amors” renders virtuous those that love, and also involves a vocation of the male lover to the female object of love in so much that Troilus, initially a “scorner of love”, later becomes a lover so committed, “his idealism so pure, that death really is his only alternative to having Criseyde”(Shoaf, xxi, xxii). The complexity of “fin amors” can be attributed in part to “The Rules to Love” from Andreas Capellanus’s The Art of Courtly Love(Shoaf, xxv).

In a verse from Book I of Troilus and Criseyde, Troilus exhibits the reverent and religious admiration of the lover in Pandarus’s narration of his comrade’s desire for Criseyde:

                      “What? Shoulde he therefore fallen in dispayr,

                         Or be recreant for his own tene,

                         Or slen himself, al be his lady fair?

                         Nay, nay, but evere in oon be fresshe and grene

                         To serve and love his deere hertes queen,

                         And think it is a guerdoj, hire to serve,

                         A thousand fold moore than he kan deserve”(Chaucer, 34, 813- 819).

Rule 8 of “The Rules to Love” dictates that “No one should be deprived of love without the very best of reasons”(Capellanus, xxiv). “Shoulde he therefore fallen in dispayr, Or be recreant for his own tene, r slen himself, al be his lady fair”, should Troilus fall into despair if he cannot have Criseyde, or better yet, should he commit himself to death(Chaucer, 34, 813- 819)? An extreme reverence such as this aligns with the love of religious zealots for God and their own willingness to sacrifice themselves in His name. The fervor that practitioners- both of religion and love as a religion itself- exhume in order to “serve and love his deere hertes queen”, whether it be Criseyde, queen of Troilus’s heart, or Mary, queen of the heart of Jesus, follows the idea that “love can deny nothing to love”( Capellanus, xxiv).

“The easy attainment of love makes it of little value; difficulty of attainment makes it prized”( Capellanus, xxiv). Perhaps the phrase “fresshe and grene” symbolizes that in its onset, Troilus’s desire for Criseyde is new and enticing. There also comes the promise that this new passion will continue “a thousand fold moore” than Troilus “kan deserve”(Chaucer, 34, 813- 819).  It would be a prize to serve her and to love her, pine over her until he attains her. If not, he will fall “in dispayr”, as a result of his idealism and dedication(Shoaf, xxi, xxii).Chaucer, in understanding the role of the pained, estranged lover, paints Troilus out to be the embodiment of “fin amour”. Book 1 presents Troilus as a helpless captive of “fin amour”. He is described as desperate for love, almost cowardly in his empty- handedness, and willing to surrender himself unendingly to his pursuit of passion.

Works Cited:

Chaucer, Geoffrey. Troilus and Criseyde. Ed. R.A. Shoaf. East Lancing: Michigan State

            UP, 2000. Print.


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