Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde

Scripted and directed by Ronald Weihs
Original music by Timothy Minthorn

Original choreography by Hedy Minten
with Hedy Minten, Michael Spence, Scott Bell and Bruce Beaton
June 22-July 9, 1995

A new theatrical adaptation by Ronald Weihs of Geoffrey Chaucer’s classic tale of love and betrayal, set in ancient Greece in the darkest days of the Trojan War. Performed in modern English, with music and dance.

A love story in a war zone. Set in the time of Homer, this play recounts an incident in the bitter siege of Troy by the Greek army. Troilus, a Trojan soldier, falls in love with Criseyde, whose father has fled to the Greeks. Troilus’ best friend, Pandarus, acts as a go-between and persuades Criseyde to come to a secret rendezvous with Troilus.
Criseyde’s choices, and her reasons, form the core of this great love story.

Notes from the director Ronald Weihs:
Troilus and Criseyde is one of the great love stories in the European tradition. The story of Troilus’s love for Criseyde (or Briseida, as she was originally called) was invented by writers of medieval versions of the story of the Trojan war, and then picked up by Boccaccio, who used the story as an allegory of his love for his own mistress. Geoffrey Chaucer translated and added to Boccaccio’s poem, enriching it in plot, psychology and expression.

Shakespeare did with it what we in the late 20th century are so fond of doing: he deconstructed it, depicting the characters as self-serving and cynical, unloving and unlovely. We call our play Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde to make it clear that this is not Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida.
This is a love story, the original love story as Chaucer told it. It is about what happens when two young people encounter each other, and suddenly nothing else much matters except being in each others arms. (This does happen, even nowadays.)

The context for this love, however, is very grim, very 20th century. There is a terrible war on. The combatants, the Greeks and the Trojans, very similar in language and culture, are locked in a death-grip over a matter of national honour that has lasted nine brutal years. It will end in the total destruction of the home of the two lovers.
Love in a war zone. The human spirit struggling to survive.

For this work, we have commissioned an original musical score by Timothy Minthorn, a talented young pianist and composer.

Our approach to this work uses an ensemble acting style with a strong basis in dance and movement. Hedy Minten, the dancer who plays Criseyde, has choreographed the dance sequences.
Our text is based on a translation of Chaucer’s work into modern English. We have cut to the crucial scenes, but are otherwise using the verse translation exactly as it comes. Chaucer had a very astute understanding of the human psyche – the scenes play as drama marvellously well.

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