It is too late now to speak of that matter.
Alas, Prudence, one of your three eyes
I always lacked until I came here!
I remembered past time well,
and I could see present time well,
but I could not see the future, until I was in the snare,
and that now causes my woe.

But nevertheless, come what will,
I shall tomorrow night, by east or west,
steal out of this host (army) in some way,
and go with Troilus where he wants.
I will hold this purpose, and this is best.
No care for the talk of wicked tongues,
forever have wretches shown envy toward love!

This passage comes from Book V of Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde and is within a speech by Criseyde. It comes after Criseyde has been taken to the Greek camp and we have already seen Troilus’s lamentations within Troy at losing his beloved. Her speech is ironic because, at this time, she is still convincing herself that she will return to Troilus; however, directly after this passage, the narrator comments that her mind will have changed completely within a couple of months and that she will have forgotten her decision to return to the city and run away with Troilus. Her “I will hold this purpose” is lost in her later decision to remain true to Diomede because she failed to be true to her Trojan lover. This “changeableness” is also emphasized given that earlier, when she and Troilus were discussing their options after Criseyde has been promised to the Greeks, she very much cared about what people would say of them if they ran away; here, after being alone in the Greek camp and being separated from Troilus, she briefly decides that she does not care about the opinions of others.

The first part of this passage is also interesting in light of previous (and later) assertions on the nature of fate and predestination. Troilus, especially, is preoccupied with the possibilities of these concepts. In his Boethius-like speech of Book IV, he wrestles with the idea of predestination and how things come about. In the end, he decides that any free will he has is secondary to the fact that a divine power exists that already knows what will happen. In contrast, it appears that Pandarus sees nothing more than Fortune as fate; he sees Fortune’s wheel as the only important factor influencing life as there is nothing beyond it. Troilus is always looking for something beyond the present, something final and absolute. To Pandarus, Fortune’s character defines the type of action that defines the individual and there is no “final” or “absolute” cause.

Criseyde’s speech above is in contrast to her earlier assertions that she controls her own destiny and that her choices are not overseen, as Troilus believes, by another force; as such, the future can be seen because she herself can decide what it will hold. This power of the individual is apparent throughout the work, but it is most apparent in Book IV. When the two lovers are together for the last time, Criseyde betrays this conviction by asserting that she will be able to overcome her father’s will and return to Troy. The most illuminating of all her plans is the one in which she decides to tell her father that the gods lied when they gave Calkas the prophecy of Troy’s fall. Naturally, the reader knows that this is impossible because Troy is fated to defeat; as Jill Mann has commented, the readers are privileged because the already know the “destinal necessity” of the fall of Troy, similar to a “divine intelligence.” Still, Criseyde feels at this time that her personal will is stronger than the divine will; in fact, she does not overtly acknowledge the presence of any truly powerful divine figure. As a result, Criseyde seems to symbolize a belief in human freedom, whereas Troilus seems only to react to outside influences. At the time of the passage above, however, Criseyde is acknowledging the inability of humans, as contrasted to the divine intelligence contemplated by Troilus (although Criseyde does not actually make this distinction), to perceive the future and what it will hold.