1. b) (iii) Comment on the literary and rhetorical qualities of lines 8-28.
Chaucer adjusts the two speakers’ register and style over the course of these lines to the linguistic task at hand: enquiring, cursing, lamenting, promising. Pandarus begins by speaking in a way that marks both his familiarity with Criseyde – by his affectionate reference to his ‘nece swete’ – and his position as gentlemanly host – by lightly peppering his speech with higher register words drawn from Old French (‘allas’, ‘laiser’) and expressing polite concern for her well being. As he comes closer to her, he adopts a more direct manner, asking in simple sentences how things have progressed, revealing his real interest not in how she is but ‘how stant it’.
Criseyde adopts a similarly colloquial style in her response, rebuking him in a series of clauses made more forceful by the lack of conjunctions (‘Nevere the bet for yow, Fox that ye ben! God yeve youre herte kare!’) and using idiomatic expressions that reflect her low evaluation of him in style and meaning (‘Fox that ye ben’, ‘for al youre wordes white’). Yet neither Criseyde nor Pandarus abandon politeness altogether, continuing to address each other – as is their habit – with the polite form of the second person pronoun (‘ye’) – and Criseyde’s final sentence (21) seems self-conscious, shifting to a more elevated register with the apostrophe (‘O…’) and aphoristic declaration (‘whoso seeth yow…’).
When Pandarus speaks again he reflects this shift, adopting a hyperbolic tone in offering her his head in retribution. The seeming gravitas of his offer is undermined by his everyday language, with predominantly monosyllabic words drawn entirely from Old English roots (apart from ‘Nece’) and a very regular metre that emphasises these qualities.