Date of Award
Master of Arts
Laura Howes, Robert E. Stillman
This thesis examines the references to the dice game Hazard in Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde and the Folio version of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida as means to expand the understanding of Troilus’s ability to act as an agent of change within his predetermined story. Utilizing Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens as the foundation for game and play, this work focuses on Hazard as a game of chance present in both works. As a dice game that relies entirely on chance, Hazard is a game and a place of moral and religious anxiety as demonstrated through a survey of dice-based divination and the game itself as it appears in the early modern period. For medieval and early modern literary scholarship, the interest in games and play has dramatically increased through the efforts of scholars such as Laura Kendrick, Wolfgang Rudat, Serina Patterson, Gina Bloom, and Tom Bishop. Chaucer’s direct reference to a winning Hazard roll in Book IV complicates and expands Troilus’s philosophical crisis about his agency. In the Folio’s PPrologue Hazard is also directly referenced, framing chance as hanging over the skill-based games of love and war in Troilus and Cressida. While the war in Troilus and Cressida is situated as a pause the love story, the character’s actions of the characters in this new telling are still unable to alter the result of the known story. Throughout the play the audience knows that nothing they witness can alter the fact that Cressida will leave, and Troy will fall. Both Chaucer’s and Shakespeare’s audiences know the fate of Troy just as God, in both Boethian philosophy and Protestant theology, knows the fate of every soul but still leaves space for free will. The audiences, therefore, in both versions of the story are placed within a quasi-omnipotent state, left knowing the result but only able to witness the action as it falls, leading to the inevitable.
Corbin, Emma O., "A Game of Hazard, Per Chance: Reading Dice Games and Predestined Action in Troilus and Criseyde and Troilus and Cressida. " Master's Thesis, University of Tennessee, 2023.