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The Revision of Chaucer's "Troilus:" The Beta Text

Daniel Cook
The Chaucer Review
Vol. 9, No. 1 (Summer, 1974), pp. 51-62
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25093288
Page Count: 12
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The Revision of Chaucer's "Troilus:" The Beta Text
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Abstract

R. K. Root in his "The Manuscripts of Chaucer's Troilus" (1914) identified MSS reflecting an original and two revised stages of composition. The alpha MSS descend ultimately from a corrected copy of Chaucer's first completed version of the poem. The gamma MSS descend from copies made during the process of Chaucer's own revision, after extensive revision of Books I, II, and the latter part of IV (Book V shows little evidence of any revision except for a passage at the end). "Beta" MSS, Root argued, derive from copies of Chaucer's text made after final revision; i.e., after revision of Books III and early IV. F. N. Robinson, followed by most modern editors, rejected the unique "beta" readings in III and IV, though no defence of this decision has yet appeared. Comparison of these "beta" readings with those of the gamma MSS (mostly identical with alpha) shows, however, that in nearly all significant instances it is possible to see a rationale behind a hypothetical change from the gamma-alpha version to "beta." Conversely, unless we consider it likely that Chaucer regularly substitutes the vague or general statement for the specifically apposite, it seems highly improbable that revision could have been in the opposite direction. It seems likely, therefore, that the Root edition of the poem is correct in printing the unique beta readings in Books III and IV.

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