Pandarus is a Trojan aristocrat who appears in stories about the Trojan War. In Homer's Iliad he is portrayed as an energetic and impetuous warrior, but in medieval literature he becomes a witty and licentious figure who facilitates the affair between Troilus and Cressida. In Shakespeare's play Troilus and Cressida he is portrayed as an aged degenerate and coward, who ends the play by telling the audience he will bequeath them his "diseases".
In Homer's Iliad, Pandarus or Pandaros (Πάνδαρος) is a famous archer and the son of Lycaon. Pandarus, who fights on the side of Troy in the Trojan War, first appears in Book Two of the Iliad. In Book Four, he shoots Menelaus and wounds him with an arrow, sabotaging a truce that could potentially have led to the peaceful return of Helen of Troy. He is goaded into breaking the truce by the gods, who wish for the destruction of Troy. He then wounds Diomedes with an arrow and acts as Aeneas' charioteer. He is later killed by Diomedes, whose spear strikes him in the face, severing his tongue.
Pandarus is not to be confused with Pandareus.
Pandarus appears in Il Filostrato by Giovanni Boccaccio, in which he plays the role of a go-between in the relationship of his cousin Criseyde and the Trojan prince Troilus, the younger brother of Paris and Hector. Bocaccio himself derived the story from Le Roman De Troie, by 12th century poet Benoît de Sainte-Maure. This story is not part of classical Greek mythology. Both Pandarus and other characters in the medieval narrative who carry names from the Iliad are quite different from Homer's characters of the same name.
In Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem Troilus and Criseyde (1370), Pandarus plays the same role; though Chaucer's Pandarus is Criseyde's uncle, not her cousin. Chaucer's Pandarus is of special interest because he is constructed as an expert rhetorician, who uses dozens of proverbs and proverbial sayings to bring the lovers Troilus and Criseyde together. When his linguistic fireworks fail at the end of the story, the proverb and human rhetoric in general are questioned as reliable means of communication.
The plot function of the aging lech Pandarus in Chaucer's and Shakespeare's famous works has given rise to the English terms a pander (in later usage a panderer), from Chaucer, meaning a person who furthers other people's illicit sexual amours; and to pander, from Shakespeare, as a verb denoting the same activity. A panderer is, specifically, a bawd — a male who arranges access to female sexual favors, the manager of prostitutes. Thus, in law, the charge of pandering is an accusation that an individual has sold the sexual services of another. The verb "to pander" is also used in a more general sense to suggest active or implicit encouragement of someone's weaknesses.
- Richard Utz, "Sic et Non: Zu Funktion und Epistemologie des Sprichwortes bei Geoffrey Chaucer,” Das Mittelalter: Perspektiven mediävistischer Forschung 2.2 (1997), 31-43.
- This article contains content from the Owl Edition of Nordisk familjebok, a Swedish encyclopedia published between 1904 and 1926, now in the public domain.