The Testament of Cresseid

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Painting by Robert Campin, 1438. Henryson addressed his Testament of Cresseid to a 15th-century readership of women.
Diomede and Cressida, perhaps

The Testament of Cresseid is a narrative poem of 616 lines in Middle Scots, written by the 15th-century Scottish makar Robert Henryson. It is his best known poem.[1] It imagines a tragic fate for Cressida in the medieval story of Troilus and Criseyde which was left untold in Geoffrey Chaucer's version. The poem also features graphically-realised portraits of the planetary pantheon of gods in the dream vision at its heart. Henryson's cogent psychological drama makes the poem one of the great works of northern renaissance literature.

A modern English translation by Seamus Heaney, which also included seven of his fables from The Morall Fabillis, was published in 2009.


  • Cresseid, daughter of Calchas, who is punished for breaking her vow of love to Troilus
  • Troilus, one of the sons of Trojan king Priam, and former lover of Cresseid


  1. ^ Kindrick, Robert L. "The Testament of Cresseid: Introduction". TEAMS Texts. University of Rochester. Retrieved 12 May 2013. 


Modern edition[edit]

  • The Poems of Robert Henryson. Ed. Robert L. Kindrick. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 1997. Electronic Access.

Further reading[edit]

  • Gray, Douglas. Robert Henryson. English Writers of the Late Middle Ages, no. 9. Brookfield, Vermont: Variorum, 1996.
  • Kindrick, Robert L. "Monarchs and Monarchy in the Poetry of Henryson and Dunbar." In Actes du 2e Colloque de Langue et de Littérature Ecossaisses. Eds. Jean-Jacques Blanchot and Claude Graf. Strasbourg: Université de Strasbourg, 1979. pp. 307–25.
  • McDiarmid, Matthew P. "Robert Henryson in his Poems." In Bards and Makars. Eds. Adam J. Aitken, Matthew P. McDiarmid, and Derick S. Thompson. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 1977. pp. 27–40.
  • Patterson, Lee W. "Christian and Pagan in The Testament of Cresseid." Philological Quarterly 52 (1973), 696-714.
  • Ridley, Florence. "A Plea for Middle Scots." In The Learned and the Lewed. Ed. Larry D. Benson. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974. pp. 175–96.
  • Rowland, Beryl. "The 'seiknes incurabill' in Henryson's Testament of Cresseid." English Language Notes 1 (1964), 175-77.
  • Spearing, A. C. "The Testament of Cresseid and the High Concise Style." In Criticism and Medieval Poetry. London: E. Arnold, 1964. pp. 118–44.
  • Stephenson, William. "The Acrostic “Fictio” in Robert Henryson’s The Testament of Cresseid (Lines 58–63)," Chaucer Review, 92.2 (1994), 163–75.
  • Utz, Richard. "Writing Alternative Worlds: Rituals of Authorship and Authority in Late Medieval Theological and Literary Discourse." In Creations: Medieval Rituals, the Arts, and the Concept of Creation. Eds. Nils Holger Petersen, et al. Turnhout: Brepols, 2007. pp. 121–38.
  • Whiting, B. J. "A Probable Allusion to Henryson's 'Testament of Cresseid.' " Modern Language Review 40 (1945), 46-47.