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Troilus and Cressida
by William Shakespeare


The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature
Drama in five acts by William Shakespeare, performed about 1601-02 and printed in a quarto edition in 1609. Although this play is included among the tragedies in the First Folio, many critics prefer to classify it with the "problem plays" or the "darker comedies." Based on George Chapman's translation of the Iliad and on 15th-century accounts of the Trojan War by John Lydgate and William Caxton, Troilus and Cressida is an often cynical exploration of the betrayal of love, the absence of heroism, and the emptiness of honor. The play was also influenced by Geoffrey Chaucer's love poem Troilus and Criseyde, although Shakespeare's treatment of the lovers and his attitude toward their dilemma is in sharp contrast with Chaucer's. Cressida, a Trojan woman whose father has defected to the Greeks, pledges her love to Troilus, one of King Priam's sons. However, when her father demands her presence in the Greek camp, she quickly switches her affections to Diomedes, the Greek soldier who is sent to escort her. The legendary Greek hero Achilles is depicted as petulant and self-centered, and Agamemnon is a foolish windbag. Thersites, a deformed Greek, comments wryly on the actions of the other characters, while Pandarus, the bawdy go-between of the lovers, enjoys watching their degradation. The drama ends on a note of complete moral and political disintegration, allowing none of the characters to rise above their foolish behavior.

From: Ann Davey xyzdavey@tconl.com Date: Saturday, July 03, 2004 02:47 PM How is everyone coming with this play? I have to admit that I have a DVD with a BBC production which I hope to watch this weekend, but I haven't got it done yet. Ann
From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Saturday, July 03, 2004 03:40 PM I read this one early, Ann, because I was so afraid that I would miss it, given my track record lately. It's not my favorite Shakespeare, but I liked it more than I thought I would, given its frequent designation as a "problem play." But, I think that title comes from the fact that it doesn't fit into any particular category. I bought the Arden Critical Edition of this one. It doesn't contain the extensive variety of a Norton, but has much more readable print (my big gripe with Nortons). And, the introduction by David Bevington, from the University of Chicago, is extensive. He says that the prefatory note in the original edition refers to it as a comedy. But, two original Quarto title pages refer to it as a tragedy and a history. He quotes Northrop Frye as arguing that the play is hard to fit into the usual Shakespearean categories--comedy, history, tragedy and romance-- "because it has so many elements of all four." I'm interested to know what everyone hear thinks about that. Barb
From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Saturday, July 03, 2004 09:22 PM I think most of Shakepeare's plays are problem plays by that accounting-- he was able to get more 'comedy, history, tragedy and romance' into his works than virtually anyone else. Given these speeches: TROILUS: O virtuous fight, When right with right wars who shall be most right! True swains in love shall in the world to come Approve their truths by Troilus: when their rhymes, Full of protest, of oath and big compare, Want similes, truth tired with iteration, As true as steel, as plantage to the moon, As sun to day, as turtle to her mate, As iron to adamant, as earth to the centre, Yet, after all comparisons of truth, As truth's authentic author to be cited, 'As true as Troilus' shall crown up the verse, And sanctify the numbers. CRESSIDA: Prophet may you be! If I be false, or swerve a hair from truth, When time is old and hath forgot itself, When waterdrops have worn the stones of Troy, And blind oblivion swallow'd cities up, And mighty states characterless are grated To dusty nothing, yet let memory, From false to false, among false maids in love, Upbraid my falsehood! when they've said 'as false As air, as water, wind, or sandy earth, As fox to lamb, as wolf to heifer's calf, Pard to the hind, or stepdame to her son,' 'Yea,' let them say, to stick the heart of falsehood, 'As false as Cressid.' I toy with the notion that the title of the play in Shakespeare's head was actually 'True and False', and that is what he gives us, things that are true and false simultaneously. Troilus says: TROILUS. The Greeks are strong, and skillful to their strength, Fierce to their skill, and to their fierceness valiant; But I am weaker than a woman's tear, Tamer than sleep, fonder than ignorance, Less valiant than the virgin in the night, And skilless as unpractis'd infancy. I love the way the positives flow into each other- skill to strength, fierceness to valor, etc., but the negatives are random poetic comparisons. This sets the tone for the rest of the play- the positive aspects flow but don't really tell us anything while the negative aspects tell us much but refuse to be yoked together. A very tricky play, but then it warned us in its 1st line 'In Troy, there lies the scene.' The scenes lie indeed. A link to an online essay on this play by Joyce Carol Oates http://www.usfca.edu/fac-staff/southerr/troilus.html
From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, July 04, 2004 08:55 AM Wow, this essay by Oates is excellent, George. My only complaint is that I wish they had a printable version so that, when I print it out because I don't do well reading long pieces on line, it will take a lot more paper. From what I've read so far though, I'm extremely impressed by the following: What is so modern about the play is its existential insistence upon the complete inability of man to transcend his fate. Other tragic actors may rise above their predicaments, as if by magic, and equally magical is the promise of a rejuvenation of their sick nations (Lear, Hamlet, etc.), but the actors of Troilus and Cressida, varied and human as they are, remain for us italicized against their shabby, illusion-ridden world. Hector, who might have rejected a sordid end, in fact makes up his mind to degrade himself and is then killed like an animal. As soon as he relinquishes the "game" of chivalry, he relinquishes his own right to be treated like a human being, and so his being dragged behind Achilles' horse is a cruel but appropriate fate, considering the violent climate of his world. One mistake and man reverts to the animal, or becomes only flesh to be disposed of. As for the spirit and its expectations— they are demonstrated as hallucinatory. No darker commentary on the predicament of man has ever been written. If tragedy is a critique of humanism from the inside,1 Troilus and Cressida is a tragedy that calls into question the very pretensions of tragedy itself. This, for me, is the "problem" of the play and what makes it so modern. There are no heroes and there is no true resolution of the situation in a heroic sense. It is realistic but wouldn't have given theater goers release. There is only dark comedy to alleviate the sense of doom. There is a lot of question as to why the play wasn't performed in its time and many thoughts that it might have been because of political pressures in the Elizabethan court. Essex was seen popularly identified with Achilles. However, it seems to me that this would not have been a popular play with audiences of that time because of that lack of resolution. Barb
From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Sunday, July 04, 2004 10:15 AM Barbara- I really like that quote you pulled out, especially: 'but the actors of Troilus and Cressida, varied and human as they are, remain for us italicized against their shabby, illusion-ridden world.' I'm not so sure about the audiences of the time not liking the play though- its dialogue is so magical (if bleak) and they were far, far better listeners than we are- the cognitive music alone might have made it enjoyable to them. It was definitely too risky to perform however, as you say. I'll be very interested to hear everyone's take on Troilus's character as displayed in Act IV, scs 2 and 4... he talks a good game, and oops spoiler alert I guess--> Anyway he talks a good game and seems genuinely impacted later by the loss of Cressida, but when they come to tell Troilus the news that Cressida must be sent to the enemies' camp he is in fact already leaving her for the day, which Cressida is complaining about: TROILUS: O Cressida! but that the busy day, Waked by the lark, hath roused the ribald crows, And dreaming night will hide our joys no longer, I would not from thee. CRESSIDA: Night hath been too brief. TROILUS: Beshrew the witch! with venomous wights she stays As tediously as hell, but flies the grasps of love With wings more momentary-swift than thought. You will catch cold, and curse me. CRESSIDA: Prithee, tarry: You men will never tarry. O foolish Cressid! I might have still held off, And then you would have tarried. Hark! there's one up. Then there's the juxtaposition of Troilus, Pandarus and Cressida's reactions to the news that they must separate: TROILUS: Is it so concluded? AENEAS: By Priam and the general state of Troy: They are at hand and ready to effect it. TROILUS: How my achievements mock me! I will go meet them: and, my Lord AEneas, We met by chance; you did not find me here. and: PANDARUS: Prithee, get thee in: would thou hadst ne'er been born! I knew thou wouldst be his death. O, poor gentleman! A plague upon Antenor! CRESSIDA: Good uncle, I beseech you, on my knees! beseech you, what's the matter? PANDARUS: Thou must be gone, wench, thou must be gone; thou art changed for Antenor: thou must to thy father, and be gone from Troilus: 'twill be his death; 'twill be his bane; he cannot bear it. CRESSIDA: O you immortal gods! I will not go. PANDARUS: Thou must. CRESSIDA: I will not, uncle: I have forgot my father; I know no touch of consanguinity; No kin no love, no blood, no soul so near me As the sweet Troilus. O you gods divine! Make Cressid's name the very crown of falsehood, If ever she leave Troilus! Time, force, and death, Do to this body what extremes you can; But the strong base and building of my love Is as the very centre of the earth, Drawing all things to it. I'll go in and weep,-- Troilus sees Cressida as an 'achievement' then immediately leaps to the practical... covering up his presence there. Pandarus immediately becomes saddened, for Troilus of course. And Cressida makes another, more beautiful but unintended prophecy of falsehood. Cressida asks many times and ways the same question: CRESSIDA: Have the gods envy? PANDARUS: Ay, ay, ay, ay; 'tis too plain a case. CRESSIDA: And is it true that I must go from Troy? TROILUS: A hateful truth. CRESSIDA: What, and from Troilus too? TROILUS: From Troy and Troilus. CRESSIDA: Is it possible? AENEAS: [Within] My lord, is the lady ready? CRESSIDA: I must then to the Grecians? TROILUS: No remedy. Why is she asking so much? I believe she is in disbelief and is fishing, even now, for the true response of a true lover 'no it isn't true that you must leave because I won't LET it be true' Troilus will fight for the meaningless Helen because society sanctioned it but he won't fight, here, for his 'true' love, maybe because there isn't a suitable audience for the fight. And after all, he was leaving to attend to the day's affairs anyway. Hmmmmmm.
From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Monday, July 05, 2004 09:57 AM Troilus' attitude toward Cressida seems to be almost entirely governed by the thrill of the chase initially and pride throughout. Cressida anticipates this reaction before and after their night together, lamenting afterward that she has given in when he sets out to leave before they even get the news that her father has bargained for her. Her repeated questions when told that she had to leave seem very poignant to me. I love your comparison with Helen. But, wasn't Troilus hesitant to fight even for Helen before he saw Cressida with Diomedes? The scene that we've been talking about lends particular irony to Pandarus' lines: Go to, a bargain made. Seal it, seal it; I'll be a witness. Here I hold your hand, here my cousin's. If ever you prove false one to another, since I have taken such pains to bring you together, let all pitiful goers-between be called to the world's end after my name: call them all panders. Let all constant men be Troiluses, all false women Cressids, and all brokers-between panders! Say "Amen". Troilus is constant, but only in his devotion to pride, certainly not to Cressida. And, what did you think of Cressida's "falseness" in the Greek camp? Didn't she seem to be in a horrifically vulnerable position there? And, of course, good old Pandarus...I don't think I'll ever hear the word panderer in quite the same way again. Barb
From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Friday, July 09, 2004 08:58 AM Considering the climate in which we all live, I'm amazed at the lack of comments upon this play. T&C has asserted itself in performance at virtually every major political, military, or social crisis of the 20th century... productions of it were used as a focusing lens to examine the desolation of WWI, the tragic farce of the allies (non) effort to prevent the rise of Hitler pre-WWII, the social devastations wrought by Vietnam, etc., Scholar David Bevington says he thinks the strength of the play lies in its 'honesty in confronting the dismal and meaningless horrors of war'... and scholar Harold Goddard said that he thought the play was Shakespeare's best portrayal of how 'ego and emotion can sway leader's arguments for or against conflict' It turns out this play was the Farenheit 9/11 of its day, except T&C also contains immortal poetry and achieves a beautiful searching of a multitude of other issues as well. Let's cast the play in modern terms just for fun. These will necessarily be broad-brushes, but I think the point still stands. Troilus- begins play as a dove, scornful of the reasons for fighting, rounds the play's home stretch as its fiercest hawk, and ends the play as a hollow man wanting and needing only revenge. Bush leads up to his term decrying 'nation-building', rounds his term's corner with the largest and perhaps most difficult attempt at nation-building undertaken in U.S. history, and ends his term as...? Hector- Essentially a man of honor, though his honor like all the others' in the play (except perhaps, ironically Therisites') stands on sand. He allows himself to be argued into a fight that by definition runs contrary to everything he believes in and is fought in a way that is the opposite of how he fights. Powell. Do I have to say more? Wolfowitz-Ulysses Uday-Paris Rove-Pandarus Michael Moore-Therisites etc., Even if you don't see or disagree with these parallels, the play's largest historical irony is indisputable- T&C is a relentless challenger in the ring, waiting hungrily to attack the belief-systems we build and the codes of honor we sometimes hide behind. We are better off for the challenge. A play that asks so hauntingly 'what's aught but as it is valued?' has steadily increased in value and estimation over the years to grow from oblivion to become one of Shakespeare's most commented-upon works because its darknesses are productive and maybe even purifying ones.
From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Friday, July 09, 2004 02:57 PM I too have been disappointed at the lack of participation thus far, George. I think its designation as one of Shakespeare's problem plays scares some people off. However, I think that designation has to do with the difficulty of categorizing it, not reading it. I didn't find it hard to read at all, other than keeping the names straight and anyone who can read the Russians will have no problem with that. Join in here, folks. It's worthwhile. I loved your comparisons with our current political situation, particularly Hector/Powell and Moore/Thersites. One of the tragedies of this play seemed to me to be the ridiculous quality of the war and the loss of life for so little. The Greeks and Trojans seemed very similar to each other and yet were bound to fight because of a long history of perceived injustices committed by the other side. Each act required retribution and this exchange went on and on...the most current being Paris' kidnapping of Helen. And, nothing about war in this play feels heroic. I would think that this was an unusual attitude for Elizabethan audiences to find in entertainment. Barb
From: Ann Davey xyzdavey@tconl.com Date: Friday, July 09, 2004 05:02 PM I listened to the first two acts on DVD. I'll give it another shot. Perhaps you need to be more of a Shakespeare scholar to appreciate this play. With the other plays we have read here, it was a thrill to encounter so many famous quotations in their rightful context. So far, there isn't much that I recognize from T & C. Ann
From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Friday, July 09, 2004 05:09 PM Who is playing the leads on your dvd, Ann? I usually have to read Shakespeare before I really appreciate seeing it performed...and I need an annotated edition at that. Barb
From: Ann Davey xyzdavey@tconl.com Date: Saturday, July 10, 2004 12:20 PM Outside of high school, I have never studied Shakespeare, so reading him is more of a struggle for me than for others here. My usual approach when we read one of his plays here on CC is to get an audiotape and listen to it while I read the text. Tapes are good because they are easy to stop and even rewind and repeat. I have the complete works of Shakespeare, but the plays are not annotated. Listening to the actors on the tapes help me decipher the meaning. T & C was not available on audiotape, but our library did have a BBC version on DVD. It was originally produced in the early 1980's and I really don't recognize the actors. Anton Lesser and Suzanne Burden play the leads. I think they do a credible job. I understand what you mean, Barb, about having to read the play first before you see a performance. The problem with a DVD is that you can't easily replay parts you didn't get the first time. I found that if I looked at the actors, I wasn't tracking very well, so I started looking at the text and mostly just listening to their voices. Incidentally, Cressida's uncle as played by Charles Gray is quite effeminate. I don't think the text really supports that. Thersites seems to suffer from gender confusion, although he is such a strange character in the text that maybe Shakespeare intended that. I can relate to Shakespeare's tragedies much better than his comedies. The comedic characters rarely strike me as funny. I'm sure that is my shortcoming - not the play's. Ann
From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Saturday, July 10, 2004 01:55 PM We're in the same boat, Ann, about past experience with Shakespeare. My only structured study of him was a great professor in college who made me fall in love with King Lear. That gave me the motivation to be interested but I never truly followed up on it until we started on Classics Corner. Previously, I have used the Folger's editions which give you a little synopsis of each act at the beginning, in addition to annotations concerning specific language. This time, I bought the Arden edition which gives annotations but no synopsis. I missed the Folger's method, I must say. There's a long section in the introduction concerning performance history of the play. In modern productions, Pandarus is most often described as simpering. His character, and that of Thersites, seem to be the outlet for outrageous performances. What do you all think of Cressida's character? I'm wondering if I'm just knee-jerk sympathetic to the female character or if she really is too easily condemned. I kept wondering how anyone expected her to maintain some kind of ethereal faithfulness when she is willingly turned over to these fairly lecherous Greeks (that kissing scene when she first arrives seemed more scary than welcoming). She seems to be truly smitten by Troilus, but, in all other scenes, she just seems to be trying to survive. Diomedes interest in her seems to be motivated more by his rivalry with the other males or desire to conquer, rather than sexual desire. Barb
From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Sunday, July 11, 2004 08:19 PM Barb-- I, too, find Cressida's character sympathetic. For God's sake, in a story about a victory that takes ten years to achieve, and with Pandarus as her broker, is it any wonder that Cressida believes that love sought and the process of wooing (like the war fought only to gutter out in a brutal and deceptive 'victory')is preferable to the rhetorical niceties and near-paternal neglect that men switch gears to once they've had their way with you? I'm fascinated by two running themes of T&C- consumption/digestion and people not saying what they mean. The process of digestion is mentioned multiple times: -Beginning in the middle; starting thence away, To what may be digested in a play. -Then every thing includes itself in power, Power into will, will into appetite; And appetite, an universal wolf, So doubly seconded with will and power, Must make perforce an universal prey, And last eat up himself. Great Agamemnon, This chaos, when degree is suffocate, Follows the choking. -Instance, O instance! strong as heaven itself; The bonds of heaven are slipp'd, dissolved, and loosed; And with another knot, five-finger-tied, The fractions of her faith, orts of her love, The fragments, scraps, the bits and greasy relics Of her o'er-eaten faith, are bound to Diomed. I wonder why consumption is alluded to again and again? As for the not saying what they mean, I can only find two speeches, in the entire play, where I believe what Troilus is saying: TROILUS: I am giddy; expectation whirls me round. The imaginary relish is so sweet That it enchants my sense: what will it be, When that the watery palate tastes indeed Love's thrice repured nectar? death, I fear me, Swooning destruction, or some joy too fine, Too subtle-potent, tuned too sharp in sweetness, For the capacity of my ruder powers: I fear it much; and I do fear besides, That I shall lose distinction in my joys; As doth a battle, when they charge on heaps The enemy flying. and the speech Troilus gives when he observes Cressida and Diomed. Usually, he is lying, sometimes to others, sometimes to himself, sometimes both. Like the end, for example: TROILUS: Hector is slain. ALL: Hector! the gods forbid! TROILUS: He's dead; and at the murderer's horse's tail, In beastly sort, dragg'd through the shameful field. Frown on, you heavens, effect your rage with speed! Sit, gods, upon your thrones, and smile at Troy! I say, at once let your brief plagues be mercy, And linger not our sure destructions on! AENEAS: My lord, you do discomfort all the host! TROILUS: You understand me not that tell me so: I do not speak of flight, of fear, of death, But dare all imminence that gods and men Address their dangers in. Hector is gone After he says 'I say, at once let your brief plagues be mercy, And linger not our sure destructions on!' He says 'You understand me not that tell me so: I do not speak of flight, of fear, of death...' Ridiculous. Of course he was speaking of death, and of the utter desolation of self that has been wrought upon him. Even at the end, he can't admit himself to himself. But then the only characters in this play that more than slenderly know themselves (to paraphrase Lear) are Ulysses and Therisites, the cynical idea-engine and the idealistic cynic.
From: Pres Lancaster xyzpreslan369@yahoo.com Date: Sunday, July 11, 2004 08:43 PM I did not enjoy reading this play. The words, except for the questionable ending, are obviously Shakespeare’s, but they are like a fierce thunder storm, roiling black clouds lit by blinding flashes of lightening. The intertwined stories of “love and war” are brought together but neither truly serves the other. The “difficulties” of the play are such that, though it is seldom performed, it is a juicy subject for analysis and explication. I have enjoyed reading various writers on the subject. G. Wilson Knight says “Troilus and Cressida is more peculiarly analytic in language and dramatic meaning than any other work of Shakespeare’s. Often it has been called difficult and incoherent.” And he adds “When once we see clearly the central idea – it is almost a ‘thesis’ – from which the play’s thought and action derive their significance, most of the difficulties vanish.” Perhaps we would see more productions of the play if more people read Mr. Knight’s essay. I am not convinced. William Witherle Lawrence, author of “Shakespeare’s Problem Comedies,” a book in the Penguin Shakespeare Library, writes: “This play, never a general favorite with readers or playgoers, and indeed seldom performed on the stage, nevertheless bears unmistakably the seal and imprint of Shakespeare’s greatest creative period. It compels instant attention by the beauty of its verse, by the telling imagery of its great speeches, with their pregnant wisdom and mature philosophy, and the acid brilliancy of its character-drawing.” But also: “Character and action are portrayed in a curiously disillusioned and unsympathetic fashion; . . . As interpreters stand the elderly lecher Pandarus and the foul-mouthed Thersites. The very atmosphere is unhealthy; rancour, boasting, wantonness and even obscenity are constantly in the air. Moreover, how strangely the whole ends! All these plottings and schemings, all the rhetoric and philosophy, all these amorous intrigues, all these big words and blaring of trumpets bring at the last no settled issue.” And: “The commentators have been hard put to it to explain the manifold difficulties of Troilus and Cressida, from Coleridge who remarked he scarcely knew what to say and that ‘there is no one of Shakespeare’s plays harder to characterize’, to Barrett Wendell, always clear sighted and sensible, who gave up the task as insoluble. ‘A puzzle we found in Troilus and Cressida, . . . and a puzzle we must leave it; our best comment must be guess work.’ The curious reader may follow at his leisure the many attempts at elucidation, often strongly colored by personal impressions, critical preoccupations, or philosophical theories.” Mark Van Doren and the poet, John Wain, speak more harshly. But I have made up my own mind – along the same lines. There is great language in the play, but it is like wading through mud to grasp an orchid. I find it appropriate that Edward Gorey drew the cover for a 1957 edition of Chaucer’s Troilus and Cressida. pres How do I know what I think until I see what I say?
From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Monday, July 12, 2004 10:18 AM Pres- 'There is great language in the play, but it is like wading through mud to grasp an orchid.' That is wonderfully put. T&C is an insoluble puzzle, but then, to me, so are Hamlet and Lear, Macbeth and The Tempest. Your description earlier: 'The words... are like a fierce thunder storm, roiling black clouds lit by blinding flashes of lightening.' fits Macbeth perfectly I think. ... but then there's no disguising the fact that I agree with G. Wilson Knight as you quoted him earlier. T&C is, among many things, a kind of literary essay by Shakespeare on 'The Iliad' in general and war in particular, and for that alone I think it merits attention, particularly now. In Henry V, Shakespeare gave us what I actually consider his most problematic play, a feast of language sitting atop a pile of corpses. Sometimes I prefer the martial music of Henry (even as it plays loudly over the slaughter of prisoners and the gambling with lives)... sometimes I crave the tough-minded honesty of T&C. Any work of art that can combine the beauty of this: -Injurious time now with a robber's haste Crams his rich thievery up, he knows not how: As many farewells as be stars in heaven, With distinct breath and consign'd kisses to them, He fumbles up into a lose adieu, And scants us with a single famish'd kiss, Distasted with the salt of broken tears. With the ruthless wisdom of this: -But something may be done that we will not: And sometimes we are devils to ourselves, When we will tempt the frailty of our powers, Presuming on their changeful potency has achieved enough to seem remarkable to me.
From: Pres Lancaster xyzpreslan369@yahoo.com Date: Monday, July 12, 2004 08:32 PM George, You have said, T&C is an insoluble puzzle, . . . This is an absolute truth, and is surely the reason why we have so many different views of the play, many of them in complete opposition to each other. One man’s pâté is another man’s caviar. My reactions to the play are shaped by the fact that it has been neglected for centuries, not played, and only in very recent times has attracted attention as “modern”. If it has not held its own with the other Shakespeare plays what is it? Surely not a neglected masterpiece. Then, a puzzle. There are two aspects of the play that color my reactions: (a) the sources used by S. (b) the nature of the language or speeches. The sources are mediaeval, not classical. S. did not have the classical texts available to us now; one author says the stories of the Trojan War used by S. are “corrupted”. T&C was a mediaeval text, not classical, and blending the two, Trojan War and T&C, to my mind serves no purpose, but, rather, corrupts them both. The Greek heroes are flawed enough – witness Achilles – without saddling them with T&C’s problems, one may even say, Cressida’s corruption. There is no reason to doubt that the language is Shakespeare’s. But it lacks Shakespeare’s tone and embracement of humanity so as to seem peculiar and distorted, un-Shakespeare. Though it is one of Shakespeare’s glories that he can spin a long speech with cohesion and coherence, here the speeches are too long, and the excess of material in the speech finally smothers the basic idea in too much of a muchness. Since there is next to no information about the play’s creation and staging, I am free to spin my own theory – that the play was written, not for the usual general audience, but for a special audience, a particular group who would be titillated by the challenge of the power of the extended speeches, the philosophy expounded, and the sour theme of Cressida’s faithlessness and the Greek heroes’ flawed natures. I think the play was written for a group of lawyers or the like. A miscellany of writings that have interested me about this play: “Critics have tried in various ways to explain the peculiar qualities of these plays from the middle of Shakespeare’s career. F. S. Boas (Shakespeare and His Predecessors, 1896) in effect invented the category of ‘problem plays’, and it has been reevaluated by . . .” Lawrence, Tillyard, Schanzer, and Frye. The quote is from The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare Studies. John Dryden, 1631-1700, poet laureate, wrote, “Shakespeare . . . did not perfectly observe the laws of Comedy.” Dryden later “undertook to correct” Troilus and Cressida which he mistook for an apprentice effort, attacking its “blown puffy style”. Perhaps Dryden's ideas can be ignored in light of his opinion that Shakespeare’s mind discloses “a carelessness, and . . .a lethargy of thought, for whole scenes together”. Not Dryden: “The collapse of strong idealistic assertion into compromised action brings the tragic emotions of Troilus and Cressida very close to bitter comedy.” This, I think, is a telling explication of the play. pres How do I know what I think until I see what I say?
From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Tuesday, July 13, 2004 05:27 AM Pres- Yes, 'One man’s pâté is another man’s caviar.' as you say. I felt that way everytime my friends tried to discuss 'The Corrections' with me. I realize that one seldom argues anyone else into liking or disliking something, and I respect that, but I enjoy this play so much that I'm going to try a few inadequate responses. The 'neglect' issue doesn't carry much weight with me as Twelfth Night was similarly neglected with a similar (more recent) upswing... and I consider it an outright masterpiece. I agree that T&C was probably written for a select audience, but as you say, in the absence of knowledge we must theorize, and my private fantasy is that T&C is what you get when you try to direct the dark energies that darted through Hamlet to one, more focused, target. You say T&C '...lacks Shakespeare’s tone and embracement of humanity so as to seem peculiar and distorted, un-Shakespeare' I don't ask Shakespeare to warmly embrace humanity everytime he writes... it would be odd if one of mankind's most capacious minds didn't explore the gulfs between individuals and inner selves once in a while. If T&C doesn't embrace, then neither does Macbeth, or Measure for Measure, or Antony and Cleopatra, or Coriolanus. Antony & Cleo demolished myths, and so does T&C. They are gorgeous wrecking balls of plays, flattening dangerous self-illusions. Surely I can't be alone in seeing that as noble and necessary? I take your too much muchness point, and agree that it is there, but I must say that 1st, fatally, I can't get too much Shakepeare personally, so perhaps I give a pass where one shouldn't be given, and 2nd I believe those speeches are accurate renditions of people getting lost in themselves, and so had to be shaped the way they were. Shakespeare paid, mentally and emotionally, for his many forays into humanity's interior, which may explain why he ended writing prematurely and died, from all accounts, an angry man. Many of his trips inside brought back riches, some just seared beautifully dark trails. Both were worth the effort, from my point of view.
From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, July 13, 2004 12:51 PM Hey, I'm catching up!!! Okay, I will admit, this one has really challenged me. I am about halfway, and determined and many many lines and ideas have captured me...but I fear it's not a lack of experience with Shakespeare but with the work he riffs on...at least for me. I am in this for the long haul, but so far, haul is the operative word. I found reading these posts here incredibly helpful...and a reminder of what a great forum and group of readers you all are. I thank you for that. It's frightfully hot, and I have a feeling this limp piece of lettuce of me is having trouble reading much at all... I am going back to it now though, refreshed and crisp from the many notes here. I have also found a few of the lines wonderfully hilarious. I seem to be taking this play in separate short bits and sections...and like a maze or puzzle haven't seen the entire structure yet...the elephant... wish me luck! Candy
From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Thursday, July 15, 2004 11:00 AM I'm puzzled by the unresolved 'ending' issue, I guess I read it differently. First, The Iliad itself doesn't so much end as lead into the Odyssey, so T&C will obviously mirror that. As for character resolution, Troilus begins the play saying he'll unarm and deploring the fact that those around him can't see through the surface value of Helen to the hollowness within... and he ends the play crying for eternal war and saying: 'Strike a free march to Troy! with comfort go: Hope of revenge shall hide our inward woe.' ...obviously advocating the hiding of the truth of things (woe) behind a hope they don't really feel. He has been completely transformed, almost an Anti-Troilus at the end. Hector dies because he chases down an opponent into unsafe territory because: 'HECTOR: Stand, stand, thou Greek; thou art a goodly mark: No? wilt thou not? I like thy armour well; I'll frush it and unlock the rivets all, But I'll be master of it: wilt thou not, beast, abide? Why, then fly on, I'll hunt thee for thy hide.' ...Hector is entranced by an outward (and false) value, which he murkily seems to recognize just before the end: 'HECTOR: Most putrefied core, so fair without, Thy goodly armour thus hath cost thy life. Now is my day's work done; I'll take good breath: Rest, sword; thou hast thy fill of blood and death.' And the last we hear from Cressida is: 'PANDARUS: Here's a letter come from yond poor girl...What says she there? TROILUS: Words, words, mere words, no matter from the heart: The effect doth operate another way. [Tearing the letter] Go, wind, to wind, there turn and change together. My love with words and errors still she feeds; But edifies another with her deeds. Cressida has been silenced by the play, we don't find out what she's written, and she ends (metaphorically) dismembered and cast aside by a lover who has been seeing her in parts and not as a whole from the start, as in: TROILUS. 'I tell thee I am mad In Cressid's love. Thou answer'st 'She is fair'- Pourest in the open ulcer of my heart- Her eyes, her hair, her cheek, her gait, her voice. O, that her hand,...' I find the play coming almost cleanly full circle, and pointing out to the end the fluidity of identity and reputation, and the contaminatory power, for good and bad, of love.
From: Ernest Belden drernest@pacbell.net Date: Thursday, July 15, 2004 04:37 PM Have not had a chance to look at this play since I have been away for about 5 weeks. When I got home I was overwhelmed with things that needed to be done, etc. Also been reading two other books while travelling which I have not had time to finish. Well to get closer to the truth: When one is anxious to look at something or do something interesting, one does take the time. Like some of us, I am not a Shakespeare person. Just the same I have read and re-read a number of his plays, but the language is forbidding at times to someone who was raised with another language. But I hope to make up for not posting this time by working harder on our next assignment. Ernie
From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Friday, July 16, 2004 11:04 PM You get a pass here, Ernie, but I hope to see you for Walden! George, your comment in response to the unresolved ending question, that T&C mirrors the Iliad and that the Iliad doesn't so much end as lead into the Odyssey, reminded me that I was surprised to read that Elizabethans were big fans of the characters of Troy in the Iliad. I wondered in what form they read it. My understanding is that Homer had to make both the Iliad and the Odyssey crowd pleasers because they were initially delivered by story tellers (Homer, initially?). Did Elizabethans know Troy and the Iliad through a play format or through reading it? Do you know? Barb
From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Friday, July 16, 2004 11:36 PM George, I was running back through notes and read your comments about digestion, consumption, etc. in the play again. I'm wondering if Shakespeare was implying that they are consuming themselves, that these two great civilizations are destroying themselves through war and avarice. Also, have any of you read Harold Bloom's notes about T&C in Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human? They are very interesting. He is both complimentary and critical of the play, but seems to think that much of it was motivated by Shakespeare's bitterness about outside events that both energized the play and got away from him. Barb
From: Edward Houghton eddh@pacbell.net Date: Saturday, July 17, 2004 03:56 AM The ILIAD also leads directly into the AENID (SP?) EDD
From: Ann Davey xyzdavey@tconl.com Date: Saturday, July 17, 2004 10:39 AM I finally finished reading/listening to this play, and I have to admit that I enjoyed the final acts more than I thought I would. Since I watched a performance of the play, my ideas are influenced by that particular interpretation, but I would like to make a few observations. 1. Troilus's character. I do not see it as inconsistent. Troilus is clearly infatuated with Cressida at the beginning of the play, but he does genuinely love her and is heart-broken by her betrayal. After their night of love making, she presses him to stay longer, but the scene on the DVD is quite playful and they are both clearly enthralled with each other. Hector argues that the Trojans should return Helen to the Greeks and end the war in Act II, Scene II. Troilus, who has unfavorably compared Helen to his Cressida earlier, takes the opposite stance. He thinks that honor compels the Trojans to keep Helen and continue fighting. After Cressida's betrayal, his desire to fight the Greeks is strengthened. If anyone, Hector is inconsistent, later arguing that honor compels him to fight against the Greeks. I wonder why Shakespeare denies Troilus the heroic death he so freely hands out in his other plays. At least he could have given him an heroic fighting scene with Diomedes. 2. Cressida. I think our sympathy for her is valid, but quite modern. George has already quoted the sections showing her many protests against being handed over to the Greeks. The actress on the DVD portrays her as completely distraught. Women in ancient Greece and in Shakespeare's time were political pawns. Troilus and the rest of the Trojans never questioned the need to exchange Cressida for Antenor, although Troilus assures her that he will somehow manage to see her regularly. We can sympathize with Cressida's position, recognizing that she has been cruelly used and is perhaps merely making the best of a terrible situation. Shakespeare, however, clearly wants to hold her up as an example of the inconstancy of women. I wonder what was going on in his personal life at the time he wrote this play! Shakespeare wants Cressida's very name to be a symbol of falseness. Cressida herself says that if she does not keep her promise to be true, Yea, let them say, to stick the heart of falsehood, As false as Cressid. After her scene with Diomedes, she condemns her sex as follows: Troilus, Farewell! one eye yet looks on thee, But with my heart the other eye doth see. Ah, poor our sex! this fault in us I find, The error of our eye directs our mind: What error leads must err;O, then conclude Minds sway'd by eyes are full of turpitude." Act V, II. The BBC version I saw adds something which makes her inconstancy seem more understandable. Troilus is nice-looking, but a slight, small man. Diomedes, on the other hand, has a long scar on his face, but he is bigger and much sexier. This helps explain Cressida's remarks about "the error of our eye." And remember, it is Troilus who pursues Cressida at the beginning of the play. She admits she likes him and has been playing hard to get, but he is clearly the more infatuated of the two. 3. Achilles. Wow - in this play, he has absolutely no redeeming characteristics. Barb, did you say that Achilles might have represented someone at court? Even his beloved Patroclus's death is not an issue is this version of the story. 4. Pandarus - His concern for Troilus, rather than his niece, is amazing. Was he attracted to Troilus himself? The end - finally.
From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Saturday, July 17, 2004 12:49 PM Barb-- I'm not sure how the Elizabethans knew of Troy besides written sources that became plays and provided illustrations for patriotic and political discussions. I think you're absolutely right about the civilizations and the people consuming themselves...which probably seemed equally relevant in Shakespeare's England. I have read Bloom's essay, and agree with much of it. He has a complex response to a richly complex play.
From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Saturday, July 17, 2004 01:17 PM Ann-- Great notes. I'm not as sure of Troilus though... although I'm only going from reading and not performance. I think Shakespeare was troubled by the exaggerations of theatre at this stage of his development. The entertaining caricatures of Marlowe and others (including the young Shakespeare himself) made drama popular, but were not good tools for getting at truth. This troubled sense of Shakespeare's may have been why Hamlet was so meta-theatrical. So on he goes to T&C, taking on what was, to the people of his day, the most dramatic of stories- The Iliad. I think this play's purpose is to show that Hector's mercy isn't so merciful, Achilles grandeur wasn't so grand, Cressida's falseness wasn't just false, Ulysses intellect wasn't intellectual, and Troilus's trueness wasn't so true. The dramatic stereotypes are blown apart. Troilus argues for a doomed war, derides battlefield 'mercy', fights countless battles but won't fight the political trade of his true love, and has no capacity to forgive his 'love' for a betrayal under such extreme circumstances. He doesn't even have the sense to want to stop all this useless fighting even at the end. This man may be in love with Cressida, but what kind of love would this man have? Listen to Troilus arguing for the Trojan war to continue: 'TROILUS: I take to-day a wife, and my election Is led on in the conduct of my will; My will enkindled by mine eyes and ears, Two traded pilots 'twixt the dangerous shores Of will and judgment: how may I avoid, Although my will distaste what it elected, The wife I chose? there can be no evasion To blench from this and to stand firm by honour: We turn not back the silks upon the merchant, When we have soil'd them...' That is Troilus's ghastly 'love' and code of honor. Even if you 'distaste' what you thought tasted good, you must stand by it. Female conquests are exciting, making Troilus at one point 'giddy'. Wives are soiled sheets. As Troilus says: 'What is aught, but as 'tis valued?' In other words, what's Cressida, but what she is to Troilus? What's Helen, but what she means for their various honors? This is why, when witnessing Cressida's betrayal, Troilus says: 'This she? no, this is Diomed's Cressida...' Think of the implications of Troilus's (to me) most beautiful speech: 'TROILUS: O, let my lady apprehend no fear: in all Cupid's pageant there is presented no monster. CRESSIDA: Nor nothing monstrous neither? TROILUS: Nothing, but our undertakings; when we vow to weep seas, live in fire, eat rocks, tame tigers; thinking it harder for our mistress to devise imposition enough than for us to undergo any difficulty imposed. This is the monstruosity in love, lady, that the will is infinite and the execution confined, that the desire is boundless and the act a slave to limit.' Troilus's love, in the end, is as flawed as Hector's nobility or Helen's innocence or Agammemnon's leadership or what have you. Truth-telling is the only beautiful thing in this play, and there is precious little of it. Here's my favorite example, from a most unexpected source of 'beauty': '[Enter MARGARELON] MARGARELON: Turn, slave, and fight. THERSITES: What art thou? MARGARELON: A bastard son of Priam's. THERSITES: I am a bastard too; I love bastards: I am a bastard begot, bastard instructed, bastard in mind, bastard in valour, in every thing illegitimate. One bear will not bite another, and wherefore should one bastard? Take heed, the quarrel's most ominous to us: if the son of a whore fight for a whore, he tempts judgment: farewell, bastard.' [Exit]
From: Ann Davey xyzdavey@tconl.com Date: Saturday, July 17, 2004 02:02 PM George, As usual, I enjoyed your insights. You write very well, and you obviously have a great love for Shakespeare's language. I agree with much of what you say. I cannot be nearly as hard on Troilus as you are, however. During the section of the play where he is talking about soiled beauty, he is talking about Helen, not Cressida. Helen is beautiful, but she did abandon a husband for a lover and indirectly cause the death of thousands of people. In Greek mythology, she at least has the excuse that she is a tool of the gods, but in Shakespeare's play she seems quite oblivious to anything but having a good time. Troilus's critical remarks apply to Helen and they are not at all out of line. Also, I can fully understand his reaction to Cressida's betrayal. After all, she hooks up with her new lover almost immediately and even gives him the token that Troilus had given her a day or so earlier. I think most people would react at least as strongly as he did. In the performance I saw, Ulysses was sympathetic. He seemed to be one of the only Greeks with any kind of brains. Of course, we should expect no less from "wily" Ulysses. Can you explain why you dislike him so much? I like that part you quoted at the end about everyone being bastards. This play is profoundly cynical and sad. I almost wonder if the author was experiencing a kind of depression at the time he wrote it. I guess we will never know. Ann
From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Sunday, July 18, 2004 07:17 AM Ann-- I think you're on the money about depression being in part behind the play. I read somewhere about a Roman emperor drinking tiny vials of poison everyday to immunize himself against assassination attempts... I think of T&C kind of like that, a fortifying little shot of poison. In a play this dark, if Troilus had a true love of Cressida, I think it would flare brightly against such a bleak background. I see no such light. He goes from talking to her in an ornately wooing tone to a heavily condescending tone (example: TROILUS: Dear, trouble not yourself: the morn is cold. CRESSIDA: Then, sweet my lord, I'll call mine uncle down; He shall unbolt the gates. TROILUS: Trouble him not; To bed, to bed: sleep kill those pretty eyes, And give as soft attachment to thy senses As infants' empty of all thought! CRESSIDA: Good morrow, then. TROILUS: I prithee now, to bed. CRESSIDA: Are you a-weary of me? TROILUS: O Cressida! but that the busy day, Waked by the lark, hath roused the ribald crows, And dreaming night will hide our joys no longer, I would not from thee. CRESSIDA: Night hath been too brief. TROILUS: Beshrew the witch! with venomous wights she stays As tediously as hell, but flies the grasps of love With wings more momentary-swift than thought. You will catch cold, and curse me. CRESSIDA: Prithee, tarry: You men will never tarry. O foolish Cressid! I might have still held off, And then you would have tarried. Hark! there's one up.) ...and then he goes from this to hating her. I can't find anywhere in the play where Troilus speaks to or of Cressida in a way that isn't lust-drenched or patronizing or spiteful. Cressida's disappointment in the lines above is palpable. Then Troilus lies to her, yet again, during her departure scene: TROILUS: Hear me, my love: be thou but true of heart,-- CRESSIDA: I true! how now! what wicked deem is this? TROILUS: Nay, we must use expostulation kindly, For it is parting from us: I speak not 'be thou true,' as fearing thee, For I will throw my glove to Death himself, That there's no maculation in thy heart: But 'be thou true,' say I, to fashion in My sequent protestation; be thou true, And I will see thee.' Let me paraphrase there: 'I said be true, but I didn't mean it. I have full confidence in you.' Then 3 lines later: TROILUS: I will corrupt the Grecian sentinels, To give thee nightly visitation. But yet be true. CRESSIDA: O heavens! 'be true' again! Troilus lies most egregiously when he's talking about truth. Appropriate for this play. I read a quote about the great playwright Sean O' Casey's play The Plough and the Stars once that I liked- it basically said that that play's theme was that men will play their fantasy games of war and politics and women will have to shoulder the consequences in reality- I think that could apply here- the men battle over reputations, squabble over corny challenges like Hector's provoking duel over whose women are prettier, they will fight for gloves and whatnot, and women like Cressida and Cassandra and Andromache will have to do the best they can to deal with the resulting situations they find themselves in. This part of the play's message I think has stayed fresh, even for our world today. Ulysses. I read somewhere that the character Hamlet is the only literary figure so gifted that he could've written the play he finds himself in. Ulysses has such great speeches, and is a smart enough man to be, if not a Shakespeare, then definitely a Jonathan Swift. But he uses his intellect only to manipulate or mock. Probably to be expected in the toxic atmosphere of T&C, but it chills my liking of him.
From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, July 18, 2004 09:07 AM Somewhere in these notes, someone said that sympathy for the women in this play is a modern phenomena...or did I read that elsewhere? I think that's true. I don't get the sense that Shakespeare feels any sympathy for her. In fact, I sensed his own bitterness toward Cressida and, certainly, Helen. In the introduction to my edition, Richard Wheeler is referenced as arguing well that...in the Sonnets and in the so called "problem" plays, notably Troilus and Cressida, Shakespeare unveils the terrifying spectre that has menacingly threatened his earlier plays in the shape of a male nightmare; the woman who is in fact untrue to her vows as a lover. Harold Bloom, in his essay on this play, also says that: Perhaps we are back in the story of the Sonnets, as many have suggested, and Cressida is yet another version of the Dark Lady, like the mocking Rosaline in Love's Labour's Lost. War and lust, variations upon the one madness, alike are derided in the play, but the derision provoked by battle is whole hearted, and the rancor and anguish of the erotic life is represented with a far more equivocal response. I haven't read the Sonnets and know nothing of the Dark Lady. Do you think this comparison is apt, George? Barb
From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, July 18, 2004 09:18 AM Ann, the writer (David Bevington, U of Chicago) of my introduction, says that Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex, was often compared with Achilles in the last years of Elizabeth's reign. He staged a catastrophic attempt at a coupe in 1601. Bevington asks is the play's "...depiction of insolent and divided leadership in time of war a reflection of contemporary disillusionment with some of England's governing elite?" Barb
From: Ann Davey xyzdavey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, July 18, 2004 09:33 AM Barb, I haven't read any reviews of the play, but I definitely agree that Shakespeare has little sympathy for Cressida. Thanks for supplying that background. George, I like the fact that you are defending the woman and I am defending the man! The play is successful in making us think seriously about the other side's point of view, which is surely one of the true gifts of great literature. I'm afraid I cannot divorce my opinion from the performance that I saw. It is possible to interpret Troilus's motivations and words differently, but in the play I saw, those very words you quoted are spoken in a a playful, erotic way. The two characters (as played by Anton Lesser and Suzanne Burden) are obviously very much in love. The DVD version, incidentally, is part of a complete set of Shakespearean plays which has been produced by the BBC and Time-Life Books. I didn't expect to find a recorded version of this lesser known play at my library and was pleasantly surprised to find it. George, I agree that the play shows that "men will play their fantasy games of war and politics and women will have to shoulder the consequences in reality." I was struck by the comraderie and good times the Greeks and the Trojans were having when Hector visited the camp and the (to me) empty speeches about fighting for honor. Andromache and Cassandra, who are right, are completely ignored. Thanks for your comments about Ulysses. Ann
From: Ann Davey xyzdavey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, July 18, 2004 09:48 AM Barb, That background helps make the play more understandable. Pres, I appreciate your supplying so many critical references about this play. I had trouble following much of the the dialog in the play even when I tried to reread it. I guess I needed an annotated version. I thought the following comments you made were particularly appropriate: There is no reason to doubt that the language is Shakespeare’s. But it lacks Shakespeare’s tone and embracement of humanity so as to seem peculiar and distorted, un-Shakespeare. Though it is one of Shakespeare’s glories that he can spin a long speech with cohesion and coherence, here the speeches are too long, and the excess of material in the speech finally smothers the basic idea in too much of a muchness.
From: Pres Lancaster xyzpreslan369@yahoo.com Date: Sunday, July 18, 2004 12:24 PM Of Richard I, "Coeur de Lion" - "in the opinion of an admiring young contemporary he possessed 'the eloquence of Nestor, the prudence of Ulysses'" RICHARD I by John Gillingham. Yale English Monarchs, 1999. pres How do I know what I think until I see what I say?
From: Ann Davey xyzdavey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, July 18, 2004 02:35 PM In the Odyssey, isn't Ulysses always referred to as "wily" Ulysses? Ann
From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Sunday, July 18, 2004 04:01 PM Ann-- I'm now motivated to somehow see a performance of T&C... and I like the gender-swap in defense too! You've made me think hard about a different way of seeing Troilus, and I appreciate it. Barb-- I think the 'Dark Lady' comparison is apt, although I think Shakespeare is somewhat sympathetic to Cressida- he gives her a lot of wit and a lot more wordplay than any other character- always a sign of Shakespearean favor. I think Bloom's quote is the more profitable speculation because it stresses ambivalence- Cressida is not a nightmarish specter, she is a beautiful, interesting, and in the end, dangerous person to love.
From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Tuesday, July 20, 2004 02:11 AM I'm reading a very interesting science book by Matt Ridley called The Agile Gene. I'm finding it tough going. I'd gotten through 45 pages about gene sequencing and transcription factors to come, unexpectedly, upon this: 'Shakespeare was ahead of us, as usual.' He then goes on to give examples from A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest, showing how each impacted the intellectual streams that led to thoughts about studies of the chemical influence on 'love' and gave rise to the debate over nature vs. nurture. This happens to me time and again, whether in books about Nietzsche or science or travel... Shakespeare gets quoted, and it turns out he was ahead of us. To me, that is one of his primary values. Where, in T&C, is Shakespeare ahead of us? In Act V, sc II. we get a dizzying set piece of perspectives, we are an audience watching Therisites watch Ulysses watching Troilus all watching Cressida and Diomedes. This layer cake of observations surely enhances our ability to get truth, right? No. Troilus says: 'O madness of discourse, That cause sets up with and against itself! Bi-fold authority! where reason can revolt Without perdition, and loss assume all reason Without revolt: this is, and is not, Cressid. Within my soul there doth conduce a fight Of this strange nature that a thing inseparate Divides more wider than the sky and earth' ...it reminds me of the O.J. trial, the more experts, the more evidence, the further the truth slipped away. The more perspectives, the more agendas, the foggier things get. And Troilus knows it. The 'fight' in his soul is a madness of discourse over a love that once made him feel unified to someone else and now makes him feel separate from everything. The same force that can piece us together can rend us apart- while staying exactly the same force. It is a mystery akin to God's taking and leavings in The Old Testament. But Shakespeare has modernized the mystery by widening the lens on it, letting us see it through multiple eyes (Ulysses, Therisites, etc.,) that actually increase AND lessen our vision. He is ahead of us yet again.
From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Tuesday, July 20, 2004 07:17 AM Excellent, excellent note, George. I know that many found Shakespeare entertaining in his time, but I wonder if anyone was really aware of the extent of his genius. And, when we see bitterness in his writing, I wonder if that is one of the contributing factors. Barb

 

 
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