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MonkeyNotes-Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare
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Notes

Of the seven deadly sins, Troilus and Cressida concern itself with Pride, envy and lechery. Pride, the chief deadly sin occupies a central position and is mostly the domain of Achilles and Ajax, and by the time of the embassy to Achilles in this act, it is the chief focus.

Prefaced by Thersites and the ‘fool positive’ Patroclus, this absurd scene sees the Greek lords once again enter accompanied by petty jealousies and recriminations. Their folly is off set by Agamemnon’s large talk - his ponderous self-aggrandizement by means of the royal ‘we’, and his carefully elaborated magnanimity.


The incorrigible Thersites has already put the audience in the know with his picture of the overturning of degree. ‘Agamemnon is a fool to offer to command Achilles. Achilles is a fool to be commanded of Agamemnon, Thersites is a fool to serve such a fool and this Patroclus is a fool positive.’ But superiority is a pose that Agamemnon clings to even when he is further snubbed.

Again we are supplied a subtext by the irrepressible Thersites who sees things with an unbearable clarity. When Achilles pronounces that he will talk with nobody and retires to his tent, Thersites decries his behavior in refusing obedience to Agamemnon, and then he passes a larger comment on the whole Trojan conflict.

The Greek party begins to look like a company of boors. What ensues is a careful analysis of Achilles’ pride by Ulysses, a proud rejection of pride by Ajax and splendid ironic praise of Ajax’s freedom from pride by all the Greeks. Ulysses and the other Greeks cleverly use Ajax to make the unwieldy Achilles run to their will, and a deep sense of absurdity eventually pushes both the scene and the act to a superb climax.

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