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MonkeyNotes-Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare
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Act IV, Scene 4 Summary

Cressida tells Pandarus of her great grief. ‘The grief is fine, full, perfect, that I taste, /And violenteth in a sense as strong/As that which causeth it:’ she says. Troilus enters and the couple has a wrenching few minutes before their tearful farewell. When Cressida asks him when they’ll meet again, Troilus tells her ‘be thou true of heart’ rather ominously. They exchange tokens - he gives her his sleeve and she gives him her glove. He tells her that he will try to ‘corrupt the Grecian sentinels’ and visit her, and once again asks her to be true: ‘But yet be true.’

When Cressida exclaims aghast at his ‘be true’ he explains that he is saying so because ‘the Grecian youths are full of quality, /Their loving well compos’d, with gift of nature flowing, /And swelling o’er with arts and exercise. /How novelty may move, and parts with person, /Alas, a kind of godly jealousy - /

which I beseech you call a virtuous sin - /Makes me afeard.’

When Cressida wails that he doesn’t love her, he says, ‘In this I do not call your faith in question / So mainly as my merit.’ He then enumerates the dances, the sweet talk and the skillful games that the Greeks are adept at but he is not, and says that each of these skills are tempting. ‘But be not tempted’ he says. When Cressida asks him if he thinks she will succumb to temptation, he says ‘ No,’ but adds that they put too much faith in a potency, which then turns out to be changeable.

When Cressida asks Troilus if he’ll be true he says, ‘alas, it is my vice, my fault.’ He says that others get great reputations by their skill in deception, whereas he being true is free from all artifice and in being straightforward, is pure sincerity. Aeneas, Paris, Antenor, Deiphobus and Diomedes enter while Troilus is talking to Cressida.

Troilus tells Diomedes that this is the lady for whom they are exchanging Antenor. He tells him that he will relinquish her into his hand at the door. He tells him to understand what she is: ‘And by the way possess thee what she is.’ He tells him to treat her well and that if ever he finds himself standing at the mercy of his Troilus’ sword, he only had to name Cressida and he would be spared.


Diomedes, as terse as ever and discourteously ignoring a polite request, tells Cressida that her looks ensure that she will be treated well. Troilus is irritated. He tells Diomedes that Cressida is much greater than his praise for her and that he is unworthy to be called her servant. He tells him to treat her well and threatens to cut his throat ‘Though the great bulk Achilles be thy guard,’ if he did not.

Diomedes reminds Troilus that since he is on a diplomatic errand, he is immune from assault. He then begins to exploit that privilege by saying that he will respond to Troilus’ threat on the battlefield exactly as he chooses and at his pleasure. Troilus tells Diomedes to come to the door and that he will often make him hide his head. He then tells Cressida to give him her hand and that they will indulge in their ‘needful talk’ as they walk to the door.

A trumpet is sounded as Troilus, Cressida and Diomedes’ exit. Pandarus exclaims that the trumpet is the signal for Hector to ride out into battle. Paris and Aeneas rush out to ‘tend on Hector’s heels./The glory of our Troy doth this day lie/On his fair worth and single chivalry.

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