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MonkeyNotes-Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare
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Diomedes exits. Cressida bids Troilus farewell. She says that one eye still looks at him but her other eye sees with her heart. She says she finds one fault with women - the error of their eyes directs their minds. She concludes that ‘Minds sway’d by eyes are full of turpitude,’ before she exits. Thersites says that Cressida could not better manifest a forceful proof unless she had said ‘My mind is now turn’d whore.’

Ulysses pronounces that everything is now over and Troilus agrees. ‘Why stay we then?’ asks Ulysses. Troilus says that they were staying so he could make a commemorative account to his soul of every syllable that had been spoken there. He says that there is still an act of belief in his heart, a hope so obstinately strong, that it inverts the testimony of eyes and ears, as if those organs had deceptive functions and were created only to calumniate. He asks if Cressida had really been there. Ulysses says that he cannot make up things. Troilus insists that Cressida had not been there. Ulysses says that she most certainly had been.

Troilus says that his negation had no taste of madness in it. Ulysses says nor does his, and insists that Cressida had been there a while before. Troilus says that out of regard for the whole of womanhood, let it not be believed that Cressida had been there. Think of our mothers, he says adding that they shouldn’t give an advantage to stubborn critics who were apt without a theme for detraction and calumny, to take Cressida’s example and apply it to the whole of womankind. He means that this woman being exceptional in having no value, is, therefore, neither Cressida nor any other proper representative of her sex. Ulysses asks him ‘What hath she done, prince that can soil our mothers?’ Ulysses will not extrapolate from Cressida’s action in order to condemn women in general, for that would be irrational. Troilus says that Cressida has done nothing, unless of course this was really her.


Thersites wonders whether Troilus will by sheer bluster bring himself to deny the evidence of his eyes. Troilus says that whoever he saw was Diomede’s Cressida. He says that if beauty is embodied in mortal woman, this was not her. If souls guide vows, Troilus affirms that it is the very principal of one’s being which directs one when one performs a vow. If vows were sacred things, if sanctity, holiness of life or character is god’s delight, if there was law and principle in unity itself, this was not she. ‘O madness of discourse, /That cause sets up with and against itself!,’ he exclaims. He says that the reasoning that appears to contradict the evidence before his eyes, divides the case and is both plaintiff and defendant.

As long as Cressida appears to be two contradictory persons in one body - for she was there and yet she could not have done what she did - Troilus is unable to make distinctions, and yet reason seems still to operate. ‘This is, and is not, Cressid./Within my soul there doth conduce a fight’ he continues saying that a fight is joined of this strange nature, ‘that a thing inseparate/Divides more wider than the sky and earth.’ There is infinite distance between the two persons of Cressida whose being admits no division, yet the two persons so distinct cannot be separated by the finest of points.

Troilus asks for a particular example as evidence of a general proposition and says that ‘Cressida is mine, tied with the bonds fo heaven’ that she is his with legal or moral ties or obligations. But those bonds of heaven ‘are slip’d, dissolv’d and loos’d’ 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 given to Diomed.’

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