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MonkeyNotes-Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare
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Hitherto, Troilus has spoken of the gap between promise and performance. Now Cressida speaks of the gap between her behavior in the past and her true feelings and moves on to regret the double self that she finds in herself. The one that is at her command and can withdraw from Troilus and the other that having divided her would stay in order to be deceived by her lover’s promises.

The discussion is brief and the lovers then take up the stance, which establishes them as types. The scene then ends with a formal statement by the lovers and by Pandarus of their function as seen by history and tradition - faithful Troilus, faithless Cressida and Pandarus the go-between. Their vague apprehensions link the scene with the political debates in both camps.

Scene 3 is an important scene that corresponds to Act IV, Scene 5. Here, Calchas successfully pleads for the exchange of Antenor for Cressida, and Ulysses mocks Achilles. Constructed of several separate ‘actions’, the scene proceeds to a climax in a debate between Achilles and Ulysses and it contains within itself lesser mimetic actions like the scorning of Achilles by the Greek generals near the beginning and the pageant of Ajax at the conclusion.

The first 37 lines, where leave is granted for the exchange of Cressida and Antenor, is an ironic touch that undercuts the preceding wooing scene, and looks forward to the disastrous collapse of Troilus’ faith. The scorning of Achilles offers pride a reflection of itself. Its method is reminiscent of Act I, Scene 2 and once again we have characters ‘passing over the stage.’ At the same time, there is a connection with that former visit of the Greeks to Achilles in Act II, Scene 3 but here the processes are reversed. Achilles finds his appertainments withdrawn, the Greek generals go off haughtily, Agamemnon speaks with Achilles through Nestor, and the result is a prolonged analysis of the ways in which man and his attributes may be related. The analysis represents the Greek view of reputation and value. The scene closes with a piece of professional mime by Thersites and Patroclus that begins with Thersites’ picture of Ajax stalking about the field and presents the alienated Ajax as a perfect figure of Pride who can think of nothing but playing his part perfectly.

The first scene of Act IV introduces us to the character of Diomedes. Hard headed and not given to self-delusion, Diomedes goes straight to the heart of the matter and unflinchingly describes what he sees. He is unable to hide his bitterness and his belief that all the destruction is like Thersites believes, over a whore, a cuckold and a cuckold-maker.


The ambiguous tone hovering uneasily between levity and sadness, that marked the lovers’ coming together in Act III, Scene 2, is continued at the beginning of this morning Act IV, Scene 2. Here, Shakespeare telescopes the event in such a way that the exchange of Cressida for Antenor, demanded by Calchas, is arranged while she is lying with Troilus. This undercuts the seriousness of the ‘love affair.’

Scene 3 is a linking scene that gives the audience a further glimpse of Troilus’ depth of feeling when he tells Paris he will deliver Cressida to Diomedes.

The exchange of love tokens in Scene 4 provides a strand that connects this scene to the later scenes involving Troilus’ sleeve. In fact, a lot of the events in this scene connect to later episodes. When Troilus tells Cressida of the attraction of the Greeks, we know she will soon succumb and Troilus words sound almost prophetic. This scene also marks the meeting of Diomedes and Cressida and contrasts Diomedes with Troilus.

Act IV, Scene 5 corresponds to Act III, Scene 3. Like the previous one, this scene is long and demonstrative, and has a compound structure. This scene finds its climax in the frustrated plot of Ulysses: its center is a duel - between Hector and Ajax - which comes to nothing but embrace. At the same time, much of its dramatic force comes from a variety of demonstrations of the nature of a man - Achilles grows surly, Hector is magnificent or wrathful, and Ajax behaves with unexpected courtesy.

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