Troilus and Cressida
Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University
TROILUS AND CRESSIDA
Aeneas meets up with the parties involved in the exchange: Paris, Diomed[es], Antenor, and others. The courtesy Paris encourages between enemies of war highlights the odd fact that in this play, enemies tend to treat each other better than friends, and indeed bolster pride more too. Nevertheless, Aeneas and Diomedes seem to have the type of natural antipathy to each other that Hector and Achilles experience.
In rounding up Cressida next, Paris notes, “I constantly believe / (Or rather call my thought a certain knowledge) / My brother Troilus lodges there tonight” (IV.i.41) — meaning Pandarus’ house. First, it’s interesting and frightening that this characterizes the world of this play, that knowledge is really nothing more than vague suspicion or guesswork. Second, despite the hyperconscious attention paid to one’s reputation and in this case Troilus’ secrecy about his private life, everybody seems to know. Small-town grotesquery. Aeneas a moment later confirms this (IV.i.47-48).
Diomed sullenly responds to queries concerning his disgust with Paris, Helen, and Menelaus. He’s worse than disillusioned with it all too, but hasn’t found an alternative diversion as Achilles had done. But Paris’ diagnosis is that he’s jealous (IV.i.76-77).
“Shakespeare provides for Troilus and Cressida, as he did for Romeo and Juliet, an aubade, or dawn love scene” (Garber 550). In the morning, Pandarus is, as always, nearby with lewd comments. News of the swap comes, after Pandarus tells Aeneas that he doesn’t know if Troilus is lodged there at his house. Troilus seems upset but expresses it thus: “How my achievements mock me!” (IV.ii.69). Cressida swears, “Make Cressid’s name the very crown of falsehood, / If ever she leave Troilus!” (IV.ii.100-101), and then announces, “I’ll go in and weep” (IV.ii.105).
Twelve lines in which Paris sympathizes with Troilus. It’s obviously hypocritical that the Trojans are willing to fork a woman over to the Greeks for a warrior, whereas giving back Helen would solve everything. “Why Troilus should be so reluctant to let Priam or Hector know of his love is not made clear in the play. One might argue that it was a time to fight and not to love and that father and older brother would object to having young Troilus moon away his time when the city was in such peril” (Asimov 81).
Cressida seems to agonize and Troilus laments that “We two … / Did buy each other, must poorly sell ourselves / With the rude brevity and discharge of one” (IV.iv.39-41). Yuck. Troilus gives Cressida a sleeve as a love token — “often richly embroidered and … worn separately from the main garment” (Carey 402); Cressida gives him a glove. Then they seem to alternate between distrust of one another and self-loathing.
In this very next scene, intentionally juxtaposed, no doubt, Cressida is already bantering with the Greeks, themselves intent on gang-kissing her. Ulysses considers her a slut and wants nothing to do with this kissing rubbish. “Chaucer, in his version, presents Cressida’s dilemma far more sympathetically and lets us pity her in her fall. Shakespeare only lets us despise her” (Asimov 119). The elder Ogburns feel that in this scene, Cressida especially represents Anne Vavasour, later also called one of “Diana’s waiting-women” (V.ii.88) (Ogburn and Ogburn 629).
Everyone exchanges information about each other’s reputations while Hector and Ajax prepare for combat. “It is characteristic of the deflationary mode of this play that the great event to which it long seems to be leading proves inconclusive: Hector abandons his combat with Ajax” (Wells 222). Ajax, who personifies “stupid brute force” is “momentarily softened” by Hector’s gracious call for peace between cousins — “Thus does a genuinely peaceful spirit in a courageous man beget peace in utterly unpromising quarters” (Goddard, II 29).
Hector is welcomed into the Greek camp for the evening. Again, despite tensions, as when the subject of Helen comes up, enemies treat each other relatively well. We do catch a glimpse of the natural antipathy between Hector and Achilles, but Hector pulls back, realizing about himself, “His insolence draws folly from my lips” (258). Apparently, peer pressure in ancient times seduced everyone into being lunkheads.
Ulysses puts a bug in Troilus’ ear about Cressida and Diomed.