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Troilus and Cressida

Written: 1602 Texts: Quartos (two editions) 1609; First Folio 1623 (Tragedy)
Sources: Homer (c. 900.BC). Iliad (English translation in 1598 by George Chapman); Chaucer, Geoffrey (c.1340-1400). Troilus and Criseyde (c. 1385); Caxton, William (c.1421-91). Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye) (1475, 5th ed. 1596); Lydgate, John (c.1370-1449). The Troy Book (1412-20, 1555 ed); de Malynes, Gerard (1601) The Canker of England's Commonwealth.
Characters: Troilus, Ulysses, Cressida, Hector, Pandarus, Agamemnon, Achilles, Nestor, Aeneas, Diomedes, Thersites, Paris, Helen
Setting: Troy
Time: 1194“1184 BC (Trojan War)


Troilus and Cressida is assumed to be written in 1602 because it was entered into the the Stationers' Register on February 7, 1603. In addition, the Prologue, which appears only in the Folio, includes these lines:

“And hither am I come,
A prologue armed, but not in confidence
Of author's pen or actor's voice, but suited
In like conditions as our argument…”

This seems to be an allusion to Ben Jonson's 1601 Poetaster‘s “armed Prologue” which defends his author's writing against “illiterate apes.”

Two quarto editions were printed in 1609. The second edition includes a preface that states the play was new and, “neuer stal'd with the Stage, neuer clapper-clawed with the palms of the Vulgar.” However, the Stationers' Register of 1603 recorded it as, “‘Troilus and Cresseda' as yt is acted by my lord Chamberlens Men,” and the first quarto edition states, “As it was acted by the Kings Maiefties feruents at the Globe.” Some scholars speculate that the play may have been performed for a private audience but not for the public. Others speculate that performances were planned but cancelled for political reasons.

Another curious question is whether the play is a comedy, history or tragedy. The first quarto titles it, “THE Hiftorie of Troylus and Creffeida.” The second quarto titles it, “THE Famous Hiftorie of Troylus and Creffeid.” The Folio titles it, “THE TRAGEDIE OF Troylus and Crefsida.” However, the play is omitted from the Folio's Catalogue so it is not listed among the tragedies. In the body of most of the Folios, it is inserted between the histories and the tragedies. In a few Folios, it does not appear at all. The play has elements of comedies – humor, young lovers, a clown – but those elements are found in many of Shakespeare's tragedies. Many modern scholars consider Troilus and Cressida a problem play. The problem this play explores is how affairs of heart and of state are treated in economic or, more specifically, mercantile figurative language.

Iago and Ulysses on Order and Degree

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Ulysses and Iago express similar themes about order and degree. Iago speaks more specifically about seniority versus affections and recommendations.
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In Troy there lies the scene

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Enter the Prologue in armor.

In Troy there lies the scene.Hyperbaton From isles of Greece
The princes orgulousAnastrophe, their high blood chafed,
Have to the port of Athens sent their shipsHyperbaton
Fraught with the ministers and instruments
Of cruel war. Sixty and nine,
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Act 1
Line Prologue

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Well, I have told you enough of this

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Pandarus
Well, I have told you enough of this. For my
part, I’ll not meddle nor make no farther. He that will
have a cake out of the wheat must tarry the grinding.
Troilus
Have I not tarried?
Pandarus
Ay, the grinding; but you must tarry the bolting.
Troilus
Have I not tarried?
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Act 1
Scene 1
Line 13

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O, Pandarus! I tell thee, Pandarus

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O, Pandarus! I tell thee, Pandarus:
When I do tell thee there my hopes lie drowned,
Reply not in how many fathoms deep
They lie indrenched. I tell thee I am mad
In Cressid’s love. Thou answer’st she is fair;
Pourest in the open ulcer of my heart
Her eyes, her hair, her cheek, her gait, her voice;
Handiest in thy discourse—O—that her hand,
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Act 1
Scene 1
Line 49

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The noise goes, this:

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Alexander
The noise goes, this: there is among the Greeks
A lord of Trojan blood, nephew to Hector.
They call him Ajax.
Cressida
Good; and what of him?
Alexander
They say he is a very man per se
And stands alone.
Cressida
So do all men unless they are drunk,
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Act 1
Scene 2
Line 15

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Mark him. Note him. O brave Troilus!

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Pandarus
Mark him. Note him. O brave Troilus! Look
well upon him, niece. Look you how his sword is
bloodied and his helm more hacked than Hector’s,
and how he looks, and how he goes. O admirable
youth! He never saw three and twenty.—Go thy
way, Troilus; go thy way!—Had I a sister were a
Grace,
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Act 1
Scene 2
Line 237

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Troy, yet upon his basis, had been down

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Troy, yet upon his basis, had been down,
And the great Hector’s sword had lacked a masterMetonymy
But for these instances:
The specialty of rule hath been neglected,
And look how many Grecian tents do stand
Hollow upon this plain, so many hollow factions.
When that the general is not like the hive
To whom the foragers shall all repair,

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Act 1
Scene 3
Line 79

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Connected Notes:
Iago and Ulysses on Order and Degree

This Trojan scorns us

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Agamemnon
This Trojan scorns us, or the men of Troy
Are ceremonious courtiers.
Aeneas
Courtiers as free, as debonair, unarmed,
As bending angels—that’s their fame in peace.
But when they would seem soldiers, they have galls,
Good arms, strong joints, true swords, and—great Jove’s accord—
Nothing so full of heart. But peace, Aeneas.
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Act 1
Scene 3
Line 237

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Adieu, uncle

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Cressida
Adieu, uncle.
Pandarus
I will be with you, niece, by and by.
Cressida
To bring, uncle?
Pandarus
Ay, a token from Troilus.
Cressida
By the same token, you are a bawd.
Pandarus exits.
Words, vows, gifts, tears, and love’s full sacrifice
He offers in another’s enterprise;
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Act 1
Scene 3
Line 284

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Fie, fie, my brother, Weigh you the worth and honor of a king

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Troilus
Fie, fie, my brother,
Weigh you the worth and honor of a king
So great as our dread father’s in a scale
Of common ounces? Will you with counters sum
The past-proportion of his infinite,
And buckle in a waist most fathomless
With spans and inches so diminutive
As fears and reasons? Fie, for godly shame!
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Act 2
Scene 2
Line 26

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Brother, she is not worth what she doth cost

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Hector
Brother, she is not worth what she doth cost
The keeping.
Troilus
What’s aught but as ’tis valued?
Hector
But value dwells not in particular will;
It holds his estimate and dignity
As well wherein ’tis precious of itself
As in the prizer. ‘Tis mad idolatry
To make the service greater than the god;
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Act 2
Scene 2
Line 54

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