From the very first lines of Shakespeare’s play, it is clear this is not a retelling of the Iliad. The first line: “in Troy, there lies the scene,” (1.prologe.1) firmly places the reader inside the city of Troy. The first lines of the Iliad, widely known today, and even more celebrated in Shakespeare’s time, speaks of the anger of Achilles. It asks to “Sing, O Goddess, the anger of Achilles” (Illiad, 1.1). The discrepancy of these first two lines immediately displaces the reader into a new retelling of Homer’s original epic poem. Ultimately begging the question: is Troilus and Cressida a Homeric retelling or is it in fact antihomeric?
Troilus and Cressida has been read as a tragedy, a history, and a black comedy. It has a dual plot line featuring a tragic love story and a political war drama. But what you won’t find in the Sparknotes summary of Troilus and Cressida is that it’s really a story that’s part mystery, part cautionary tale about Pandarus’s syphilis.
Certainty is rarely applicable when reading Shakespeare, as there are few lines written that can be taken at face value. The word surety itself has several meanings in Troilus and Cressida that unveil various subtexts and characterization details. Continue reading
Whats for dinner? Bread? Sex? Betrayel?
In “Troilus and Cressida,” Shakespeare uses food imagery everywhere as a thinly veiled euphemism for sexual and carnal desire. Appealing to the crowd, Shakespeare knows that he’s among commoners who spend time drinking at taverns, wasting money away on whoring and gambling. Some of the male characters’ “hungry desires” for women probably reflect the viewers’ cravings for members of the female population. This male-female dynamic is especially inherent in the supposed “romance” between Troilus and Cressida.
Troilus and Cressida is a breeding ground for polarized gender theory, since Cressida is such an overtly provocative character. Critics often try to pin Shakespeare as either a subtly progressive feminist, or a chauvinistic pig, and Cressida has preoccupied much of this discourse. However, by acknowledging the plights of Achilles concurrently with Cressida’s, I’ve reached a different conclusion: Troilus and Cressida does not expose Shakespeare as a misogynist, nor as a sympathizer for women stuck in a dualistic world that favors men. No, Troilus and Cressida exposes Shakespeare as a dissenter from the patriarchy, and exhibits his understanding that such a system favors no one, as it fragments and limits both male and female identity. Continue reading
In Act II.2 of Troilus and Cressida, Priam and Trojan force deliberate the value of continuing a war that can be stopped with the simple return of Helen. It seems like an easy fix: countless lives salvaged with one simple act of retuning Helen to her rightful place. Hector’s eloquent argument (1.2.8-25, 1.2.164-193), however, is overlooked by Troilus’s claim that there is more to Helen than meets the eye. Troilus argues for passion rather than objective reason, claiming that if the Trojans were to make every war decision based on what would minimize physical harm, “manhood and honor should have hare hearts (1.2.47-48). Continue reading
Man’s desire for Helen has fueled a 7-year battle between Sparta and Troy in Shakespeare’s play Troilus and Cressida, but it is the objectification of Cressida and the roles men have in her life that Shakespeare uses to comment on the patriarchal values of society. The act of marriage and the exchange of women maintained the patriarchal structures of both the play’s setting in Ancient Greece and Jacobean England in which Shakespeare was writing. Continue reading
‘ As You Like it Blog Post’
In ‘As You Like It’ Shakespeare compares Duke senior to the heroic outlaw of British folklore: Robin Hood. On the surface this comparison was obvious; they both live in the forest and they both have a loyal group of followers.
“They say he is already in the Forest of Arden and a many merry men with him, and there they live like the Old Robin Hood.” (1.1.100) Continue reading
As a pastoral comedy, As You Like It features the Forest of Arden as a setting that fosters utopian values. While characters such as Duke Senior celebrate the culture of Arden, the behaviors of his men and the antics of Jacques and Touchstone call the utopian status of the forest into question. In his essay “As You Like It: The Thin Line Between Legitimate Utopia and Compensatory Vacation”, Farrar examines how Shakespeare dramatizes the problems facing the utopian imagination through the conflicts of each character’s attitude. Continue reading