Category Archives: Keywords

Patroclus the ‘Strutter’

In the events of the Trojan War, Patroclus figures as a minor character of small importance. Yes he is a great warrior and yes he is of high command for the Greek’s camp, but in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, he inhabits the role of the dutiful companion of Achilles and is a comic foil to the rest of the Greek heroes in the camp. Only his death spurs Achilles to become the enraged and aggressive fighter that he is known throughout the land to be.

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Cressida: A Sexual Delicacy or Nauseating Refuse?

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.

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“Live aye with thy name!” Thoughts on Pimps and Posterity

Sex! Sex sells: we hear this all the time. Sex is sold, we hear this all the time whether it is in conversations about advertising or prostitution; Cressida in Troilus and Cressida; or the relative value of women and men at Dartmouth as they progress through their time here on the “Dartmouth X”: in all of these instances sex is a commodity to be purchased by the highest bidder.

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The Human Economy in War

In the false economy of war in the epic, human bodies are a commodity. Shakespeare, with Troilus and Cressida, reveals the grotesque and the mundane in the legend of the Trojan War. In the epic retellings of this ten year war, the world created is stagnant, without capitalism or production, without cultural exchange or growth. The Greeks remain camped outside the walls, and the Trojans within. Bodies become the only mediator of value, and are digested in various ways.

To digest: to divide and dispose; to disperse; to classify; to prepare food in the stomach; to suppurate. Many ways of seeing the word can be read into the human economy of Troilus and Cressida. Continue reading

The Interchangeability of Compose/ Composure

The words composure and compose each appear twice in Shakespeare’s, Troilus and Cressida. Of these four times, Troilus speaks it twice and then once each by Greek leaders Nestor and Ulysses.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) there are three different forms of compose/ composure utilized in this play. The noun version which defines composure as a fabric or structure material; a made up whole, a combination, or structure. Continue reading

A Poor What Now?


In a play about a war between Trojans and Greeks, a word in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida seems a bit out of place: the Italian word capocchia. The notes in the text of The Complete Pelican Shakespeare edition of the play merely translate it to mean “simpleton” (508). However, Gretchen Minton and Paul B. Harvey Jr. suggest that it may have a more raunchy meaning that better fits with the character of Pandarus (who utters the word) and the word play so beloved by Shakespeare. Continue reading

The Elephant In The Room: Ajax

elephant, n.
1. b. fig. of a man of huge stature.
1609   Shakespeare Troilus and Cressida ii. iii. 2   Shall the Elephant Aiax carry it thus?

The elephant; noble, beautiful, and calm, gracefully shuffling forwards on four tree-stump legs that crush anything that may so unfortunately find itself beneath them—bugs, small mammals, human toes. It’s a fait that can’t be avoided because, as we know, elephants can’t bend their knees.  Continue reading

Who Should Rule? and Opinion

In many of Shakespeare’s plays certain words can carry a variety of meanings. Each of these different meanings cast a different light on events and issues in the play. Troilus and Cressida is no exception to this trend. Here one with a variety of implications in “opinion”. Although some might consider it a word with a straightforward meaning, Shakespeare uses it in different ways. This begs the question: how and what for?

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