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.
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?
“Engine” and “Engineer” are only used a total of three times throughout Troilus and Cressida. Yet each use enfolds layers of hidden meaning through which Shakespeare’s voice can be heard. Continue reading