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Troilus And Cressida
by William Shakespeare
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Too long, with too many rambling speeches from undifferentiated characters, TROILUS AND CRESSIDA is not one of Shakespeare's most entertaining plays. And, like JULIUS CAESAR, it's one in which the title characters are not even the protagonists. Indeed, among the legions of Greek and Trojan princes and soldiers, no one really emerges as a memorable figure in this drama, and it needs to be rescued by fine performances in the minor roles. David Troughton as the witty Thersites and Ben Martin as the brutish Ajax both help carry off the more memorable scenes in this play, which, for all its faults, does have some remarkable poetry. D.B. © AudioFile 2002, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine
"I cannot recommend too highly the whole series to all theatre lovers, theatregoers, theatre practicioners, and anybody who enjoys Shakespeare."
Robert Tanitch, What's On in London
As social turmoil increased in England, audiences grew more in tune with Shakespeare's cynical undercutting of the Homeric tale of Greeks and Trojans, and less dismissive of his dark comedic treatment of the Medieval tale of Troilus and Cressida. This edition of his problematic play traces its theatrical history. It draws upon critical responses, photographic archives, promptbooks, and video tapes of more recent productions to reveal changes in production styles and emphasis, against a broader background of social change.
The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature
Drama in five acts by William Shakespeare, performed about 1601-02 and printed in a quarto edition in 1609. Although this play is included among the tragedies in the First Folio, many critics prefer to classify it with the "problem plays" or the "darker comedies." Based on George Chapman's translation of the Iliad and on 15th-century accounts of the Trojan War by John Lydgate and William Caxton, Troilus and Cressida is an often cynical exploration of the betrayal of love, the absence of heroism, and the emptiness of honor. The play was also influenced by Geoffrey Chaucer's love poem Troilus and Criseyde, although Shakespeare's treatment of the lovers and his attitude toward their dilemma is in sharp contrast with Chaucer's. Cressida, a Trojan woman whose father has defected to the Greeks, pledges her love to Troilus, one of King Priam's sons. However, when her father demands her presence in the Greek camp, she quickly switches her affections to Diomedes, the Greek soldier who is sent to escort her. The legendary Greek hero Achilles is depicted as petulant and self-centered, and Agamemnon is a foolish windbag. Thersites, a deformed Greek, comments wryly on the actions of the other characters, while Pandarus, the bawdy go-between of the lovers, enjoys watching their degradation. The drama ends on a note of complete moral and political disintegration, allowing none of the characters to rise above their foolish behavior.
About the Author
Frances Shirley is Professor of English Emerita, Wheaton College, Norton, MA.
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