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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS
The play is set during the Trojan War. The two strands - the love story of Troilus and Cressida, and the story of the War fought between the Greeks and the Trojans over the abduction of Helen, the wife of Greek King Menelaus by Paris, a Trojan prince - are woven together. The action moves between the battlefield, the Greek camp and Troy. The audience gets an insight into an advanced civilization under severe threat that is slipping beyond rational control even as they watch. But there are no winners and losers. Both societies are seriously flawed.
The Prologue is a soldier in armor who puts the action in context and introduces the audience to the setting and the major conflicts of the play.
The son of Priam who is brave, magnanimous, kind and dynamic but tragically naive. He is the brain and the arm of Troy - it’s most admired warrior, and certainly the most admirable character in the play
Son of Priam and lover of Cressida. A brave warrior and second only to Hector in the Trojan camp
Troilus’ love interest. She is bartered by the Trojans in return for Antenor. Her subsequent betrayal of Troilus makes her a symbol of female inconstancy in the medieval texts that are the source for Troilus and Cressida. But Shakespeare’s Cressida, a witty woman with a risqué sense of humor, is a complex character who can be viewed either as a victim of War or as a faithless lover.
Cressida's uncle. A lightweight character, he facilitates the union of Troilus and Cressida.
Foremost among the warriors in the Greek camp. Leader of the Myrmidons, he is the arm of the Greeks. His arrogance, brashness, cruelty and cowardice make him one of the most unattractive characters in the play
A half-Greek and half-Trojan warrior, who is second only to Achilles in heroic stature in the Greek camp. All brawn and no brain, he and Achilles are considered ‘drought-oxen’ useful only to ‘plough up the wars’
The brain of the Greek camp. Disgusted by the indolence of the two egotistical warriors, he plays Ajax and Achilles against each other for the larger benefit of the Greeks.
An aged Greek commander and co-conspirator of Ulysses. He has seen three generations of warriors and is a living monument to Time.
A Greek commander who is entrusted with exchanging the Trojan Antenor for. Cressida. A complete realist, he is one of the most clear-sighted characters in the play.
Thersites plays the Fool and his views of the Trojan War and the main players guide the audience in their reactions.
Wife to Menelaus and the face that ‘launch’d above a thousand ships’, her abduction is the ostensible cause of the Trojan War.
Helen’s abductor. He is presented as weak-willed and besotted with Helen.
The Greek general who is perceived as ineffective.