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MonkeyNotes-Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare
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CONFLICT

The conflict cannot really be seen in terms of the conventional dichotomy of protagonist-antagonist. Here, both the Trojans and the Greeks seem equal losers. Both sides have negative shades to them. The Greeks are presented as scheming, conniving and indulging in petty politics. Their best warriors are proud and arrogant. The Trojans, who are on the whole, presented more sympathetically, but they too have their shortcomings. Their greatest warrior, Hector, is naive and shown to be swayed by specious arguments. To top it all, the prize for which the two sides are engaged in such a bloody conflict is revealed to be one of little worth. Not only does the audience see the ultimate lack of worth of Helen, even the Greeks and the Trojans know and repeatedly say that she doesn’t amount to much. If the play is seen in terms of a conventional conflict, one can see the Trojan-Greek War embodied in the Paris-Helen-Menelaus tussle replicated in the Diomedes-Cressida-Troilus triangle of the ‘love’ plot. But there is no fight between good and evil, there are no heroes or villains - both sides are pitiably unimpressive.

Climax

Most would contend that the play has two climaxes in keeping with the double plot. The climax of the ‘love’ plot comes with Cressida’s betrayal of Troilus in Act V, Scene 2, while that of the War story comes when Hector is slaughtered by Achilles and his Myrmidons in Scene 8 of the same act.


Outcome

Cressida’s dalliance with Diomedes, which is witnessed by Troilus, serves to fuel his disillusionment and change his character. At the end of the play, the audience gets to see a hardened Troilus, who has lost faith in both love and the War. From the soft young man given to breaking into cliched poetry, he becomes the ruthless warrior who doesn’t even believe in the worth of what he’s fighting for. From the lovesick Petrarchan lover, he becomes the livid rejecter of love missives.

Hector’s death in Act V, Scene 8 has more consequence for the Trojans and for the War as a whole, than Troilus’ transformation. At the moment of death Hector who pleads with the murderous Achilles to forego his vantage, exposes himself as truly naive. His naiveté is irresponsible because it leads to his death and what will be certain decimation of the Trojan side. Hector’s fault is great - he suffers from a kind of blindness that cannot be forgiven in warrior of his stature. Because of his naive belief in a code of honor that is clearly disdained by Achilles, and his disregard for his own person, which he ought to have known was of great value to the Trojans, he fails them and brings about their ultimate destruction.

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