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MonkeyNotes-Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare
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Scene Summaries With Notes

Prologue

The Prologue is an armored soldier, who places the action in the Trojan War and tells the reader/audience of the context of the 2play. Here, the audience learns of the 69 Greek princes, who have sent ships laden with ministers and instruments of War to recapture Helen wife of Greek king Menelaus who has run away with Paris, son of Priam, king of Troy. The Prologue who speaks directly to the audience draws a picture of the Greeks pitching their encampments on the Dardan Plains outside the strong six- gated city of Troy. He places his arrival squarely at the point where the mood of the warriors on both sides has grown spirited, strikes a personal note with the audience and informs them that the action steps over the beginnings of the Trojan War. He goes straight to the more easily dramatized events.


Notes

In an age when stagecraft didn’t include very elaborate or obvious sets, the Prologue verbally recreates the scene, and places the action in its appropriate geographic and temporal location.

There is no other Shakespearean tragedy ( if this can be called a tragedy) in which two such different plots run parallel and yet are so separate without any clearly dominating figure. The martial Prologue does not even mention the lovers, but appears to introduce a history play about the Trojan War. Yet, in this play, Shakespeare makes more extensive use of comic devices than in any other tragedy except perhaps Romeo and Juliet, and the variations in tone and seriousness are particularly striking. This lack of a clear focus and the play’s status as a ‘problem play’ is first brought out in the Prologue which combines heroic pathos with a stylistic elaboration that continuously undercuts the high seriousness of its appeal to our attention. Epic grandeur, deflating irony and critical detachment are mixed in this passage. The sordid picture of the Helen-Menelaus-Paris triangle undercuts the tone of the passage, which is the stated reason for the War.

So the speaker, who does not seem very confident of his task, sets the tone for the play. He retreats behind ‘the chance of War’ and does not even ask for the audience’s approval, but defers to its judgment.

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