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MonkeyNotes-Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare
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Act I, Scene 1 Summary

Troilus wonders why he should go to War outside the walls of Troy when a cruel battle is being fought within him-self. He laments his weakness, ‘I am weaker than a woman’s tear’ - a weakness caused, he says, by his long wait for the love of Cressida. He is so entranced by Cressida that in trying to conceal his love he fears his heart will ‘rive in twain.’ He complains that Pandarus, who is attempting to bring about a union of the two, intensifies the agony of his passion by referring to all Cressida’s features: ‘her eyes, her hair, her cheek, her gait, her voice.’

But Pandarus is now exasperated as ‘I have had my labor for my travail, ill thought on of her, and ill thought on of you; gone between and between, but small thanks for my labor.’ He then pronounces Cressida a fool for staying back while her father Calchas has crossed over to the Greek side.


‘Peace rude sounds!’ exclaims a woebegone Troilus, who then launches into a monologue that touches on the senselessness of the Trojan War and the unworthiness of the prize for which it is being fought. He then laments about the impossibility of getting to Cressida ‘but by Pander’ who is as irritable about being used to woo Cressida as she is stubbornly chaste. The Platonic lover who places his beloved on a pedestal, Troilus turns to the hyperbolic mode and imagines Cressida is an exotic pearl lying on faraway India. Between Ilium, the Trojan palace of Priam and where Cressida lives, he deems the open sea, and imagines he is a merchant and Pandarus is the boat that will take him to Cressida who is his eventual destination.

Another alarm is sounded and Aeneas enters bearing news that Paris has returned home after being hurt by Menelaus Helen’s husband. The next alarm is sounded and Aeneas and Troilus exit to find out what is happening on the battlefield.

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