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MonkeyNotes-Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare
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Act I, Scene 2 Summary

Cressida’s servant Alexander tells her that Queen Hecuba and Helen have just gone up to the Eastern tower to get a view of the battle. Hector, who is usually a patient man, snapped at his wife, Andromache and hit his armory and set out for the battlefield even before sunrise. Alexander tells Cressida that Hector was especially angry because Ajax, a Greek warrior, who was also Hector’s cousin, had struck the Trojan warrior down in battle, the day before. The shame of the event had kept Hector ‘fasting and waking.’

Pandarus who has just entered the scene tells them that Hector would wreak destruction on that day and that Troilus would not be too far behind him. Pandarus tells Cressida that Troilus is an even greater warrior than Hector. Pandarus constantly attempts to present Troilus as a great warrior and beautiful youth to Cressida. He even concocts a story about an encounter between Helen and Troilus and says that Helen herself was besotted with him, and she loved him better than Paris. But Cressida continues to tease Pandarus, pretending that she disdains Troilus. Referring to Troilus’ suit, Pandarus asks her if she has considered what he told her the day before. But before she can give an unequivocal answer, a retreat is sounded, and they go over to where they can view the warriors coming back from the battlefield. Pandarus names the soldiers as they pass - Aeneas, Antenor, Hector, Paris, Helenus - all pass by and are described by Pandarus.

He wonders where Troilus is and his speech gets increasingly disjointed in his eagerness to spot Troilus. The people take up a shout for the approaching Troilus but Helenus enters and Pandarus says ‘Helenus is a priest.’ Then Cressida who enjoys teasing Pandarus spots Troilus and wonders, ‘What sneaking fellow comes yonder?’


Pandarus thinks she is referring to Deiphobus but then catches sight of Troilus and goes into raptures: ‘There’s a man, niece! Hem! Brave Troilus, the prince of chivalry!’ He points to Troilus’ bloodied sword and says rather comically that if he had a sister who was a grace or a daughter who was a goddess, the 23-year- old Troilus could take a pick from among them. He says Paris is no good compared to Troilus, and that Helen herself would want him.

Common Soldiers enter but Pandarus treats them with disdain. He so admires Troilus that he says he would rather be him than Agamemnon the Greek general, and all of Greece. When Cressida wonders aloud if Achilles weren’t a better man than Troilus, Pandarus pronounces him, ‘A drayman, a porter, a very camel.’ He asks her, ‘Have you any eyes? Do you know what a man is?’ He also asks her if birth, beauty, good shape, discourse, manhood, learning, gentleness, virtue, youth and liberality were not the spice and salt that season a man. Cressida continues the culinary metaphor and artful as always. She replies that those were the qualities that seasoned ‘a minced man’ - one who had something lacking in him, was out of fashion, and past his best.

Slipping into a fencing metaphor, an exasperated Pandarus wonders about Cressida’s defensive posture. Cressida’s witty repartee is full of sexual innuendo. She continues with her innuendo when she says she that even if she cannot protect her virginity, she could still stop him from talking about it, unless of course, she got pregnant and the whole thing couldn’t be hidden any more.

A boy enters with a summons for Pandarus from Troilus. Pandarus exits saying he would be back with a token from Troilus. In the monologue that concludes the scene, Cressida pronounces Pandarus a bawd, a go-between: ‘Words, vows, gifts, tears, and love’s full sacrifice/He offers in another’s enterprise;’ She reveals that she sees a 1000 times more in Troilus than anything reflected in the glass of Pandarus’ praise. But she has been deliberately holding off, playing hard to get because ‘Men prize the thing ungain’d more than it is.’ She says she is holding off because a woman is only really precious when she is being wooed. She believes a man’s pleasure lies in striving to win a woman - a novelty that soon wears off. She decides that though her heart is full of love for Troilus, her eyes will not show it, she will not let him know the truth.

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