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MonkeyNotes-Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare
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Notes

After its swift introduction in the first two scenes, the love plot does not return until this scene. When the lovers enter the stage again, their first night together has already been arranged by mutual consent, with Pandarus as the prurient stage manager. This is a curious scene. It opens as the play did, with Troilus frustrated and wholly dependent on Pandarus. Moreover, here Troilus is much given to elaborate verse, rhetoric in strong contrast to Pandarus’ chatty prose.

When the lovers are brought together, they greet with a kiss but say little and the incident lives chiefly in the comments of Pandarus as the presenter. Pandarus comments, insinuates, and obtrudes, and while his style is usually low and without much substance of argument, he makes his effect by contrast with context.

When the lovers are alone at last, there is a prose ‘wooing’, then Pandarus reenters and the lovers enact a verse ‘wooing.’ Nowhere else in the play do the lovers speak prose to one another, and the prose here is sometimes awkward and strained, fit for deflation by Pandarus’ prose. Yet it is occasionally stylized as when Troilus who at the moment of achieving his desire speaks as simply as Bassanio did.

Though her comment derives as Troilus’ does from a mockery of lovers’ hyperbolas, Cressida who is a true niece of Pandarus, is unmistakably sexual when she says: ‘They say all lovers swear more performance than they are able, and yet reserve an ability that they never perform....’


But that is not what Troilus who is more metaphysical, means. His dismisses the lover’s Petrarchan protestations - he says they are not like those lovers, and dislikes the merchant’s language of love which makes excessive claims. His lines express a profound regret: not merely that lovers should be less than they claim to be, but that no love can ever find its proper and sufficient mode of utterance - all speech and all action comes short. His argument is an exact parallel to that of Agamemnon (Act I, Scene 3) and a close analogue to that of the Trojan debate (Act II, Scene 2 ). His lines regret that lovers should be less than they claim to be and also that love can never find its proper mode of utterance - all speech and action falls short. He plays briefly with courtly exaggeration in order to reject it.

The problem implicit in the language used by lovers takes Troilus at once to the nature of love itself and he touches for a moment on the truth that underlies hyperbole: that love inhabits a dimension greater than lover or beloved, and that mere measure cannot correspond to the desire. There’s beggary in the love that can be reckoned. And hence, since hyperbole only exaggerates the discrepancy between love and its language, Troilus will use only the simplest of language related only to the truest of deeds. He wants to be judged by what he is, and not by what he says.

He wants nothing of past reputation or of future hope to interpose between what he is and what he loves: ‘No perfection in reversion shall have a praise in present.’ Troilus is consistent. He may sometimes speak like the fashionable lover when he is at leisure merely to contemplate his condition; but in any crisis he is ‘as true as Troilus’, and when he speaks he is straightforward.

With Pandarus’ return, the lovers turn to verse and to a different topic. Hitherto, Troilus has spoken of the gap between promise and performance; now Cressida speaks of the gap between her behavior in the past and her true feelings and moves on to regret the double self that she finds in herself. The one that is at her command and can withdraw from Troilus and the other that having divided her would stay in order to be deceived by her lover’s promises. ‘I have a kind of self resides with you, /But an unkind self, that itself will leave/To be another’s fool.’

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