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MonkeyNotes-Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare
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Notes

At the beginning of the scene, we learn that Diomedes has defeated Troilus. The entry of Agamemnon brings with it a picture of the Grecian fortunes on the battlefield. The general presents a virtual roll call of the Greek dead and wounded. For the moment at least, the Trojans seem to be winning. The audience is presented with a vivid glimpse of the great Hector on the battlefield.

Here also, we are presented with the final spur to Achilles’ action. The warrior who has so far remained aloof is finally enraged by the death of his ‘male varlet’ Patroclus, and Ulysses describes him as cursing as he armed himself. To add to his fury, Hector has been dexterously maiming and disfiguring the Myrmidons - the nose was frequently an object of contemptuous and malevolent attack throughout history - instead of killing them.. Their complaints further incite Achilles’ fury.

Nestor presents the audience with a vivid glimpse of the great Hector on the battlefield:

‘There is a thousand Hectors in the field;/Now here he fights on Galathe his horse/And here lacks work: anon he’s there afoot, /And there they fly, or die, like scaled sculls/Before the belching whale; then is he yonder, /And there the strawy Greeks, ripe for his edge, /Fall down before him like a mower’s swath./Here, there, and everywhere, he leaves and takes, /Dexterity so obeying appetite/That what he will he does, and does so much/That proof is call’d impossibility.’


The audience also hears that the other ‘cur’ Ajax who has been as indolent as his rival, has learnt that Troilus has killed a friend and enraged, he too sets out to do battle. It is here that the audience learns of the change in Troilus and while the characters in the scene with the exception of Ulysses do not know what has brought it about, the viewers are in a position of privilege. They know that Troilus is now a changed man, he has grown, the events of the recent past have conspired to harden him and make him thirst for revenge.’

As Nestor recognizes, things are finally moving the way the Greek leadership has wanted them to:

‘So, so, we draw together.’

Of course, it isn’t their scheming or cleverness that has brought it to pass. At the end of the scene, we see Achilles provoked into rage by Hector’s killing of Patroclus and know that doom is approaching the Trojan hero. Most of the action mentioned in this scene is actually off the stage but is no less realistic for being so. The descriptions are so vivid and the entry of the raging warriors at the end is so effective as to almost convince the audience that they have indeed seen the destruction wreaked by the Trojans on the Greek ranks.

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