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MonkeyNotes-Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare
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Notes

In the penultimate scene, Troilus announces the death of Hector and the treatment of his corpse by Achilles to the other Trojans. The audience knows but can’t tell if Troilus realizes that this is the beginning of the end as he swears to avenge Hector and calls for a march back to Troy. His "Hope of revenge shall hide our inward woe’ gives an inkling that perhaps he does know that all is lost.

From this somber tone, the audience leap straight to the ludicrous with Pandarus who appeals in effect to the sexual pattern - expectation, attainment, revulsion, as Cressida did in Act II. ‘That she was never yet that ever knew/Love got so sweet as when desire did sue.’ Here, Pandarus is presented as overrun with diseases and his references to honey and sting which was the usual treatment for venereal diseases leave no doubt as to the character of his ailments. There is no natural reason why a Pander should become infected by his trade: but Pandarus is a kind of surrogate for Cressida who according to tradition became a leprous beggar, and he bears symbolic diseases with him.

The end does not make Troilus and Cressida a comedy, but it brings out its particular qualities as a theatrical recreation of familiar characters. The Pandarus who steps out of the world of the play to address the audience draws attention to his reputation.

‘As many as be here of Pandar’s hall, /Your eyes, half out, weep out at Pandar’s fall;/Or if you cannot weep, yet give some groans, /Though not for me, yet for your aching bones./Brethren and sisters of the hold-door trade, /Some two months hence my will shall here be made./It should be now, but that my fear is this:/Some galled goose of Winchester would hiss./Till then I’ll sweat and seek about for eases, /And at that time bequeath you my diseases.’


His epilogue makes it quite clear that it was all theatrical entertainment and tries to establish some complicity between himself, the traditional pander, and the men in the audience. This necessarily affects the tragic impact of the performance, but it does not completely alter the character of the play. This is certainly not a conventional tragedy, but it is easy to see why the editors of the First Folio would put it nowhere else but among the tragedies.

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