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MonkeyNotes-Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare
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At the beginning of Scene 5, we learn that Diomedes has defeated Troilus. Agamemnon presents a virtual roll call of the Greek dead and wounded, and the audience gets 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. To add to his fury, Hector has been dexterously maiming and disfiguring the Myrmidons, and their complaints further incite him. The audience hears that Ajax too has set out to do battle, and also clearly learns of the change in Troilus.

Most of the action in this scene is actually off the stage, but the descriptions are vivid. 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 Greeks.

Hector commits his tragic folly, his fatal error in Scene 6 when he chivalrously spares Achilles’ life. It is here that Hector’s breathtaking naiveté becomes especially obvious. But for all his magnanimity, Hector is not above hunting a man for his armor and it is this finely armored soldier who eventually becomes emblematic of the rot at the heart of the Trojan conflict.

In Scene 7, the reader sees Achilles meticulously planning out the murder of Hector. The next ‘action’ has Thersites commenting on the Menelaus-Paris duel. The Margarelon episode which occurs in this scene is parody of the kinship patterns that form an important factor throughout the play - many of the characters are related - Hector and Ajax; Hector, Troilus, Paris; Pandarus and Cressida; Calchas and Cressida. Thersites who is related to no one manages to create a bond - that of the kindred bastard, with Margarelon, to save himself.


The Trojan fortunes begin to sink with the death of Hector in Scene 8. At the beginning of this scene, Hector has just discovered that the finely armored soldier has a putrefying body - an emblem of the hopelessness of the War and the disjunction between appearance and reality. Disturbingly, the warm-hearted, generous Hector stoops to kill a man for his ‘hide’ only to uncover revulsion and disease.

Then, his tragic naiveté obscures his vision - he fails to see that Achilles is a ruthless coward willing to put aside all principles of ‘fair play’, and his lack of guile at the point of death is breathtaking. Achilles, in the ultimate act of savagery, trails Hector’s body which his Myrmidons have tied to the tail of his horse, through the battlefield.

Scene 9 is another link scene when the Greeks react to the death of Hector and there is the dawning of the realization that this could be the beginning of the end of the War.

The penultimate Scene 10, begins with the somber note that Troilus strikes when he announces the death of Hector and the treatment of his corpse by Achilles to the other Trojans. From this we leap straight to the ludicrous with Pandarus who is presented now as overrun with diseases mostly of the venereal kind. Pandarus is a kind of surrogate for Cressida who according to tradition became a leprous beggar. The incongruous 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 makes it clear that the play was theatrical entertainment. It gives the play a formal ending and contributes to its unclassifiable character.

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