April 26, 2015

Works Cited and Bibliography

Works Cited/Bibliography

Shakespeare, William. Troilus and Cressida: The Norton Shakespeare (Complete Works). Oxford University Press: UK. 1997. Print.

Cohen, Walter. Introduction: Troilus and Cressida: The Norton Shakespeare (Complete Works). Oxford University Press: UK. 1997. Print.

Wilson, John Dover. Troilus and Cressida Introduction. Cambridge University Press: UK. 1957. Print.

Palmer, Kenneth. Troilus and Cressida Introduction. Methuen & Co. Ltd: UK. 1981. Print.

Kimbrough, Robert. Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida And Its Setting. Oxford University Press: UK. 1964. Print.

Presson, Robert K. Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida and The Legends of Troy. University of Wisconsin Press: USA. 1953. Print.

Adamson, Jane. Troilus and Cressida. The Harvester Press Ltd: UK. 1987. Print.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/theatre-reviews/9464579/Troilus-and-Cressida-RSC-and-Wooster-Group-Swan-Theatre-Stratford-upon-Avon-review.html. Online.

http://www.rsc.org.uk/about-us/press/releases/troilus-and-cressida-casting.aspx

http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2012/aug/09/troilus-and-cressida-review

Keys to Shakespeare: Anne Barton, Vol. 2, No. 11, 5 June 1980, Pg. 12-14

http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/troilus/

Troilus and Cressida, BBC Filmed Production.


Conclusion: Is Troilus the 'hero' of the play which bears his name?

Troilus is a character that undergoes a journey and a shift in his values and beliefs during this play. Shakespeare’s opening scene, for example, shows the young Troilus stripping of his armour, sick of the war and preoccupied with his love-throes; this scene comes straight after the prologue, which had promised military confrontation, failing to mention any lovers; thus, Troilus’ somewhat Orsino-like moaning and languishing over his unapproachable, but beloved Cressida, do little to place him in the position of this play’s ‘hero’. Nevertheless, Troilus, whom one might assume to be fully persistent and constant, ultimately proves irresolute on multiple occasions. Despite initially wanting to stay at home, an impulse sends him to engage in ‘the sport abroad’ that he had previously been scorning; the same young man that describes himself as ‘less valiant than the virgin in the night’, and who claimed that ‘I cannot fight upon this argument’ over Helen, because ‘it is too starv’d a subject for my sword’, is later the character that most insistently urges the continuation of the war, on the grounds that Helen is a ‘theme of honour and renown/A spur to valiant and magnanimous deeds’. However, whilst Troilus does display some inconsistencies, his ‘truth’ cannot be questioned and he does possess some attractive qualities. When faced with the faltering Cressida, he grows in stature because he actually is as simple and truthful as he declares; also, when Cressida must be returned to her father, he accepts the news in a dignified manner that contrasts against Cressida’s clamorous protests. With regards to Troilus and Cressida’s relationship, Kimbrough writes that it ‘was simply not the kind of tale which mixed with heroic romance’ (77), thus, Kimbrough seems to agree that this play does little to display heroic characters, Troilus included. The atmosphere of decadence that surrounds the love scenes of Troy and Pandarus’ house is not conducive to the heroic, romantic ambience that audiences would associate with the Trojan War. Shakespeare seemed to emphasise early on in the play the distinctive falsity of Cressida, the blind loyalty of Troilus, and the base role of Pandarus as go-between, so that the demise of the love plot was never in doubt.

Shakespeare chose to emphasise the impatience in Troilus’ nature, and he developed it, throughout the play, into a ruling passion. His impulsiveness, his need for immediate fulfilment of his desires, is manifest in numerous moments in the play: in council, in the field and even in his love. It is also important to note that in each instance his impatience is often increased by other characters; in council he is opposed by Hector, a more seasoned thinker; in the field he is opposed by more skilled warriors than he; and in his love for Cressida, which can only be consummated with the help of the go-between Pandarus. This impulsive nature can hardly be deemed heroic. However, whilst Troilus is certainly impulsive, he does possess core values: namely that of his ‘truth’. ‘Troilus will use only the simplest of language, related only to the truest of deeds’ (Wilson, 64), indicating that he wants to be judged by what he is and does, not by what he says. Whilst I did highlight some of Troilus’ slight inconsistencies above, with regards to his truth he is consistent. Occasionally, Troilus will speak like the fashionable lover, but he still remains ‘as true as Troilus’. Ulysses speaks in Act Four, Scene Five on Troilus: ‘Speaking in deeds, and deedless in his tongue; and when he speaks, he is straightforward: what he thinks he shows.’ Ulysses, the cleverest character in the play, accurately summarises Troilus’ truthful nature, and whilst this truth is admirable, it is not enough to place Troilus in the position of ‘hero’. His elder brother, Hector, a realist in politics, becomes an idealist when he fights, and concedes out of his ‘vice of mercy’ a breathing space to the man who will cause his death. Troilus, by contrast, is an idealist in love, but a realist in war, and he urges Hector to show no mercy, arguing that one should be (as Ulysses reports of him) ‘more vindictive than jealous love’. Thus, both brothers display some admirable and heroic qualities, but both lack the necessary components to be deemed a ‘hero’. However, the true realists are on the Greek side. Diomedes, who cherishes no illusions about Helen or Cressida, is pragmatic in his dealings with another man’s mistress. Achilles will organise a gang-murder out of vindictiveness and embarrassment. Ulysses diagnoses the faults of the Greeks, the vices of Achilles, and the hyperbolic extrapolations of Troilus. Intelligence and moral sense set Hector and Ulysses aside from their fellows, yet neither man rightly earns the role of ‘hero’.

Pandarus in the opening scene asks: ‘Will this gear ne’er be mended?’ – and the ambiguity of his question neatly combines the two great issues in which a long overdue resolution is desired by all concerned: the ‘cruel war’ between the Trojans and Greeks over the fair queen Helen, and the ‘cruel battle’ within Troilus’ heart over the fair Cressida. From this position, the dramatic action moves, errantly yet unerringly, via a series of impediments and obstructions, to those two crucial scenes when conflicts reach their outcome in irreversible disaster. Neither is ‘mended’ nor can it be resolved. Troilus, whose hopes all lay in Cressida, now watching her betray him is heartbroken by the contradiction: ‘this is, and is not, Cressid’. The Trojans, whose hopes all lay in Hector, now find he is hacked to death, his body dragged through the ‘shameful field’, ‘at the murderer’s horse’s tail’. And the play ends with Troilus’ unappeasable loathing of the ‘coward’ Achilles, and the cold comfort of ‘hope of revenge’, not to heal but to ‘hide our inward woe’. It is a desolate ending for Troy, for Troilus and for the audience who witness it. The love plot ends bitterly in a strange fashion of forsaking, the theme of honour is shown to be as empty as the armour taken by Hector, and the Greeks never solve the problem of internal disorder. The rather negative action and ambivalent characterisation of Troilus and Cressida force us to interpret the motifs of love and lust, war and honour, and order and disorder in a pessimistic manner.

Throughout this blog I have considered the roles of the text, actor, and performance in determining the extent to which Troilus is the ‘hero’ of this play. Having carefully analysed the play-text itself, past productions, my own acting, print and online theory and criticism, and many other helpful resources, I have come to the conclusion that Troilus cannot be considered the ‘hero’ of this play. Whilst he does display some heroic qualities and undergoes a change in his character, maturing and becoming a strong warrior, this does not transform his previously youthful and naïve character into the play’s ‘hero’. However, the Troilus depicted in the final scene vowing vengeance upon Achilles and the Greeks, seems to be far more heroic than the Troilus depicted earlier, perhaps indicating that the character will go on to become the ‘hero’ at a later date. The three characters that might have been considered the ‘hero’ of this play are all afflicted by their own passions. Achilles’ pride so blinds him that he will give up his fame and honour, caring not if the expedition should fail. Achilles proceeds to kill Hector in a cowardly manner and is displayed as arrogant throughout the play, ruling him out of the position of ‘hero’. Hector, for personal glory, ignores his family’s pleas to stay in Troy for fears of his death, and values his honour above all else; he proceeds to spare Achilles’ life, displaying his merciful nature; however, it is this foolish mercy that results in his death as he is ambushed and killed. As for Troilus, his judgement is not as notable as his ardour; both in the council and in love, his arduous nature leads him to folly. Shakespeare portrayed Cressida as a wanton, and not Troilus, in order to emphasise in Troilus how ardour can blind judgement. In his passion, he mistakes assumed virtue for real. The Troilus of the love affair is very much the Troilus of the Council Scene. His advice to the Trojans is distinguished for its eloquence and its folly. In his ardour he urges a course of action that can only result in destruction as the inevitable conclusion. Therefore, despite this play being rife with famed and acclaimed, mythological warriors, Shakespeare seems to depict them in a less than flattering light, making it impossible to consider either Troilus, or any other character, as the ‘hero’ of this complex and fascinating play.


Act Five/Troilus' character at the end of the play/Rehearsal Footage

Act Five presents us with a very different depiction of Troilus; he chases Diomedes shouting: ‘Fly not, for shouldst thou take the river Styx I would swim after [They fight)’ (5.4.15). This Act serves to depict Troilus as a warrior and in Scene Six, he actively fights both Diomedes and Ajax simultaneously: ‘Come, both you cogging Greeks, have at you both! [They fight}’ (5.6.11). This passionate and war-driven figure is unrecognisable from the melancholic teenager that we are presented with unarming in the opening scene of the play. However, whilst Troilus displays some heroic traits here, fighting nobly for the Trojan cause, his brother Hector is slain by the cowardly Achilles and his Myrmidons. In the final scene of the play, Act Five, Scene Eleven, Troilus enters and announces ‘Hector is slain’ (5.11.11). Stunned by the facts, even Troilus (in whom Troy places its ‘second hope’) can only repeat over and over what Cassandra had previously warned: ‘Hector is slain’, ‘Hector is gone. Who shall Priam so, or Hecuba?’, ‘Hector’s dead’. Troilus’ despair represents the emotional nihilism that can occur when all hope for life is seemingly lost. Troilus can do little but bemoan Hector’s death before he turns to thoughts of vengeance; certainly this ‘fire of revenge has burned out the fire of love’ (Presson, 98). Troilus seeks Achilles: ‘thou great-siz’d coward’ (5.10.26), and the final thought of his monologue is not of mourning for Hector, but of vengeance: ‘Strike a free march! To Troy with comfort go: Hope of revenge shall hide our inward woe.’ (5.11.0-31). This portrayal of Troilus at the play’s denouement is interesting: he seems to be the sole hope for Troy in the ensuing war now that Hector has been slain, and he finally shows signs of maturing into a true leader and warrior. Whilst Troilus is hardly depicted as the ‘hero’ of the play at this stage, this final tableau of his character vowing vengeance does seem to indicate that he might be the ‘hero’ for Troy’s future; however, with regards to the play itself, it is difficult if not impossible to consider him as the ‘hero’.

Rehearsal Footage: Footage of the first rehearsal of Act Five, Scene Ten - Troilus tells the Trojans of Hector's death before vowing vengeance towards the Greeks; useful visual aid to help demonstrate the shift in Troilus' character towards a warrior-like figure.


Act Five, Scene Three and the end of the play/Rehearsal Footage

The closing scenes of the play concern a world of war, in which (so Troilus insists) distinctions between honour and shame, justice and injustice, ‘fair play’ and ‘foul’ no longer matter, and in which it is sheer ‘fool’s play’ to act as if they did. In Act Five, Scene Three, Hector attempts to persuade Troilus from going to the field. Troilus ignores the plea: ‘Who should withhold me? Not fate, obedience, nor the hand of Mars… opposed to hinder me, should stop my way, But by my ruin’ (5.3.55-60). These lines emphasise the shift in Troilus’ character from the boy who enters in the first scene to ‘unarm again’, to that of the heartless and bloodthirsty warrior we are now presented with. Troilus is a man spiritually beaten and angrily defiant, whether heroic or foolish, he cares not what fate has in store for him. Troilus also chides Hector for his ‘vice of mercy’ (5.2.37) – war makes ‘mercy’ a ‘vice’, which somewhat foreshadows Hector’s death as he is too merciful to Achilles, he will return with his Myrmidons to slaughter him. As Hector is unable to dissuade Troilus from fighting, Priam, Cassandra and Andromache are similarly unable to dissuade Hector from fighting. Hector declares that: ‘I must not break my faith’ (5.3.74), and ignores his family’s pleas that he will surely be killed; thus, when Hector is later killed by Achilles and his Myrmidons, although we as an audience sympathise as he is ambushed and brutally killed, we are also reminded of the excessive warnings that he was given, and therefore Hector’s own pride is partially to blame for his tragic death. Pandarus stops Troilus from following Hector to fight with a letter from Cressida. Troilus reads and answers in disgust and despair: ‘Words, words, mere words, no matter from the heart; th’ effect doth operate another way…My love with words and errors still she feeds, But edifies another with her deeds’ (5.3.107-112), whilst tearing the letter. These words are apt as structurally the love plot is over and the remainder of the action will take place on the field. Though the contents of the letter are not divulged, Troilus has now seen enough of Cressida’s actions to distrust her words. No longer the love-sick teenager, he is now consumed with thoughts only of war and of vengeance; his former love, or lust, has been subdued with seething rage. Troilus’ disillusionment has been complete and after his present outburst, he naturally dismisses the go-between Pandarus: ‘Hence, broker-lackey!’ (5.3.116), as he has no more need for his services. This dismissal of Pandarus certifies the change in Troilus’ character.

Rehearsal Footage: Act Five, Scene Three. This clip depicts the moment that Troilus recieves and subsequently rips Cressida's love-letter, underlining the shift in his character from a youthful teenager to a warrior-like man.


Textual Analysis: Act Five, Scene Two/Rehearsal Footage (continued)

Rehearsal Footage: Act Five, Scene Two. Brief rehearsal footage of Cressida betraying Troilus for Diomedes. Visual accompaniment to textual analysis.

After Diomedes and Cressida depart, she cries: ‘Troilus, farewell’ (5.2.108), leaving Troilus and Ulysses onstage, unknowingly accompanied by Thersites. Troilus is melancholic and he bitterly announces that: ‘This, she? No this is Diomed’s Cressida.’ (5.2.138), before plunging into a passionate and embittered monologue. Troilus contradicts himself by saying: ‘This is, and is not Cressid’, then ‘Cressid is mine’, before ultimately conceding that she is ‘bound to Diomed’; this violent jostling in Troilus’ soul makes this a difficult monologue to perform as Troilus lurches from thought to thought in a frenzied, yet almost dejected manner. All the passion of his loving is rechanneled into loathing of the man who stole her, and the consolation of revenge becomes his life’s primary aim. Troilus’ desire becomes a lust for revenge on Diomedes: ‘Ay Greek; and that shall be divulged well… That sleeve is mine that he’ll bear on his helm. Were it a casque composed by Vulcan’s skill, My sword should bite it’ (5.2.162-74). This might be the moment in the play when Troilus truly becomes a man, and seemingly grows up. His illusions regarding love are shattered and he seems to be a different figure than the lovesick teenager depicted earlier on in the play. ‘Troilus is not the type of all those, Greek or Trojan, who have been mistaken in their notions of love or war: he is the only person whom we are allowed to watch as he involves himself emotionally both in the act of judgement and the consequences of the act’ (Adamson, 142). As a result, his character becomes developed, changed - the only one who can be seen to change in any significant way throughout the play. Adamson writes that: ‘he is therefore the kind of character whom Shakespeare will use subsequently in tragedy’ (142). This does not transform Troilus into a tragic ‘hero’, but it does emphasise the apparent tragedy presented in this scene, causing the change in Troilus’ character.

Act Five, Scene Two actively changes Troilus’ character, he undergoes a moralistic shift during the scene, and as a result, it is probably the best scene in the play for an actor playing the role to perform, as they are able to display this shift onstage. Whilst Troilus’ monologue in this scene is incredibly difficult, it is also incredibly moving, impassioned and provides the actor with their best opportunity to display Troilus maturing and ultimately becoming a man. He may be tentative and disbelieving at first: ‘This is and is not Cressid’ (5.2.147), displaying his youthful and naïve qualities; however, by the scene’s denouement he has replaced these boyish traits with the characteristics of a true warrior: ‘and Diomed, Stand fast and wear a castle on thy head.’ (5.2.187), threatening the man who has stolen his Cressid. This scene is heart breaking, gut-wrenching and woeful for Troilus, hence why it is such an enjoyable scene to perform as an actor. Whereas throughout the majority of the play Troilus has been focussed on Cressida and his own ‘truth’, this scene marks the crescendo in his emotional journey; whilst departing from Cressida is also a painful scene, it is nowhere near as excruciatingly painful as the act of betrayal. Whilst I do believe that this scene marks the point where Troilus abandons his youthful characteristics and matures into manhood, I do not believe that Troilus is displayed as a ‘hero’ during this moment. He witnesses a tragic incident that alters his character greatly, changing his beliefs, but it does not result in his character being transformed into the ‘hero’ of the play.  


April 24, 2015

Textual Analysis: Act Five, Scene Two

In terms of its dramatic design, Act Five, Scene Two is ‘among the most brilliant and celebrated in the play, and indeed in all Shakespeare’ (Kimbrough, 66). This scene has a rather unusual staging: Troilus and Ulysses watch Diomedes and Cressida, whilst Ulysses also observes Troilus, and all four are observed by the on looking Thersites. As the scene proceeds, Troilus’ agony increases, Ulysses’ amazement grows, and Thersites’ amusement reaches its peak. This scene marks a distinctive turning point in both the play and Troilus’ character; as Troilus watches Cressida betray him for Diomedes: ‘Cressid: Here Diomed, keep this sleeve. Troilus (aside): O beauty, where is thy faith?’ (5.2.65-66), Troilus’ illusions regarding love and faithfulness are shattered, whilst the conflict is emphasised between personal life and the interests of the state. Troilus’ character changes from a youthful man primarily concerned with love, and infatuation for Cressida, to that of a passionate man driven primarily be vengeance towards the Greek Diomedes. When Cressida finally capitulates, Troilus makes a Hamlet-like ‘recordation’ of ‘every syllable here that was spoke’ (5.2.115) and cannot comprehend what has taken place: ‘Was Cressid here? She was not, sure.’ (5.2.124-5). Troilus is a young man in a situation very like that of Hamlet, and his reaction to it is not far from Hamlet’s. He has received a profound shock to his ‘moral being’ (Adamson, 110); his metaphysical world is questioned; and similar to Hamlet, he wants to determine the nature of the shock. Troilus discovers in this scene that the love he thought he and Cressida shared, was in fact little more than lust. Troilus’ experience of this betrayal is agonizing, his heart seems to deracinate, his entire sense of order and unity cracked, broken and removed. Works Cited: Kimbrough, Robert. Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida And Its Setting. Oxford University Press: UK. 1964. Print. Adamson, Jane. Troilus and Cressida. The Harvester Press Ltd: UK. 1987. Print.


Rehearsal Footage: Act Four, Scene Five

Early rehearsal footage of Act Four, Scene Five (very early - hence the few slip-ups!) This scene marks the demise of Troilus and Cressida's relationship as Troilus concedes that Cressida must be traded to the Greeks. This scene is the last physical meeting between the pair of lovers, and despite Troilus promising that: 'I will corrupt the Grecian sentinels To give thee nightly visitation' (4.5.71-72), the pair do not actively meet again in the play. Therefore, I felt it useful to include a visual depiction of the demise of lovers' relationship, to assist with my textual analysis. Troilus warns Cressida about 'The Grecian youths' that 'are full of quality' (4.5.77), foreshadowing Cressida's subsequent betrayal with the Greek warrior, Diomedes.


April 22, 2015

Who else might be the 'hero' of this play, if not Troilus? (continued)

Hector and Achilles do eventually fight one another in Act Five, Scene Six: ‘[They fight. Achilles is bested]’. It is Hector who seems to win this first battle between the pair, further emphasising his character’s heroic dominance over Achilles. Hector had previously ignored the foreboding prophecies of Andromache, Cassandra, and Priam, and this creates a foreshadowing sense of inevitable doom for the noble Hector. As the battle nears its close, Achilles and his Myrmidons find Hector, who has removed his armour. Hector protests that: ‘I am unarmed. Forgo this vantage, Greek.’ (5.9.9), to which Achilles viciously responds: ‘Strike, fellows, strike! This is the man I seek. [The Myrmidons kill Hector].’ Hector is cowardly slain, and the Myrmidons tie his body to a chariot and drag it around the walls of Troy. The audience are expecting a great battle between the pair, but as is true throughout the play, their confrontation is a disappointment. Instead of a climactic duel, we are presented with a brief fight from which Achilles flees, before the brutal murder of an unarmed Hector shortly after. This death is different to that of The Iliad, in which Hector dies in a fair fight, but it does serve to effectively emphasise Achilles’ dishonourable character in this play, whilst bringing the play to an end with an appropriate anti-climax; there is no vengeance for Troilus and no justice for Hector, only sadness for Troy. Therefore, this penultimate scene is useful in analysing whether or not Achilles or Hector can be considered the ‘hero’ of this play. Achilles can certainly not be considered the ‘hero’ – he is shown as cowardly, arrogant and boastful; his final action of slaughtering an unarmed Hector is indicative of his character throughout the play, arguable placing him in the position of the play’s antagonist. Whereas, Hector is slightly more difficult to determine whether or not he is the ‘hero’. Hector is undoubtedly the noblest character in the play, but he is not without fault. He allows Troilus to persuade him into continuing the war in Act Two, Scene Two; he allows Achilles to goad him into exchanging insults in the Greek tent; he disregards Cassandra’s prophecies and other warnings telling him not to fight as he will die; ultimately placing his character in a delicate position. Hector ignores the warnings of others as he places the war and his own pride above all else; he suffers the death of a ‘tragic hero’ as he is unfairly slain by Achilles and his cohorts, however, we must also consider Hector’s own role in his downfall by ignoring the warning signs. For all his noble qualities, Hector succumbs to peer pressure in Act Two, Scene Two, ignores both Andromache and Cassandra’s warnings about fighting, and is ultimately slain by Achilles having unarmed after killing a Greek soldier to win his armour. If we momentarily discount Troilus, and assume that Hector is the closest character we have to a ‘hero’ in this play, what does that seem to reveal about Shakespeare’s concept of heroism? Shakespeare depicts the majority of these heroic warriors in a negative manner, and by having Hector’s body dragged around Troy by horses, Shakespeare seems to be making a wider comment; perhaps questioning the whole concept of heroism, rather than pinpointing one specific character as the ‘hero’ of the play. Therefore, at this stage in my analytical process, it seems as though there is still no clear character that can be considered the ‘hero’ of this play, despite Hector seemingly coming the closest. However, I will proceed to analyse the reminder of Troilus’ scenes to determine whether or not he is befitting of this role – if not, it may seem as though Shakespeare has depicted no clear ‘hero’ in this play, instead choosing to emphasise the farcical nature of heroism itself.


Who else might be the 'hero' of this play, if not Troilus?

Troilus and Cressida is a play set during the latter years of the Trojan War, continuing the plotline from The Iliad from Achilles’ initial refusal to battle up until the point of Hector’s death. Whilst the love-story between Troilus and Cressida gives the play its title, it accounts for only a small part of the play’s duration, with the majority of the play revolving around the two respective warrior camps, Greeks and Trojans, led by Agamemnon and Priam respectively. Therefore, this play is rife with a number of famed, mythological warriors: Hector, Achilles, Ajax, Ulysses, etc. whom might all stake a claim for the title of ‘hero’ in this play. However, despite the large amount of acclaimed and renowned warriors presented in this play, the manner in which Shakespeare depicts them is rather un-heroic. Shakespeare satirizes the Greek heroes as he depicts them as childish and barbaric, perhaps indicating sympathy towards the more pragmatic Hector. Shakespeare contrasts Homer’s depiction of these figures greatly:

‘Where Homer sings of heroic conflict culminating in the epic battle between Hector and Achilles, Shakespeare gives centre stage to a love story that, like the event of the Trojan War itself, he treats in sceptical, arguably cynical, fashion’ (Cohen, 1847, Introduction to Troilus and Cressida, Complete Works).

Homer seems to find a tragic grandeur in the events he portrays, whereas Shakespeare seems to find only carnage – carnage not relieved by a romantic plot that ends in disillusionment and disaster. Shakespeare re-imagines a traditional plotline in a darkly ironic manner, considering concepts such as sexuality and politics from radically modern perspective. Rather than glorifying and re-celebrating both these past ideals and acclaimed warriors, Shakespeare chooses to portray the majority in a critical and even negative light, providing a consistently satirical frame around the play. Nevertheless, it is still possible to consider whether or not any of these warriors can be determined as the ‘hero’ of this play, instead of the youthful Troilus. For example, Troilus’ eldest brother Hector, is described as ‘the noblest character in the play’ (Cohen, 1852), and is renowned as the best Trojan warrior. Hector’s nobility is often shown in stark contrast to the proud and deceitful Greeks, particularly Achilles. Hector displays these noble qualities in Act Two, Scene Two during the Trojan War council, as the warriors debate the merits of fighting for Helen. Hector and Troilus debate:

Hector: ‘Brother, she is not worth what she doth cost The holding.’

Troilus: ‘What’s aught but as ‘tis valued?’

Hector: ‘But value dwells not in particular will. It holds his estimate and dignity As well wherein ‘tis precious of itself As in the prizer.’

(2.2.50-55).

In response to Troilus’ subjective view, then, Hector offers an objective standard that, he insists, must carry equal weight. The pair continues to debate the matter; with Hector seemingly winning the debate by claiming that to keep Helen is both self-destructive and immoral. However, he is then inspired by the desire for chivalric glory:

Troilus: ‘For I presume brave Hector would not lose So rich advantage of a promised glory As smiles upon the forehead of this action For the wide world’s revenue.’

Hector: ‘I am yours…’

(2.2.203-205).

Thus, despite winning the initial debate, Hector succumbs to Troilus’ flattery and promise of glory, collapsing intellectually and agreeing to fight for the Trojan cause. This scene is interesting as it portrays Hector in a heroic light, arguing to cease the war and stop further bloodshed; however, Hector is unable to make good on his words, succumbing to Troilus’ persuasion and thus losing some of his nobility. What are we to make of Hector who can be so calm and objective with regard to the public good, but so 'committed and egocentric' (Kimbrough, 121) with regard to his own?

Act Four, Scenes Six and Seven are other useful scenes to help analyse Hector’s character. In Scene Six Ajax and Hector fight, although Aeneas remarks before the duel takes place that Hector’s whole heart will not be in the fight as the pair are related. Shortly before the fight takes place, Agamemnon asks Ulysses:

‘What Trojan is that same that looks so heavy?’

To which he replies:

‘The youngest son of Priam, a true knight: They call him Troilus. Not yet mature, yet matchless-firm of word…Manly as Hector but more dangerous, For Hector in his blaze of wrath subscribes To tender objects, but he in heat of action Is more vindictive than jealous love. They call him Troilus, and on him erect A second hope as fairly built as Hector.’ (4.6.98-110). 

At this stage in the play, Ulysses offers an insightful and accurate summary of Troilus’ character; he notes that he is ‘not yet mature,’ indicating his youthfulness, whilst also describing him as ‘more dangerous’ than Hector, indicating his courage and skills in battle. Ulysses also notes how the Trojans ‘erect a second hope’ on Troilus, meaning that the Trojans value Troilus almost as highly as their best fighter, Hector. This moment may foreshadow the end of the play when Hector is slain by Achilles and the Myrmidons, resulting in Troilus declaring that: ‘Hope of revenge shall hide our inward woe’ (5.11.31), indicating that he will now lead the Trojan troops in any hope of vengeance. Nevertheless, Hector and Ajax proceed to fight for a time, before breaking off, agreeing to call the duel a draw and embrace as kinsmen. Hector and Troilus are then invited into the Greek tents, where they meet the Greek commanders; Hector greets each commander complimentarily until meeting Achilles. The pair trade insults and Achilles arrogantly states that he has the ability to kill Hector wherever he likes: Shall I destroy him - whether there, or there, or there’’ (4.7.127). To which Hector retorts: ‘I’ll kill thee everywhere, yea, o’er and o‘er’ (4.7.140). This moment marks the first meeting between the best, respective fighters from each camp, whilst Shakespeare chooses to depict the warriors in a less than flattering light. The warriors are shown as petty, insolent and arrogant, whilst Hector allows Achilles to bring him down to his own level, coaxing insults out of the normally composed and noble Hector. As a result, although Hector is often described as the most noble character in the play, in a similar manner to Act Two, Scene Two, where Hector allows Troilus to convince him into continuing the war, in these later scenes, Hector once again abandons his own morals, coming down to the less noble level of the other characters.

This scene is also useful in analysing Achilles as he sinks even lower in the audience’s estimations. Achilles is meant to be the greatest of the Greek warriors, yet he is presented in the play as an arrogant, vicious thug, who refuses to fight in the war due to his own injured pride. Achilles should be the very epitome of the heroic figure, however, he is presented in this play as anything but heroic. Achilles refuses to fight until Ulysses craftily uses Ajax as a foil to spark him into fighting once more. Ulysses helps to organise the fight between Hector and Ajax, sparking interest from Achilles to finally re-join the war and fight Hector. This scene portrays Achilles in a distinctly negative manner as is unable to even show courtesy to a guest (Hector), whilst he is absurdly boastful to Patroclus about how he will kill Hector the next day. Achilles is certainly a great fighter, but he is certainly not portrayed as the ‘hero’ of this play; if anything, he is probably the antagonist. Nonetheless, this scene helps to foreshadow the final duel between Hector and Achilles – a duel that will also be an anti-climax, leaving us with no distinctive ‘hero’.

Works Cited:Kimbrough, Robert. Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida And Its Setting. Oxford University Press: UK. 1964. Print.


April 21, 2015

Rehearsal Footage: Opening Warrior Sequence

I thought I would also include this footage of our first rehearsal tackling the opening warrior sequence, choreographed by our movement director Sophie Wallin, which occurs following the prologue but before Act One, Scene One. We chose to place this movement sequence at the beginning of the play in order to introduce the audience members to the setting: a warzone split between two camps, Greeks and Trojans. Therefore, we split the warrior actors into these two camps for the opening sequence to allow audiences to distinguish between the two camps, establishing the clear split between the two factions. As our production does not use weapons for the fight scenes, we have chosen to emphasise that our bodies are the weapons used to fight, emphasised by many of the movements in this sequence, e.g. the striking of the wrist at the end of the sequence: 1:13 (in clip). I felt that this sequence was useful in highlighting that many of the characters in this play are WARRIORS, and as a result, they must be shown as fierce, powerful and eager to fight. This sequence effectively demonstrates many of those fundamental warrior traits whilst also helping to answer the question: is Troilus the 'hero' of this play? Whilst this sequence does little to clearly define which of these warriors might be deemed as the most heroic, it does in fact introduce the audience to many of the characters that might be considered the 'hero' should I deem Troilus as not befitting this title. Thus, I chose to include this footage to indicate the manner in which we are displaying these warrior-like figures, and also to introduce some of the other characters that I will discuss in a later post with regards to whether they can be considered the 'hero' of the play instead of Troilus. I may come to the conclusion that neither these characters nor Troilus himself can be deemed the 'hero', but I will come to this conclusion in a later blog post.


Introductory Blog Post: What to expect

Throughout this blog I will aim to consider and analyse the roles of the text: Troilus and Cressida and what emerges about Troilus’ character from reading the play; my own experiences and discoveries whilst acting in the role of Troilus in a university production; as well as careful analysis of both our own production and previous performance history of the play and what this reveals about his character, helping to determine whether or not he is in fact the ‘hero’ of this play.

I will utilise a variety of different methods of analysis throughout this blog. With regards to the text itself, I will be analysing a wide spectrum of quotations, speeches and scenes from the play whilst placing a specific focus on whether or not Troilus can in fact be viewed as the ‘hero’ of the play. I will be considering the relationship between Troilus and Cressida in considerable depth, from their initial desires before even meeting one another, to the eventual demise of their relationship and Troilus’ subsequent dejection and melancholy. I will also be analysing other areas of the text and what they reveal about Troilus’ character, for example, his status within Troy as a Prince and the visible hierarchy within his family and the state. I will also be considering wider notions and concepts about the play, such as its description as a ‘problem-play’ and what this reveals about both the text and Troilus’ character itself.

In conjunction to my textual analysis, a predominant feature of this blog will be a number of posts discussing, analysing and commenting upon my acting process having undertaken the role of Troilus. These posts will vary from discussion based upon my initial thoughts about the play and character from a performance-based viewpoint, wider research that I have conducted into the myth and legend of the character (not merely from the Shakespeare play), as well as discussion based around my approach to line-learning, rehearsal techniques and the methods utilised for further character exploration (objectives, motivations, emotional memory, hot-seating etc.). These acting-based posts should provide some interesting contrasts and similarities to the topics and notions discussed in the text-based posts, helping to create a well-rounded exploration of the character from a variety of approaches and viewpoints.

I will also be considering Troilus and Cressida from a performance-based viewpoint, discussing the lack of production history for this play until very recently and what this might reveal about the problematic nature of the play. Whilst I will be discussing some of the past-productions of this play and analysing their decision-making with regards to set, costume and other elements, I will predominantly be analysing the decisions they made with regards to Troilus’ character depiction and the approach to his relationships with both Cressida and his family. I will also be carefully considering and discussing our own student production in depth, namely: set, costume, gender-blind casting, the script-cut, and what this tells us about both the play and Troilus’ character as a ‘hero’. I will look to discuss the manner in which I am directed as Troilus throughout the process, and relate this to both other productions’ depictions of Troilus and my own thoughts and interpretation regarding his character.

Ultimately, I hope that this blog will offer an extensive and well-rounded analysis of Troilus’ character from a variety of different angles: text-based, theoretical, acting­-based, and considering his character from a performance-based stance. These widely varied blog posts, coupled with various multimedia-based posts (posters, photographs, rehearsal footage) should help to create a detailed and comprehensive blog that accurately answers the question as to whether or not Troilus is the ‘hero’ of the play.

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