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Troilus and Cressida Act 1, Scene 1 Summary

  • In front of King Priam's palace in Troy, a young Trojan prince named Troilus calls his servant over to help him take off all his armor.
  • (Get your highlighters out, kids, because armor is a major symbol that pops up all over this play.)
  • Troilus tells a guy named Pandarus that he's way too lovesick to fight. He asks, "Why should I war without the walls of Troy, / That find such cruel battle here within."
  • Pandarus complains that this monkey business has been dragging on FOR-E-VER and wonders when it will end. (Hmm. Is he talking about Troilus's crush or the war? Or both?)
  • Troilus says he's not fit for battle against the "strong" Greeks because love has turned him into a mushy wimp. He's "weaker than a woman's tear," as timid as a "virgin in the night," and, well, you get the idea.
  • (Hmm. Doesn't Romeo say the same thing in Act 3, scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet when he tells us his love for Juliet made him so "effeminate" that he couldn't fight Tybalt?)
  • Pandarus has had just about enough of Troilus's whining. He throws up his hands and says he's not going to help him anymore.
  • He's all, "You know, Troilus, if you want to have your cake and eat it too, you have to make the cake first."
    Translation: If Troilus wants his dream girl, he's got to do some work.
  • Troilus says he can't stop thinking about "fair Cressid." Every time he sits down at the table to eat, his thoughts turn to her.
    (Gee. Is Shakespeare trying to tell us that Troilus has got a big sexual appetite? More on this in "Symbols.")
  • Pandarus needles Troilus about how smokin' hot Cressida looked the other night... even hotter than Helen, the sex kitten who supposedly caused the Trojan War.
  • Troilus flips out and is all "Dude, Pandarus, you're supposed to help me heal my wounded heart, not dig your knife into it by reminding me that Cressida is the cutest girl in Troy."
  • Pandarus rolls his eyes and mutters something about minding his own business from here on out. (Yeah, right.)
  • But Troilus backtracks a little, because he totally needs Pandarus's help.
  • Next, we find out that Cressida's dad (a priest named Calchas) has betrayed the Trojans and gone over to the Greek side.
  • Pandarus says he hopes Cressida goes with her dad because that'll teach Troilus a lesson. And then he storms out. Maturely.
  • Alone on stage, Troilus hears a trumpet call to arms and flips out.
  • He's way too in love with Cressida to bother fighting in some dumb war being fought over stupid old Helen.
  • Next Troilus yells at the gods because Pandarus is supposed to be helping him woo his niece but the old man is seriously high maintenance and acts like he's the one who wants to "be woo'd." Plus, Cressida is "stubborn-chaste against all suit." Translation: Cressida's playing hard to get.
  • Troilus compares himself to a "merchant" sailing to India for a "pearl" (that would Cressida).
  • Another alarum (a.k.a. war trumpet) sounds but Troilus stays put.
  • Aeneas shows up to ask why Troilus isn't out fighting (um, ditto?) and they have a juicy gossip session.
    Apparently, Paris is back from the battlefield with a nasty wound that he got from Menelaus.
  • (Menelaus is the poor shmuck—er, Greek king—who was married to Helen before Paris ran off with her.)
  • Troilus says Paris deserves to bleed and jokes that Menelaus probably gored Paris with his "horn."
  • Brain Snack: In Shakespeare, horns are a common symbol for cuckolds, guys like Menelaus who are cheated on by their wives.
  • Yeah, we figured Shakespeare couldn't get past the play's first scene without cracking a cuckold joke.
  • Aeneas and Troilus run off.

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