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Troilus and Cressida Act 2, Scene 2 Summary

  • In Troy, Priam and his sons talk about whether or not they should just give Helen back to the Greeks so they can end the war that's cost so much money and so many Greek lives. Gee, that actually sounds … sensible. So, obviously it's not going to happen. Hector thinks they should let her go. He argues that every "soul" that's been killed during the war is just as valuable as Helen's, and Helen just isn't worth it.
  • Helenus (not to be confused with Helen) agrees with Hector, but not Troilus. They had Paris's back seven years ago when he took Helen from the Greeks. Now they're going to say they should give Helen back? No way.
  • Now we find out that Paris stole Helen from Menelaus not because he was in lust with her so much as to get revenge because the Greeks took his "old aunt" and held her captive. Troilus calls Helen a "pearl, / whose price hath launch'd above a thousand ships."
  • Brain Snack: This line is probably a shout-out to Christopher Marlowe's famous play, Doctor Faustus, in which a character asks "Was this the face that launched a thousand ships?" Just as Troilus is explaining why the Trojans shouldn't give up the prize they stole from the Greeks—you know, Helen—his sister Cassandra comes running in ranting and raving about a prophesy.
  • Cassandra's hair is a crazy mess. In Shakespeare, a woman's crazy hair = madness. Just ask Ophelia in Act 4, scene 5 of Hamlet.
  • Cassandra warns her dad and brothers that if they keep Helen, Troy is totally going to burn. (Insert ominous music here.) Hector thinks maybe they should listen to their sis but Troilus blows her off and says Cassandra is crazy, obviously.
  • After the guys dismiss their sis, they get back to arguing about Helen.
  • When Paris defends his right to keep Helen, his dad points out that, even though he gets to enjoy Helen's "honey," everybody else has to suffer for it. Gross, dad.
  • Paris argues that keeping Helen will erase "the soil of her fair rape," meaning—he knows it was wrong to kidnap Helen, but he thinks that if he can fend off the Greeks and keep her, it will bring him honor.
  • Troilus agrees and says that Helen's a great excuse to keep fighting so they can all gain "honor" on the battlefield. Fine.
  • Hector agrees to keep fighting to keep Helen, since it's now a matter of honor.

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