Troilus and Cressida
Art and Culture Quotes Page 2
How we cite our quotes:
And with ridiculous and awkward action, Which, slanderer, he imitation calls, He pageants us. Sometime, great Agamemnon, Thy topless deputation he puts on, And, like a strutting player, whose conceit Lies in his hamstring, and doth think it rich To hear the wooden dialogue and sound 'Twixt his stretch'd footing and the scaffoldage (1.3.149-156)
Hmm. This is interesting. When Patroclus imitates and makes fun of the Greek leaders like a "strutting player" (a.k.a. an Elizabethan actor), Shakespeare aligns his rebellious behavior with his own stomping grounds, the theater. In other words, Patroclus is doing in his tent exactly what the actors performing Troilus and Cressida are doing on stage—taking infamous warriors, heroes, and lovers from mythology and literature and then "pageant[ing]" them on a stage.
[...] At this fusty stuff The large Achilles, on his press'd bed lolling, From his deep chest laughs out a loud applause; Cries 'Excellent! 'tis Agamemnon just. Now play me Nestor; hem, and stroke thy beard, As he being drest to some oration.' (1.3.161-166)
Patroclus doesn't just act like a "strutting player" because he doesn't have anything better to do. When he makes fun of the Greek military leaders, he's got an audience (Achilles), who applauds and begs for more. Why does that matter? Because Shakespeare has a habit of drawing his audience's attention to the relationship between professional acting and rebellion. Yep. In the 16th and 17th centuries, theaters were associated with rebellion. Elizabethan playwrights and actors could get into a lot of trouble for criticizing and making fun of important political and military leaders (like the monarch) on stage and government officials were always censoring plays. This entire scene is a reminder of that.
They say all lovers swear more performance than they are able, and yet reserve an ability that they never perform, vowing more than the perfection of ten and discharging less than the tenth part of one (3.2.72-75).
Oh, the irony! Here, Cressida says that all lovers make promises they can't keep. Ah-hem. As we know, Cressida most definitely does not keep her promise to be faithful to Troilus. What's interesting is the way Cressida associates love with "performance," or acting. This sort of makes us wonder if all of Cressida's declarations of love for Troilus are just one big act. What do you think?