Troilus and Cressida
Art and Culture Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
If ever you prove false one to another, since I have
taken such pains to bring you together, let all
pitiful goers-between be called to the world's end
after my name; call them all Pandars; let all
constant men be Troiluses, all false women Cressids,
and all brokers-between Pandars! Say, amen.
Remember how we said that Shakespeare knows that we know what's going to happen in his play and that he uses it to his advantage when he puts ironic statements in his characters' mouths? Well, here's a perfect example. When Pandarus says that if Troilus and Cressida break their promise to each other, all future go-betweens should be called "Pandars," all future cheaters should be called "Cressids" and all faithful lovers should be called "Troiluses"? Well, that is exactly what will happen. In fact, by the time Shakespeare wrote this play, it already had happened, because Chaucer made the lovers' story famous in a poem. Yep, this is irony all right.
I like thy armour well; I'll frush it and unlock the rivets all, But I'll be master of it: wilt thou not, beast, abide? Why, then fly on, I'll hunt thee for thy hide. (5.6.27-31)
In the previous passage, we saw that some of Shakespeare's characters (like Pandarus, Troilus and Cressida) live up to their literary reputations. But here, we can see that some characters don't live up to their literary and historic identities. That's because Shakespeare takes some important heroes from mythology and epic literature and turns them into seriously flawed characters. In this passage, we see that Hector isn't exactly the honorable soldier that Homer made him out to be in the Iliad. Hello. He kills a man who is trying to run away from him because he wants the dude's armor. So, even though this play depends on a long literary tradition for its material, Shakespeare often debunks the myths that turned the story of the Trojan War into a heroic epic.
You shake, my lord, at something: will you go?
You will break out.
She strokes his cheek!
Nay, stay; by Jove, I will not speak a word:
There is between my will and all offences
A guard of patience: stay a little while. (5.2.50-54)
This is where Troilus and Ulysses watch from a hiding spot as Cressida agrees to become Diomedes' lover. Notice how Troilus is placed in the same position as the audience? We both see and hear Cressida's betrayal from a distance, even though we don't really have much access to her motives or thoughts at this point. The effect of this is that we tend to identify with Troilus, because it's as if we're standing right next to him as he watches Cressida betray him.