Troilus and Cressida
Buying, selling, trading, and commerce. That's what makes the world go round in this play, and not the so-called heroic deeds of men. In Troilus and Cressida, the Greeks and Trojans tend to treat people (especially women) as if they're marketplace items that can be bought, sold, stolen, or traded. The Trojan princes talk about Helen like she's an expensive piece of silk fabric listed on eBay; Cressida is treated like a commodity when she's traded to the Greeks; and Ulysses talks about Ajax like he's a product the Greeks are trying to sell. Ultimately, we think that Shakespeare wants us to consider how we determine a person's "worth" and "value." Do people have some kind of inherent or automatic "value"? Or, does a person's "value" depend on whether or not other people think they are "worth" something?
Questions About Philosophical Viewpoints
- Why doesn't Hector think Helen is "worth" such a costly war? Why does Troilus disagree?
- What does Troilus mean when he asks "What's aught but as 'tis valued?" Can we get a translation please? Okay, okay, you're right: that's our job. He's saying something like, "What is anything, except its price?" So—what does that mean?
- Why is Cressida traded to the Greeks? Is it really just because her dad misses her, or is there a deeper motive?
- Why does Achilles think his countrymen don't value him? What does "value" mean in this context? How would he know that they valued him enough?
Chew on This
Achilles is afraid he's worthless because he believes that a person's value depends on his reputation, or what other people think of him.
Over the course of the play, Cressida is portrayed as a commodity that can be bought, sold, borrowed, or traded. Same goes for Helen.