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Troilus and Cressida Theme of Time

Troilus and Cressida is obsessed with the passage of time. When the play opens, we get the sense that time has been moving at a snail's pace for those who have endured seven long, drawn out years of warfare. Yet, as the play picks up momentum, we quickly realize that time doesn't just fly—it destroys everything in its path. That's why the characters in this play see time as the biggest threat to their existence. As they try to come to terms with their own mortality, they describe the passage of time as a powerful, cruel, destructive, and unfaithful force—something that's capable of bringing about death and of erasing the past. Is there anything that can resist the ravages of time and death? Well, notice how the Greek and Trojan soldiers hope that winning "honor and renown" on the battlefield will make them famous "in time to come." And in the end, they do. After all, we're still reading about them thousands of years later.

Questions About Time

  1. Why does Shakespeare start this play in the seventh year of the Trojan War? Why not start at the beginning?
  2. What's the play's overall attitude toward the passage of time? Is time something to be feared? Does it bring anything good?
  3. According to the play, is there anything that can stand the test of time? Or, are all things destined to be forgotten?
  4. Why does Cressida think her love will outlive her mortal body? Is she right?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

According to this play, not even love can withstand the ravages of time and death.

In Troilus and Cressida, time is like a gigantic monster that devours the good deeds of men and threatens to erase their pasts.

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