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Group Readings > Act 1-Troilus And Cressida

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message 1: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2748 comments Mod
In an experiment....I'm going to try to post the comments from Troillus and Cressida...into sections for each act.

This was suggested by one of our members...explaining it might be very helpful to avoid spoilers. AND I thought also to find a way to keep in tune with where the discussion is...and sort of get a handle on it.

I'm going to copy and paste the comments from long discussion into the dates representing each discussion of each act....

message 2: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2748 comments Mod
Candy Minx | 1415 comments
We begin the chance to have a group discussion of Trollus and Cressida on December 26 reading one Act a week through to January.

Steve Evans is going to be our discussion leader for this read.

I am not familiar with this play and am looking forward to the group read and discussion. I hope folks participate, we have a lot of fun!

Here is the general dates for each Act.

Act 1-December 26
Act 2- January 2
Act 3-January 9
Act 4-January 16
Act 5-January 23

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message 2: by Steve Dec 19, 2016 08:11AM
Steve Evans (SteveEvansofPahiatua) | 39 comments Hello yes it is Steve the alleged discussion leader for Troilus and Cressida. I don't want to offend anyone, or tell people how to suck eggs over this play. I am not a scholar but a lover of Shakespeare who happens to have been very affected by this play and put some time into trying to understand it. I've seen three productions.

It is possibly Shakespeare's most difficult so I hope you will read this introduction.

Any edition may very well do, but of all I have seen, David Bevington's Arden is immensely superior. There is an e-book edition but it is not cheap (about US$15). Bevington's edition has advantages aplenty, one being that he was able to consult Williams' three volume dictionary of sexual allusions in the literature of the period. The play is chock full of them, not all obvious to readers of our day. There is a free online glossary by Williams also, which may help.

Troilus and Cressida was first printed in 1609 - the same year as the Sonnets, when theatres were closed and Shakespeare may have been casting about for means of an income - but was probably written around 1600. There were two quartos, the second replacing the first, which had headlined the play as having been performed by Shakespeare's company. The second said the play had never been performed and contained a preface from "a never writer" to the "ever reader" that went further and said that it was a comedy!: "passing full of the palm comical" and containing laughs aplenty along the lines of Roman comic playwrights Terence and Plautus.

Hopefully the edition readers use will contain this wee gem.

The third version of the play is in the Folio, where it is sandwiched in between two sections and does not appear in the table of contents.

A great deal has been made of these bibliographical puzzles but as you read, you will find plenty of others.

Whatever edition readers choose, hopefully they will find this play as challenging and enlightening as I have.

It may be hard to avoid spoilers, but do try.


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message 3: by Candy Dec 19, 2016 08:36AM
Candy Minx | 1415 comments
Hey great Steve, good to "see" you.

So far I have spelled the title of this pay wrong, is corrected, sorry everyone. I also sent out a broadcast message to the whole group.... with the play spelled wrong....ooops! Sorry everyone!

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message 4: by Candy (last edited Dec 19, 2016 08:38AM) Dec 19, 2016 08:37AM
Candy Minx | 1415 comments
Hi Steve,

could you post the ISBN number of the edition you recommend? I'll try the library!

Oh is this it?

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message 5: by Steve Dec 19, 2016 08:40AM
Steve Evans (SteveEvansofPahiatua) | 39 commentsCandy wrote: "Hi Steve,

could you post the ISBN number of the edition you recommend? I'll try the library!"

9781903436707 hard copy

9781472584755 epub

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message 6: by Candy Dec 19, 2016 08:45AM
Candy Minx | 1415 comments

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message 7: by Joseph Dec 19, 2016 02:04PM
Joseph McGarry (joseph_mcgarry) | 137 comments There is some debate over whether the play was performed during Shakespeare's lifetime. One edition of the play says it was "unsoil'd by the stage." Other reports say it was performed, but it was a box office flop. If it was performed, it wasn't performed for very long.

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message 8: by Candy Dec 20, 2016 08:39AM
Candy Minx | 1415 comments
Very interesting Joseph.

I've heard it's a bit of a challenge but I am looking forward to this one....are you going to join us Joseph? I hope so!!!

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message 9: by Steve Dec 20, 2016 10:01AM
Steve Evans (SteveEvansofPahiatua) | 39 commentsCandy wrote: "great!"

Hi Joseph thanks for your comment. Hope you will enliven the discussion.

It is even possible that the play was not performed using any of the editions quarto or Folio until the 20th century, Productions followed changes made by later editors. Since the last century it has been staged in a variety of settings.

The first quarto was quickly replaced and it seems to me that the claim that it was performed by Shakespeare's company probably was the cause. The printer may have been using a template for the title page that included "as performed by", and just assumed it had been. But there is a range of possibilities!

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message 10: by David Dec 23, 2016 09:27PM
David (Shaxton) | 102 comments Just a note to say the Arden edition of Troilus and Cressida available from works well on my Android tablet. I say this becomes I have not always had much luck with ebooks with annotations, but in this case the annotations are easily and conveniently accessed--and it's a snap to get back to the play itself, too.

The ebook sells for 10 ducats at

I also bought the Folger edition (ebook) but found the links very, very clunky--and returning to the text was a hit or miss proposition. I was using my Android tablet, so it could be that this edition might work better on other devices and operating systems (especially iPads, I'm told). Here's a link to it, should someone be interested:

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message 11: by Steve Dec 23, 2016 09:33PM
Steve Evans (SteveEvansofPahiatua) | 39 commentsDavid wrote: "Just a note to say the Arden edition of Troilus and Cressida available from works well on my Android tablet. I say this becomes I have not always had much luck with ebooks with annotatio..."

David thanks very much for this info. Like you I have found ebooks with notes often very difficult to use. Fortunately for me I have a hard copy of the Arden.

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message 12: by Gabriel Dec 24, 2016 07:40AM
Gabriel | 71 comments I'm looking forward to this discussion, I faded out of the Love's Labour's Lost one but I was still reading the excellent contributions, - thanks.

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message 13: by Jill Dec 26, 2016 12:57PM
Jill | 1 comments I'm going to join in this one. I am not very adept at reading Shakespeare, but aspire to read more. It gets easier with each play. I am also very interested in the Trojan War, but it confuses me, so maybe this play will help me learn more.

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message 14: by Patrick Dec 26, 2016 01:20PM
Patrick Murtha Hello, first-time poster Patrick Murtha here, hailing from Queretaro, Mexico, where I teach English in my semi-retirement. I'm 58, single, a graduate of Yale (BA in American Studies) and Boston University (Master of Arts in Teaching). I plan to participate in this read. I'm currently without a hardcover Shakespeare - I need to rebuild my library which has been depleted by many moves - so I'm going to use the free Folger online edition, which I hear is quite good.

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message 15: by Candy Dec 26, 2016 01:39PM
Candy Minx | 1415 comments
Yay! Welcome Jill and Patrick, so good to see new "faces".

We go slow and there isn't an expectation of "expertise" here...good old fashioned reading is all.

I'm probably reading the play online far I'm on the first as I find my "complete" book to heavy to hold for long LOL

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message 16: by Candy Dec 26, 2016 01:40PM
Candy Minx | 1415 comments
Gabrial, I think it's totally okay if we fade in and out and I am so glad to hear from you that you did keep following the posts and discussion.

Sometimes thats enough right?

I sure hope anyone who wants to join in will post their thoughts...I know it helps to feel like we have company reading or just following along!

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message 17: by Steve Dec 26, 2016 02:17PM
Steve Evans (SteveEvansofPahiatua) | 39 comments Hi there. . .great to see new people here. . .I think we're meant to get through about an act a week. For the first week though there is the "preface" to the second quarto impression. Hopefully that will be in whatever edition people have. I am re-reading the introduction to my edition (3d series Arden) but will be there soon. . .Enjoy the play. . .!

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message 18: by Don Dec 26, 2016 02:55PM
Don (donbcivil) | 6 comments This is my first time in a discussion here.

Is the theory that we start reading Act 1 today and discuss in a week? Or will discussion start anytime now?

Happy New Year, folks!

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message 19: by Steve Dec 26, 2016 04:01PM
Steve Evans (SteveEvansofPahiatua) | 39 comments Hi Don - please contribute anytime, but try to avoid "spoilers" for those who have not got to where you are!

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message 20: by David (last edited Dec 26, 2016 09:58PM) Dec 26, 2016 09:53PM
David (Shaxton) | 102 comments The Promised Largeness

The third scene of Act 1 is my favorite so far, and it gets off to a grand start, with the high-and-mighty Agamemnon making this pronouncement:

The ample proposition that hope makes
In all designs begun on earth below
Fails in the promised largeness: cheques and disasters
Grow in the veins of actions highest rear'd,
As knots, by the conflux of meeting sap,
Infect the sound pine and divert his grain
Tortive and errant from his course of growth.

I've long noted that Shakespeare has a special fondness for two particular activities, gardening and falconry, and in these lines we get a great horticultural metaphor, the first of many I suspect.

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message 21: by Gabriel Dec 27, 2016 09:25AM
Gabriel | 71 comments Hi David, thanks for pointing out (and illustrating) the 'knot' metaphor in scene 3 of T&C. It strikes me though as a deliberately awkward metaphor, maybe hinting something about the Greek leaders' unnatural (and unsuccessful) perfectionism. A knot, after all, is where a branch grows - the most natural thing for a tree to do, but described by Agamemnon as 'infecting' the tree and diverting it from perfect straightness. I find the messy, varied human world of the Trojans in the preceding two scenes more appealing, despite the slimy Pandarus. Cressida is particularly interesting in the witty way she keeps Pandarus at bay (though making use of him).

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message 22: by David Dec 27, 2016 01:06PM
David (Shaxton) | 102 commentsGabriel wrote: "Hi David, thanks for pointing out (and illustrating) the 'knot' metaphor in scene 3 of T&C. It strikes me though as a deliberately awkward metaphor, maybe hinting something about the Greek leaders'..."

If my memory's right, Agamemnon is indeed talking about the unnatural and unsuccessful perfectionism . . . of one particular Greek leader, Achilles. As for how natural real knots are, I couldn't say, having absolutely no gardening skills or knowledge, but a gardener friend says that knots don't necessarily foretell a new branch.

An interesting take on the first two scenes, with their depiction of the "messy" world of the Trojans. I'll have to have another look. I agree that the second scene, with Cressida and Pandarus bantering is funny and would work better on the stage, but the poetry of it didn't delight me nearly as much as the poetry in the third scene.

message 3: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2748 comments Mod
message 42: by Thomas (last edited Jan 02, 2017 02:50AM) Jan 02, 2017 02:45AM
Thomas (Thomas156) | 15 commentsGabriel wrote: "Thanks Steve, Janice, Thomas, that all makes sense to me. I'm wondering whether Shakespeare's attitude to war and masculinity became more sceptical and satirical over time, as this is a late play, ..."

Hello Janice and Gabriel,
I do not think Shakespeare bothered about "comedy" or "tragedy", but I believe people (like the Folio editors) would have classified it as tragedy simply because some someone dies in the end.
In my view Shakespeare had always been sceptical about heroism and masculinity, even in Henry V. Much of that play is about the enormous costs of war in terms of money and lives, and, significantly, it does not end with the victory at Agincourt but with Henry's marriage to a French princess and the conclusion of peace.
I once looked up "valour" in a Shakespeare Concordance: the term occurs about 100 times in Shakespeare, and term is invariably used ironically, or the concept is satirized.
While Achilles' lack of heroism in the scene with Patroclus is really funny, Hector's inefficiency as a 'hero' might be considered tragic.

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message 43: by Martin (last edited Jan 02, 2017 04:57AM) Jan 02, 2017 03:10AM
Martin | 792 comments I loved Candy's quote of the breadmaking. This is certainly my own kitchen experience: home-made bread is delicious, but doesn't it take too long? Isn't it easier just to go to the supermarket and buy a loaf? And is this not a comment on Troilus as wooer? Is he not going about his courtship the hard way, and would he not do better to woo for himself, rather than use the foolish and garrulous Pandarus as go-between?

And I loved David's knotty pine quote. Then as now, it is pinewood where the knots are really significant. There are "knotty pine" businesses. See

And have not the Greeks entangled themselves in knots?

One could see it as S's ironic comments on the legend of Troy: Chaucer's Troilus is a prince, Cressida a widow with an errant father. She is free, and vulnerable. Why is the poem slowed down by dealings with Pandarus? Achilles will not fight. Why is he not simply court-martialled?

A real difficulty, for once, is the "no spoilers" rule. The legend of Troy is like the Arthurian legends, or the story of Adam and Eve, we all know (roughly) how it ends. S's first audience would have know it too, and he would have known that they knew it. A danger is projecting our assumptions about the legend onto S's play. The siege of Troy is like WW1. The cause was trivial and the conflict dragged on for years. It's easy to take T&C as an anti-war play like "Oh What a Lovely War", but I don't so far see that in S's text.

In the very second line,

"the princes orgulous"

-- "Orgulous" seems like a key word to me. It is a Malory / Caxton word, "proud", and not, as far as I know, in Chaucer. ("Orgoglioso" in italian, though "superbo" is more common.) Chaucer uses "proud", and also the lovely word "surquidry". The word takes us into the medieval origins of the T&C story.

Later, the prologue tells us,

". . . our play
Leaps o'er the vaunt and firstlings of those broils,
Beginning in the middle, starting thence away
To what may be digested in a play."

S can't do the whole thing. There is a similar disclaimer in Chaucer,

"But how this toun com to destruccioun
Ne falleth nought to purpos me to telle;
For it were a long digressioun
Fro my matere, and yow to longe dwelle.
But the Troyane gestes, as they felle,
In Omer, or in Dares, or in Dyte,
Whoso that can, may rede hem as they wryte."

(Paraphrase: How Troy got destroyed is not my purpose to explain. It would make a long digression from my material, and you would be here for a long time hearing it. But the Trojan legends you can find written in Homer, Dares and Dictys, assuming you're able to read, of course.)

S of course goes beyond Chaucer, and does combine the medieval invention of Troilus and Cressida with the Homeric story.

It was a shock when I first realised the T & C story is not classical. More recently it was a shock to learn that Chaucer could never have read Homer, though how that is known for certain I do not know.

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message 44: by Candy Jan 02, 2017 07:13AM
Candy Minx | 1417 comments
Yes, it is strange to think that Chaucer probably never read Homer. I guess though, that Chaucer's writing and satire and work was often him reacting and locking horns with the oral tradition of these stories. I have a theory that some writers had sense of artistic freedom when they heard what I imagine to be such a variety of versions.

It's sort of like when you're at a party and someone starts to tell a joke, and you'e listening ...and then all of a sudden you realize, wait. I recognize where this is going. The details may have changed but you start to see "this is the same joke as this one" only told with completely different characters and settings.

If you study urban myths for a start to be able to recognize "fake news". Fake news is re-writing a lot of the same fears embedded in urban myths.

I also think that Shakespeare has always been skeptical about war. I might even take a risk and claim that all the great war narratives are anti-war narratives. I think they all reveal how small a value or trade-off we get from war, as a cost-benefit....war isn't such a good economy. It's a good economy for people in the business of control systems, like government, monarchy, corporations or oil-weapons.....but the trouble lose the hearts of the people who lose family and friends as soldiers...and when there is such a financial loss in everyday life. The peasants will always eventually revolt.

One of the things I like about Henry V and, Corlianus is that the wealthy are shown to be ruined by war at least eventually. I always feel that Shakespeare is saying do anything to avoid war, make renewal of resources and love the cure for society. (his green world stories, Henry V tragic battle)

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message 45: by Candy (last edited Jan 02, 2017 07:38AM) Jan 02, 2017 07:32AM
Candy Minx | 1417 comments
There is a saying commonly used on film sets. "Hurry up and wait."

But it probably came from the second world war....the saying is considered to sum up military culture.'s funny, because my sense moving into the second Act this morning...that Shakespeare is playing with this concept of "hurry up and wait".

The sense of slowness, of grinding through the dialogue is stopping and avoiding the action of war, which is stereotyped as violent, fast-paced, dangerous and action-packed.

I also think that the deliberate "stalling" of the story is to portray that the culture is stagnant.

The world needs a restoration....(perhaps to the green world, perhaps tragedy and death for rebirth like Hamlet)

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message 46: by Candy (last edited Jan 02, 2017 07:43AM) Jan 02, 2017 07:38AM
Candy Minx | 1417 comments
"After so many hours, lives, speeches spent,
Thus once again says Nestor from the Greeks:
'Deliver Helen, and all damage else--
As honour, loss of time, travail, expense,
Wounds, friends, and what else dear that is consumed
In hot digestion of this cormorant war--
Shall be struck off.' Hector, what say you to't?" (Priam)

Isn't that funny, weren't we just talking about cormorants in CofE?

And here we have another usage of "consume". It's not in relation to women, or sex, this time but rather almost that this is a consumer mindset in the culture. ( contemporary does that sound!!??)


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message 47: by Candy Jan 02, 2017 07:45AM
Candy Minx | 1417 comments
Oh something else I be Act 1 Cressida is "rating" the men. she is treating them as sport. Yes, she may actually be interesting sincerely....but then she also ranks them. I'm not convinced that is much different than the men's attitudes to owning women?

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message 48: by Martin Jan 02, 2017 08:06AM
Martin | 792 comments Yes, the men are rather paraded before her like a beauty pageant, aren't they?

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message 49: by Thomas Jan 02, 2017 09:34AM
Thomas (Thomas156) | 15 commentsCandy wrote: "Oh something else I be Act 1 Cressida is "rating" the men. she is treating them as sport. Yes, she may actually be interesting sincerely....but then she also ranks them. I'..."
Oh yes, I agree, and Troilus certainly shares her attitude. At the end of the first Scene he proposes to win Cressida, or rather her sexual favours, as in a treasure hunt: "Her bed is India, there she lies, a pearl ..."
In treating one another as articles of consumption, the two are certainly on a par. So they have only themselves to blame when their relationship does not turn out well.

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message 50: by Martin Jan 02, 2017 10:46AM
Martin | 792 comments Ah, this proves my earlier point, when I said that a real difficulty, for once, is the "no spoilers" rule. Thomas introduces a spoiler in telling us "their relationship does not turn out well". Can the spolier be defended by saying we all know the end of the story? I really don't know. Other opinions welcome.

(But Thomas I think you are wrong here: clearly Troilus is in love. He is not a seducer.)

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message 4: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2748 comments Mod
Candy Minx | 1418 comments
Oooh...this brings up a good question...are there some characters who are truly in love, or some who are opportunistic?

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message 52: by Thomas Jan 02, 2017 11:31AM
Thomas (Thomas156) | 15 commentsMartin wrote: "Ah, this proves my earlier point, when I said that a real difficulty, for once, is the "no spoilers" rule. Thomas introduces a spoiler in telling us "their relationship does not turn out well". Can..."
Sorry for being a spoiler - actually I believe that Shakespeare's original audiences could predict by the end of act I that this relationship had little chance of turning out well.
Troilus may be "in love", but clearly love to him means something different from what it means to Romeo, or Orlando. Juliet and Rosalind are goddesses, or saints; Cressida is a costly item available to the person who reaches it first - don't you think?

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message 53: by Candy (last edited Jan 03, 2017 08:52AM) Jan 02, 2017 06:29PM
Candy Minx | 1418 comments
Not sure yet, Thomas, still reading. I am see foreshadows I think in Act 1 and Act the idea that there is consuming the world, people, where kings turn into to merchants. These images suggest to me that the play may lead us to think about what we people are making, rather than are we consuming. The image of a king being demoted to a merchant is interesting.

I'm not sure where this play will end up yet in the characters....this play doesn't seem to be about the famous myths, but rather what can gleaned from experimenting with a famous story/structure. There are some conventions Shakespeare may or may not want to adhere to....

I am not convinced so far this is tragedy. It seems to me to be least this far in the play...I'm not comparing it to the mythology yet. I will when it's finished.

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message 54: by David Jan 02, 2017 09:13PM
David (Shaxton) | 102 comments On the issue of spoiler alerts, I'll just throw in my two cents' worth (for what it may or may not be worth).

I suspect holding back does more harm than good. I'm probably in the minority in this forum, but I'm convinced that contemporary readers of Shakespeare put far too much emphasis on the story (by which I pretty much plot and characters). T. S. Eliot, in talking about poetry, nicely sums up my views on reading Shakespeare:

"The chief use of the 'meaning' of a poem, in the ordinary sense, may be ... to satisfy one habit of the reader, to keep his mind diverted and quiet, while the poem does its work upon him." T.S. Eliot, "The Use of Poetry", 1933

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message 55: by Martin (last edited Jan 03, 2017 02:26AM) Jan 03, 2017 12:18AM
Martin | 792 comments David, I wasn't thinking about the "no spoiler" rule generally, but whether it has to apply to readings of well-known legends. Generally I think the rule is useful, because it encourages us to read as if we were reading for the first time (although with T&C, like Candy, I am reading it for the first time.) In S fans, I am orgulous to obey the rule as best as I can!

Candy's message #53 most interesting, as, having fought my way through the knotty pine poetry of 1.3, I now see the whole scene as an echo of typical senior management meetings in a modern business. Agamemnon is CEO, Ulysses and Nestor are in marketing. The marketing guys have no interest in what the business is really making, they are concerned with image. They spend their time feeding the CEO with jealous fears about Achilles, who runs the New York office and is going out of control. They know Agamemnon isn't up to the job, but wouldn't try to get rid of him, because the fallout would reduce the value of their share options. Aeneas from their main competitor comes in and challenges them to put someone up to do a joint presentation with Hector at the next big Olympia event in London. Achilles is the best man for this, but what if he fails? And besides the marketing people are jealous of his possible success. So they hatch a plot to get Ajax chosen. Ajax is CTO, knows his stuff technically, but is otherwise an oaf. And so on ...

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message 5: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 161 comments I like the restructuring by act. This looks good. I was able to come back and read this without too many spoilers. I have never read this. But, somehow, I knew that T & C's relationship did not end well. Maybe I caught it from introduction in my Delphi version. Who knows? This is much appreciated. I agree that the first Act was a tough read, but found Act 2 much easier to decipher.

message 6: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2748 comments Mod
Great to see you here Jonathan....and I am glad to see this new structure might be beneficial... to all of us!

message 7: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 161 comments Candy wrote: "Great to see you here Jonathan....and I am glad to see this new structure might be beneficial... to all of us!"

I am so happy to be here. Great discussion. This format helps immensely. I am caught up now, thank you.

message 8: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2748 comments Mod
All right! I also really like this format. It will be interesting to be able to find posts and ideas a lot easier!

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