Shakespeare Fans discussion

6 views
Group Readings > Act 2-Troilus And Cressida

Comments Showing 1-13 of 13 (13 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2728 comments Mod
Here are the posts regarding Act 2.

In this way....participants may be able to avoid spoilers and to research the comments....this format might have great ease and benefit.


message 2: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2728 comments Mod
message 56: by Martin (last edited Jan 03, 2017 01:02AM) Jan 03, 2017 01:01AM
Martin | 792 comments "Courtiers as free, as debonair, as bending angels", says Aeneas, and the very thorough notes of Mr Bevinton tell us this is S's only use of "debonair". S could be reaching back to Chaucer, who often uses the word, as here, in his first description of Cressida,

As was Criseyde, as folk seyde everichoon
That hir behelden in hir blake wede;
And yet she stood ful lowe and stille alloon,
Bihinden othere folk, in litel brede,
And neigh the dore, ay under shames drede,
Simple of atir, and debonaire of chere,
With ful assured loking and manere.

(Paraphrase on demand only.)

And bending (=bowing) angels seem distinctly medieval,



reply | delete | flag *
message 57: by Martin (last edited Jan 04, 2017 02:31PM) Jan 03, 2017 02:20AM
Martin | 792 commentsKnotty pine poetry

Perhaps it is less difficult than I found it at first reading,

"Our imputation shall be oddly poised
In this wild action; for the success,
Although particular, shall give a scantling
Of good or bad unto the general;
And in such indexes, although small pricks
To their subsequent volumes, there is seen
The baby figure of the giant mass
Of things to come at large. It is supposed
He that meets Hector issues from our choice
And choice, being mutual act of all our souls,
Makes merit her election, and doth boil,
As 'twere from us all, a man distill'd
Out of our virtues."

"The general" means the common crowd (footsoldiers) as in Hamlet's "caviary to the general", and "oddly poised" suggests perhaps a die, about to drop in a way we don't expect. It is S's choice of metaphors that then puzzles us, rather than the meaning of the metaphors themselves. First you have to imagine a huge encyclopaedic book, like Burton's Anatomy prefixed with a table of contents divided into explanatory headings of sections and subsections and sub-subsections ... this is the "index", though at the beginning, not at the end, where we expect to find an index today, and is the "baby figure" for the whole book. Bevinton, editor of the Arden edition, finds a sexual meaning here (he usually does), but I think "pricks" just means the stab of spurs, driving the reader forwards.

"Choice" starts off as a vote among the Greek captains, but is soon a goddess, for whom "election" is both the process of choosing and the thing chosen, this then leads us into the second metaphor, of a chemical process with alembics,

See http://www.cafleurebon.com/perfumers-... for the sort of thing . . .

The Greek leaders are dissolved in water in the alembic, heat is applied, the water boils, the distillation of all their excellencies is a new man who forms in the receptacle at the end of the long glass tube.

The combination of the metaphors suggests research processes in an alchemist's workshop.

reply | delete | flag *
message 58: by Thomas (last edited Jan 03, 2017 03:45AM) Jan 03, 2017 02:59AM
Thomas (Thomas156) | 15 commentsMartin wrote: "Knotty pine poetry

Perhaps it is less difficult than I found it at first reading,

"Our imputation shall be oddly poised
In this wild action; for the success,
Although particular, shall give a sca..."
I like the heading "knotty pine poetry", which wonderfully summarizes the style of Nestor's speech - and thank you for your intricate analysis of the passage - I only think that "general" (opposed to "particular") refers to 'the Greeks' rather than to the foot-soldiers.
We should not forget who is speaking these lines - and I think that the strange choice of images is meant to characterize Nestor. Nestor is extremely wordy and fancifully rhetoric while his meaning is rather a truism; and his speech illustrates the combination of boastful arrogance and emptiness of thought which characterizes many speeches made at council tables/ committee meetings - even today.

reply | delete | flag *
message 59: by Candy (last edited Jan 03, 2017 09:19AM) Jan 03, 2017 09:12AM
Candy Minx | 1420 comments
Mod
Again, as I sleep...busy busy thinkers....what a treat to wake up to such meaty and heady posts. I must consume them!

I like the CEO res of persons Martin. I actually find that extremely helpful to my comprehension.

I am also reading the characters as two sets. Mortals and Goddesses/Gods. I see the density metaphors in poem also as a metaphor for the communication between material world and supernatural/heavenly world. And I think this is also tied into an alchemists worldview...of which I also am feeling as I read.

How significant or valuable a reading of the play through alchemical lens is....I am not sure in this discussion. But it's sitting there for us to consider...

As I read I am seeing distributed cognition between the characters and plot. So there are different ways to "read" this play as is usual in Shakespeare readings LOL.

reply | edit | delete | flag *
message 60: by Candy Jan 03, 2017 09:14AM
Candy Minx | 1420 comments
Mod
Thomas, the knotty pine thing is quite nice isn't it? I am interested in your sense that the metaphors are specific per character. I think this is such a well-needed argument....even if I think these characters also work within the whole story....and their ideas are there for general analysis. It does seem too support the portrayal of Nestor...however...these metaphors hep us in general with our comprehension, no?

reply | edit | delete | flag *
message 61: by Candy Jan 03, 2017 09:20AM
Candy Minx | 1420 comments
Mod
P.S.

I have started a thread on "Spoilers"...

This topic comes up...over the years...lets maybe discuss it in a different thread than this discussion....

reply | edit | delete | flag *
message 62: by Thomas (last edited Jan 03, 2017 03:27PM) Jan 03, 2017 03:26PM
Thomas (Thomas156) | 15 commentsCandy wrote: "Thomas, the knotty pine thing is quite nice isn't it? I am interested in your sense that the metaphors are specific per character. I think this is such a well-needed argument....even if I think the..."
Well, yes, Candy, they usually do, in Shakespeare. I think, however, that Nestor's Images are a bit 'over the top' and do not carry much meaning any more: "... a man distilled/ Of all our virtues" - How many virtues are there left in the Greek camp?
This depends, however, on how the scene, and Nestor's part, is acted. I imagine him as being rather pompous - so that it becomes obvious how little he has to say.
I once read that there are more metaphors in Troilus than in any other Shakespearean play. This may be due to the audience Shakespeare probably wrote this play for: the Inns of Court, i. e. law students - a particularly intellectual audience who might enjoy this satiric use of rhetorics.

reply | delete | flag *
message 63: by Martin Jan 04, 2017 02:38AM
Martin | 792 comments Yes, Nestor certainly does not suggest wisdom, which is the Homeric presentation of him. Are these characters parodies of their Homeric originals? In Joyce's Ulysses, Nestor becomes Mr Deasy, who is not wise at all. "Is this old Tory wisdom?" Stephen thinks to himself. But Joyce is not writing parody, and perhaps S is not either.

The Greek leaders of the Trojan War are briefly described in the "ekphrasis" section of The Rape of Lucrece. (Candy will remember that from the read of Lucrece in S fans a few years back.) It would be interesting at the end of the T&C read to do a comparison from these works written at different ends of S's career.

reply | delete | flag *
message 64: by Candy (last edited Jan 04, 2017 09:24AM) Jan 04, 2017 09:23AM
Candy Minx | 1420 comments
Mod
I am not sure if these characters are parodies....they do seem to be something other than what we expect.

Which ties into spoilers (to spoil or not).....which I now see as funny that I was worried about spoilers in this play....because it's part of this play...to riff on what the audience knows about the folk tale of Troillus and Cressida overlapping the knowledge audience has for Greek mythology. So strange.

And for me...it's also the social constructs being tested about love and war.

Is Therasites a sort of miserable clown/fool figure? He seems to have dialogue that is informative like a fool....

I find this bit both funny and repulsive. And I think this is a good example of the kind of images in this play...which as everyone has said seems to be too tragic to be funny, but too funny to be a tragedy?



AGAMEMNON
Your mind is the clearer, Ajax, and your virtues the
fairer. He that is proud eats up himself: pride is
his own glass, his own trumpet, his own chronicle;
and whatever praises itself but in the deed, devours
the deed in the praise.

AJAX
I do hate a proud man, as I hate the engendering of toads.

NESTOR
Yet he loves himself: is't not strange?

This is very funny in some ways Especially Nestors line "yet he loves himself"



Toads are like a huge insult anyways in Renaissance. And some toads with mate with a dead toad....so this sort of seems to remind me that there is decay. The decay images are just adding up here...and the decay with sex. Food=sex. Leads me to feel the civilization is eating itself and a good image of collapse.

It's significant to me that the war and segregation between men and women is a problem in this society. I think Agamemon's insults are framed with female/lunar motifs as women or being female is an insult. And the doubt of this passage mirrors the doubt and treatment towards Cassandra.



"And under-honest, in self-assumption greater
Than in the note of judgment; and worthier
than himself
Here tend the savage strangeness he puts on,
Disguise the holy strength of their command,
And underwrite in an observing kind
His humorous predominance; yea, watch
His pettish lunes, his ebbs, his flows, as if
The passage and whole carriage of this action
Rode on his tide."

reply | edit | delete | flag *
message 65: by Martin Jan 04, 2017 10:38AM
Martin | 792 comments Brilliant notes Candy, but you are ahead of me in the read, and I must catch up . . .

Thersites is like the fool in Lear, perhaps, who was also liable to a thrashing.

I notice "Ulysses" is stressed on the middle syllable, not the first, in the blank verse of T&C.

reply | delete | flag *
message 66: by Gabriel Jan 04, 2017 11:14AM
Gabriel | 71 comments A reflection on the 'spoilers' debate. Broadly I'm against them, for reasons several other people have said, mainly not to spoil the impact for anyone who's reading the thing for the first time, which can be a magical revelation - only once. But often it's after we know 'what happens' that we can go back and enjoy seeing the process by which things unfold, in a way we might miss while we're intent on finding out 'what happens'. But I also agree that in the case of T&C, while (as people have usefully pointed out) we are unlikely, the first time, to know the T&C story, we are almost bound to know the rough outline of the surrounding Greeks vs Trojans story. Now I'm going to risk doing a 'negative spoiler' in the form of a slightly mischievous quiz question, though I don't think this will really spoil anything important: in one sense the end of this play isn't in this play but in another one. Where?

reply | delete | flag *
message 67: by Candy Jan 04, 2017 12:44PM
Candy Minx | 1420 comments
Mod
Ha!!! Great post Gabriel!!!

reply | edit | delete | flag *
message 68: by Thomas (last edited Jan 04, 2017 02:37PM) Jan 04, 2017 02:27PM
Thomas (Thomas156) | 15 comments Well, Gabriel, the end of the Troilus story is referred to in Merchant of Venice, beginning of Act 5 - but you probably mean the Player's rendering of "Priam's slaughter" in Act 2, scene 2 of Hamlet.
Candy and Martin: I have just re-read book 2 of Homer's Iliad - in Chapman's translation, accessible on the internet (archive.org) - and I do not think Shakespeare's Nestor is a parody, because even in Homer his speech of exhortation is slightly ridiculous. He urges his comrades to fight valiantly and not to stop until they have each o


message 3: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2728 comments Mod
message 68: by Thomas (last edited Jan 04, 2017 02:37PM) Jan 04, 2017 02:27PM
Thomas (Thomas156) | 15 comments Well, Gabriel, the end of the Troilus story is referred to in Merchant of Venice, beginning of Act 5 - but you probably mean the Player's rendering of "Priam's slaughter" in Act 2, scene 2 of Hamlet.
Candy and Martin: I have just re-read book 2 of Homer's Iliad - in Chapman's translation, accessible on the internet (archive.org) - and I do not think Shakespeare's Nestor is a parody, because even in Homer his speech of exhortation is slightly ridiculous. He urges his comrades to fight valiantly and not to stop until they have each of them 'lain with' (i. e. raped) a Trojan woman - this from an old man who cannot do much fighting himself. Shakespeare seems to expand on character traits already present in Homer.
To Thersites this applies to an even greater extent: In Homer he has a single, eighteen-line speech, poking fun at Agamemnon to whom war means satisfying his sexual appetites, as well as at his comrades who are "Greekish girls - not Greeks" (Chapman's Translation). Shakespeare proceeds from the tone of this speech to create a full-blown character - to comment on a situation which (as you say, Candy) is too funny to be tragic (and vice versa). As in Homer, Thersites' appearance is repulsive - but he tells the truth.

reply | delete | flag *
message 69: by Martin Jan 04, 2017 03:00PM
Martin | 792 comments Thank you Thomas, very well researched! I had difficulty with archive.org, but also found the text here,

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/51355

reply | delete | flag *
message 70: by Janice(JG) Jan 04, 2017 04:06PM
Janice(JG) George | 13 commentsMartin wrote: "Brilliant notes Candy, but you are ahead of me in the read, and I must catch up . . .

Thersites is like the fool in Lear, perhaps, who was also liable to a thrashing...."

Thanks for this comment about Thersites, one of the notes I made in the margin of one of Thersites' appearances was "who is this guy sposed to be??"

All of you are so much better read in Shakespeare than I am, I'm afraid I have to just skip by references to other of S's plays until I am able to get there. I was able to watch the entire Hollow Crown series, so I have a kind of summary knowledge of Henry VI 1 & 2, and Richard III, and am looking forward to reading them especially since they seem to be so much more straightforward and character/story driven than either LLL or T & C.

Even so, I really enjoyed the beginnings of Act 2. The debate between Hector and Priam & his sons was excellent, both sides well represented, and a very modern dilemma. Hector seems to be the only sane one of the lot... is he speaking for Shakespeare?

reply | delete | flag *
message 71: by Gabriel Jan 04, 2017 10:32PM
Gabriel | 71 commentsThomas wrote: "Well, Gabriel, the end of the Troilus story is referred to in Merchant of Venice, beginning of Act 5 - but you probably mean the Player's rendering of "Priam's slaughter" in Act 2, scene 2 of Hamle..."
Thomas gets the bag of popcorn - two in fact - I'd forgotten about the mention in the Merchant of Venice. Perhaps when we get to the end of T&C we might revisit the question of whether there's any relationship between T&C and Hamlet.
Thanks also about Thersites. This seems then to be a case somewhat similar to Falstaff or certain other characters of Shakespeare picking up a minor source and building it into something much more - maybe especially with characters who are critical of the dominant ethos from an 'outsider' or 'bufoon' position.

reply | delete | flag *
message 72: by Thomas Jan 05, 2017 02:09PM
Thomas (Thomas156) | 15 commentsJanice(JG) wrote: "Martin wrote: "Brilliant notes Candy, but you are ahead of me in the read, and I must catch up . . .

Thersites is like the fool in Lear, perhaps, who was also liable to a thrashing...."

Thanks f..."
I quite agree that Hector is the only sane character in an insane world, but still I do not think he is speaking for Shakespeare. Hector's belief in the possibility of establishing common sense and meaning in a situation marked by absurdity is somewhat naive. I usually imagine that Shakespeare sympathizes with (even identifies with) each and everyone of his characters, good and evil, old and young, men and women - but if I were to choose among the characters of T&C whose world view and ethical position most closely corresponds to Shakespeare's own I would say that his position must be somewhere in between those of Hector, Ulysses and Thersites - all of these characters show an awareness of the true state of affairs.

reply | delete | flag *
message 73: by David Jan 05, 2017 02:30PM
David (Shaxton) | 102 comments David poses a question.

Anyone else notice how often some of the characters in this play refer to themselves in the third person, often by name?

Here's an example, from Thersites, in Act 2:


THERSITES
How now, Thersites! what lost in the labyrinth of thy fury!

I was trying to think of examples from other Shakespeare plays but was not having any luck, though I'm reasonably sure there must be instances. Still, thus far anyhow, the number in “Troilus and Cressida” seems high. Is Shakespeare up to something I'm not seeing?

reply | delete | flag *
message 74: by Gabriel Jan 06, 2017 01:41AM
Gabriel | 71 commentsDavid wrote: "David poses a question.

David, re: 'Anyone else notice how often some of the characters in this play refer to themselves in the third person, often by name?...I was trying to think of examples from other Shakespeare plays...'
How about Richard II: '...Long mayst thou live in Richard's seat to sit/ And soon lie Richard in an earthy pit./God save King Henry, unkinged Richard says...' [iv:i]

reply | delete | flag *
message 75: by Martin (last edited Jan 08, 2017 02:45AM) Jan 06, 2017 02:11AM
Martin | 792 comments Troilus describes Cressida as a pearl, and himself as the merchant seeking her,

"there she lies, a pearl:
Between our Ilium and where she resides,
Let it be call'd the wild and wandering flood,
Ourself the merchant, and this sailing Pandar
Our doubtful hope, our convoy and our bark."

Candy sees in this, Cressida as on object of "consumerism", Thomas agrees. Later, Troilus uses the same image in referring to Helen,

"she is a pearl,
Whose price hath launch'd above a thousand ships,
And turn'd crown'd kings to merchants."

And again Candy says "like the idea that there is consuming the world, people, where kings turn into to merchants."

I think it's important to see the origin of this image, which is in Jesus' parable of the merchant, briefly told in Matthew 13,

"The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls,
who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it."

Heaven is "the pearl of great price". The merchant sees it is worth giving up everything he has to attain it. This is how Troilus sees Cressida. The same lover's enthusiasm causes him to tranfer the idea to Helen, mixing a bit of Marlowe in with the language of the New Testament. So we are encouraged to see a certain parallel between Troilus-Cressida and Paris-Helen.

The very difficult 2.2 is about "value". Value is not the same as market price. We don't value Picasso's Guernica against the fluctuating prices of Picassos in the auction rooms. This is Troilus' point, although we see he is very badly placed to make it, since a lover cannot form an objective valuation of the beloved. (So in Proust, we see Albertine through M's eyes: eventually M shows a photo of Albertine to Saint Loup, who is amazed that M can worship such an insignificant looking creature.)

The philosophical discussion closes with a reference to Aristotle. This is one of S's most famous anachronisms, and I think it is intentional, just as Jesus' "pearl of great price" can't be known to a Trojan of 1000 BC.

reply | delete | flag *
message 76: by Martin (last edited Jan 06, 2017 07:02AM) Jan 06, 2017 07:00AM
Martin | 792 comments Thanks to Thomas I have had the experience of First Looking into Chapman's Homer. Personally, it did not do for me what it did for Keats!

reply | delete | flag *
message 77: by David Jan 06, 2017 07:35AM
David (Shaxton) | 102 commentsGabriel wrote: "How about Richard II: '...Long mayst thou live in Richard's seat to sit/ And soon lie Richard in an earthy pit./God save King Henry, unkinged Richard says...' [iv:i] "

Thanks, Gabriel. I'm amazed I forgot Richard II, it being one of my favorite plays. I wonder if here the third-person ref is of a regal nature, in that monarchs are referred to by their first names, not their last names. At some point in the same play, Richard refers mockingly to 'King Bolingbroke.'

But it might be hard to argue that the same 'regal' use is employed in T&C, given that Thersites also refers to himself in the third person.

reply | delete | flag *
message 78: by Candy Jan 06, 2017 07:48AM
Candy Minx | 1421 comments
Mod
Gabriel wrote: "Thomas wrote: "Well, Gabriel, the end of the Troilus story is referred to in Merchant of Venice, beginning of Act 5 - but you probably mean the Player's rendering of "Priam's slaughter" in Act 2, s..."

Yes, I think that is a very good idea...because I see such a connection between Cressida and Ophelia.

reply | edit | delete | flag *
message 79: by Candy Jan 06, 2017 07:49AM
Candy Minx | 1421 comments
Mod
Thomas wrote: "Well, Gabriel, the end of the Troilus story is referred to in Merchant of Venice, beginning of Act 5 - but you probably mean the Player's rendering of "Priam's slaughter" in Act 2, scene 2 of Hamle..."

Very good insights, Thomas!


I think Homer is funny and has satire....I might if I have a chance for review...suggest that Nestor is satire in Homer.

reply | edit | delete | flag *
message 80: by Candy Jan 06, 2017 08:11AM
Candy Minx | 1421 comments
Mod
Martin wrote: "Troilus describes Cressida as a pearl, and himself as the merchant seeking her,

"there she lies, a pearl:
Between our Ilium and where she resides,
Let it be call'd the wild and wandering flood,
Ou..."

This is so insightful. I was thinking of various meanings of pearls, and mythology.

I wonder how much understanding of a pearl's creation was understood....and how that might be a strong metaphor for alchemy?

If we look at what Jung so brilliantly observed about alchemy we can see the pearl as having been misunderstood by merchants. The alchemical practices according to Jung's interpretation was that the practice wasn't about money, or gold-making but rather that the practice of observing interactions, was a metaphor for wisdom and learning.

Isn't it interesting that one of the things I may find fascinating about a pearl....that it takes so much time to make, and it is made by something irritating or threatening the health of an animal (the mollusk) and comes out so beautiful....but what did people during Jesus' time, or the Renaissance believe or know about the creation of a pearl?

Philosophical approach to the pearl could be a discussion of the beauty of a pearl being valuable versus it's financial value. And this works for the women in the play.

reply | edit | delete | flag *
message 81: by Candy Jan 06, 2017 08:24AM
Candy Minx | 1421 comments
Mod
In the Nag Hammadi, the pearl quote "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls,
who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it"


has in that...in actuality the "merchant" is Jesus.

I'm trying to find it to post here....but you know when you start reading the Nag Hammadi....it's so mystical in it's style of writing....you start daydreaming....

The Gospel of Thomas is repeating a puzzle of having something you get more.....yet you can not ride two horses, or hold two bows. So it's so strange it seems contradictory.


message 4: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2728 comments Mod
The Gospel of Thomas is repeating a puzzle of having something you get more.....yet you can not ride two horses, or hold two bows. So it's so strange it seems contradictory.

So holding on to the pearl (time, wisdom, beauty) and letting go of other things that do not provide the qualities, or traits of a a pearl...


And I think some how that has something to do with the decay, war, conspicuous consumption in the play...

reply | edit | delete | flag *
message 82: by Thomas Jan 06, 2017 12:27PM
Thomas (Thomas156) | 15 commentsDavid wrote: "David poses a question.

Anyone else notice how often some of the characters in this play refer to themselves in the third person, often by name?

Here's an example, from Thersites, in Act 2:

THE..."

Certainly a very good question, David - actually, I think there can be various reasons: Ulysses in Act 1, scene 3 introduces himself to the audience (who do not have the speech headings), same as Cordelia in King Lear ("What shall Cordelia say? Love, and be silent").
Thersites speaks to himself in a soliloquy, looking at himself from an outside point of view, as, I think, Richard II in the speech quoted by Gabriel: he sort of enjoys watching the spectacle of his own downfall.
Thank you, Martin, for pointing out the parallel in Matthew 13 - I think of it as a parallel rather than an origin - neither Cressida nor Helen can in any way be compared the kingdom of heaven.
Pearls, I think, happened to be objects of outstanding material value, both in the time Jesus and that of Shakespeare; Troilus is quite explicit on where he expects to find his pearl: in Cressida's bed. The image of 'merchant'/merchandise seems to be of particular importance, as it is used by both the Trojans and the Greeks. When Troilus states that Helen's beauty has "turned crowned kings to merchants", he obviously gives voice to a paradox. In view of the divisions of 'rank' prevalent in Shakespeare's England, the implication that the Greeks have become degraded and lost their royal dignities is, I think, unavoidable. - Of course, Troilus had referred to himself as a merchant before, in the "pearl" passage.
When Ulysses proposes sending Ajax rather than Achilles to meet Hector in the duel he compares this procedure to a merchant's trick: Merchants "first show foul wares ..." etc. which of course runs counter to his own previous speech on "degree".
In turning merchants/businessmen the 'heroes' of T&C have lost the dignity which should go along with chivalry and nobility.

reply | delete | flag *
message 83: by Gabriel Jan 08, 2017 02:06AM
Gabriel | 71 comments Although I've read the play before - too quickly - I'm now rather stunned by II:2 The Trojans are deciding whether it's worth keeping Helen at the cost of continued war. Hector seems to be the voice of mature reason, saying give her up, but suddenly at the end of the scene says ok, let's carry on fighting anyway. There's a lot of talk about 'reason', and lots of elaborate reasoning but in the end reasoning doesn't seem to make any difference. Nor does Cassandra's vision of disaster, which her brothers dismiss as madness. On the issue of treatment of women, Paris's 'reason' for keeping hold of Helen is 'I would have the soil of her fair rape / wiped off in honourable keeping her'. Troilus's 'reason' is similar: 'We turn not back the silks upon the merchant/ When we have spoiled them'. What are we to make of this? I it meant to sound as sordid as it does? With all the talk of reason on both sides, Shakespeare seems to be saying that neither side really knows why it's doing what it does.

reply | delete | flag *
message 84: by Martin (last edited Jan 08, 2017 06:18AM) Jan 08, 2017 06:17AM
Martin | 792 comments But Gabriel, what is sordid? The argument is about "value". Helen is a pearl of great price, or was seen to be one when Paris first brought her to Troy, when everyone clapped and cheered. Yes, it was a kidnap, but a revenge action for the Greeks' kidnap of "aunt Hesione". She was valued when she first arrived: she should be accorded the same value now. This is Troilus' argument. If she's sent back now, she'll be reviled. Paris wants to do the decent thing, and stick by his woman. This background story is briefly given to us in S's dialogue.

(It is hard to think of a contemporary parallel, but we might imagine diplomats in the Ecuadorian embassy arguing about whether to hand over Julian Assange.)

Eventually Hector defers to his passionate younger brothers. Of course, I too would advise Helen were sent back, but then I know how the story ends, and I wasn't cheering with the crowd when Helen arrived at Troy.

The word "rape" is unsettling to modern readers, but any forced theft or abduction, not just of women, could be called rape, as in Rape of the Sabines and Rape of the Lock. The phrase "fair rape" reminds us that Helen was a willing partner.

Cassandra knows the truth, but there we have a bit of dramatic irony, like the crazy queen warning about Richard of Gloucester!

To me Priam suggests a weakness on the Trojan side, matched by Agamemnon on the Greek.

reply | delete | flag *
message 85: by David Jan 08, 2017 10:55AM
David (Shaxton) | 102 commentsGabriel wrote: "There's a lot of talk about 'reason', and lots of elaborate reasoning but in the end reasoning doesn't seem to make any difference."

In modern times 'reason' sits unchallenged on a mighty pedestal, but I found myself wondering, as I read Troilus's remarks in II, ii if Shakespeare decided he just might question this lofty Reason.

One of my favorite lines in the scene comes from Troilus, just after his brother Helenus has cast doubt on the idea of keeping Helen:

You are for dreams and slumbers, brother priest;
You fur your gloves with reason.

Bevington (in the Arden editon) glosses the delightful second line to mean that Helenus is simply 'rationalizing' (to use a modern term), and I tend to agree, but I think Shakespeare was suggesting something stronger, something quite unctuous. Just before Helenus made his remarks, Troilus had responded to Hector's speech (about giving back Helen) with a very curious (and telling) line about how Hector is being wrongheaded with things "so diminutive / As fears and reasons" (it takes a moment for that line to sink in).

BTW, Bevington glosses the 'fair rape' line as a transferred epitaph, and he may be right, but I find Martin's comments more convincing.

reply | delete | flag *
message 86: by Martin Jan 08, 2017 11:06AM
Martin | 792 comments Really nice note David

I thnk "epitaph" was a slip for "epithet" there.

;-)

reply | delete | flag *
message 87: by Gabriel Jan 08, 2017 11:45AM
Gabriel | 71 commentsDavid wrote: "Gabriel wrote: "There's a lot of talk about 'reason', and lots of elaborate reasoning but in the end reasoning doesn't seem to make any difference."

In modern times 'reason' sits unchallenged on a..."

Martin and David, that's very helpful. But I don't think we've got to the bottom of this. It seems to me that Shakespeare is showing that both sides don't know quite why they're doing what they're doing. They both bring tremendous verbal and reasoning powers to the situation but are then driven by other factors, including their own inconsistencies. We started off (1:i) with Troilus saying he was giving up fighting because of his unrequited passion. Here he's saying the opposite. And he gives lots of reasons to distrust reason. It's interesting too, for comparison, that part of Ulysses' complaint about Achilles is that he's all brawn and rejects reason, but 'reason' there means the planning of war:
'Count wisdom as no member of the war;
Forestall prescience, and esteem no act
but that of hand; ...
they call this bed-work, mappery, closet-war' etc (1:3)
On the question of Paris 'doing the decent thing' in sticking by Helen, I don't get the feeling that that's what's really driving him, do you? It's more like pride, the unwillingness to be seen to lose and, after all, the fact that he's got her. At the end of this scene Hector seems suddenly to ignore all his own wonderfully well-expressed reflections, also perhaps out of pride and simply not being willing to seem to give in. So it's driven by path dependency: we all thought this was great seven years ago, thousands of people have been pointlessly killed on both sides but what the hell, we're warriors, and we've started so we'll finish.

reply | delete | flag *
message 88: by Thomas Jan 08, 2017 12:29PM
Thomas (Thomas156) | 15 comments I think Gabriel is right: S appears to depict a sordid world and to present us with an extremely bleak view of humanity and social relations. The Greek and Trojan heroes go hopelessly wrong and do not even excite our pity. We are rather invited to laugh at them; they are 'too funny to be tragic', as Candy said.
As far as I know there had always been a sense of ambiguity attached to the Helen myth. We never really know (neither in Homer nor in the medieval Troy legend) whether Helen followed Paris to Troy willingly or was kidnapped. - Either way, it was a 'sordid' business, and the collocation "fair rape" sounds cynical - if we analyse it as a 'transferred epithet' or not. As elsewhere (e.g. Hamlet) sexual misconduct seems to symbolize corruption on a wider scale.
Passionate and hot-blooded Troilus may consider fears and reasons diminutive - but should they be? Caesar in S's previous play meets his end because he wouldn't listen to either fears or reason - same as Percy Hotspur in Henry IV, Part 1.
I do not want to introduce any more spoilers, but I suggest we keep in mind Troilus' remark on the diminutiveness of fears and reason when we go on reading.
I take it we are allowed to refer to Act 3 from tomorrow?

reply | delete | flag *
message 89: by Steve Jan 08, 2017 12:33PM
Steve Evans (SteveEvansofPahiatua) | 39 comments Yep - Act three from tomorrow or, if you happen to live in NZ as I do, today.

The comments on this play have been very refreshing.

reply | delete | flag *
message 90: by Thomas (last edited Jan 08, 2017 12:49PM) Jan 08, 2017 12:49PM
Thomas (Thomas156) | 15 commentsMartin wrote: "But Gabriel, what is sordid? The argument is about "value". Helen is a pearl of great price, or was seen to be one when Paris first brought her to Troy, when everyone clapped and cheered. Yes, it w..."
Just a remark on Cassandra: In Greek mythology she is given the gift of knowing the truth about the future - together with the curse of never being believed. From the point of view of the gods, this is fair, I suppose. From our point of view, this is very sad - but that's the way it is.

reply | delete | flag *
message 91: by Candy (last edited Jan 08, 2017 02:43PM) Jan 08, 2017 02:37PM
Candy Minx | 1422 comments
Mod
I was going to add the same comment about Cassandra, that she is cursed to have wisdom but no one listens to her. I would venture to say that this is still happening to women at least in the United States. I watch social dynamics and many times, the women in a discussion group or cultural setting are pushed aside, men gathering up together....and I mean that....they do not seem to notice they are doing it. It happens in work spaces too. So many times I have female administration come to me (I'ma bartender) and tell me how they are left out of meetings. Meetings are arranged and announced without rsvp or planning to include female staff. I have heard women quit musical bands because the guys in the band would book shows, edit lyrics and it was not done holistically, but as team men against one woman.

I think when it comes to the treatment of women n this play...it is a strong argument to say "fair rape"...and it's meant to be a kind of weird bartering int he sense of how Martin describes it's usage in "Rape of Lucrecia".

However...i am not entirely sure it is not a violation here....perhaps the word and situation used in this play is more benign...in that moment.


message 5: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2728 comments Mod
There is something wrong with the entire bargaining of the war, of humans trafficking. We are in some ways talking about what we might call elite human trafficking here.

So I do agree with Martin saying that the usage of rape here does not mean sexually violating a woman. But I do think it is not much more reassuring to think of it as one of the devices in warfare. And I do think that is what is being said....

I don't think all is fair in love and war....and I am not sure anyone really believes that. I think when we do something unethical in war we later have it blow back on us, and we tend to have terrible grief and regret.

reply | edit | delete | flag *
message 92: by Candy Jan 08, 2017 02:39PM
Candy Minx | 1423 comments
Mod
In response to the excellent group of comments here discussing "reason". My feeling is that reason is not something that shakespeare holds higher than other thought processes.

In fact, when I think of Antony and Cleopatra....I might say the major theme of that play is an indictment against reason, being personified by Ceasar.

reply | edit | delete | flag *
message 93: by Steve Jan 08, 2017 04:55PM
Steve Evans (SteveEvansofPahiatua) | 39 commentsCandy wrote: "In response to the excellent group of comments here discussing "reason". My feeling is that reason is not something that shakespeare holds higher than other thought processes.

In fact, when I thin..."

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola wrote a dialogue, Love is higher than reason and it seems to have been a common idea in the Renaissance.

Regarding your larger point, Candy, I wonder if you see any distinction between the US and Canada? Perhaps we are spoilt in NZ, where women make up an increasingly large proportion of many skilled occupations (law, medicine, university and so on) and in politics have had two of the last four Prime Ministers. The local mayor is a woman, and my GP a woman. My profession of journalism has gone in a generation from being a male bastion to dominated by women. What counts for me in this is that as this process has accelerated the ways of working have changed. There are reasons for this that may not be gender specific - see, for example, Ricardo Semler's Maverick or read up on the adventures of Danish firm Oticon - but it is definitely a happy convergence.

reply | delete | flag *
message 94: by Candy Jan 09, 2017 05:54AM
Candy Minx | 1423 comments
Mod
Regarding the status of women in the United States. The following is just one aspect of sexism alive and well. And ultimately, I don't think it's just about men and women. It's that patriarchy is an excellent grid to lay out and practice hierarchy. There are female managers and administration who behave in the ways I describe what we usually find males doing, because they following in the behavior taught to them within patriarchy. That's why it doesn't "matter" if a leader is able or female. It matters if they are anti-power.

The workplace in the States is technically equal, legally and professionally. There is a structure to support having fair equal workplace. The thing is, there is still an unconscious behavior and bonding pattern between men (as there is between women) in social groups. It's not like men are doing it on purpose....let's give the benefit of doubt right now, they do not know their behavior is exclusionary. It's not obvious like it is to us in this play.Men aren't saying to each other, "let's reassure each other that we both know this is annoying" but....they are behaving that way, with mutual eye contact, meeting on their own to discuss work plans.

The number of times I've heard women say how disjointed and alienated they have felt at work when equal status employees meet and strategize for work without including them is unfortunate. It's a kind of "shut out" whether it's unconsciously done, or done in order to gain position on purpose.

Anecdotal: I have observed this over and over... just in a regular low-level work environment like retail......if two female staff are talking in the aisles of a store during work....a manager, often a man, will walk by, join in, or remind them of duties. This would rarely occur if two men were talking. The manager, male or female, would join in if anything and keep talking with them. A male joining two females talking...is perceived as a behavior to defuse the women.

That could happen as much in Canada as the United States. But probably not as regular.

I actually think it would be worth a hidden camera experiment. It's amazing to witness one once are looking for it.

that is just the easiest most simple example I can give you. at the moment.

It is a conversation women have with each other when they find other women in the work place they can trust.

I've also seen it at churches and temples. It's as if two women talking, or several women talking is the most subversive activity and must be defused.

Once....at a monthly craft group in a church....the group was working away on a project and two or three of the women were talking. They were talking about highly emotional situations. This was what we might call a "stick and bitch" sort of environment where the participants range from chit chat, the topic of the weather, to problems in relationships, to food, to childhood bad memories.

Later one of the participants, the only male, wrote a scathing email to all the participants complaining about people talking during craft group.

This is the kind of fascinating status battle going on. It's not overt enough to hire a lawyer...so it doesn't change and is often so passive aggressive it doesn't get reported or discussed as policy in the workplace, or institutional settings where it occurs. However, it does do some serious damage. It unhinged social networks, it exhausts the people being controlled, and creates a split in community and the social community that humans need and desire to enjoy the work environment.

What happens is, the women persevere, or they find a different place to work. And this keeps on happening.

By the way...there are all kinds of innovative workplaces in the United States. this doesn't happen at the progressive companies one reads about in "Fast Company" like Google, or Facebook. I happens in places where the patriarchy is not being addressed in conservative or liberal environments.

reply | edit | delete | flag *
message 95: by Gabriel Jan 09, 2017 11:03AM
Gabriel | 71 comments Very interesting to hear about your observations, Candy. I imagine it's pretty much the same here in the UK but I've worked mainly in the community/voluntary/social project area where I think, as you say, there's less of it, but it might well take other forms. Here's an ironic example: as a man I got voted, at one time, to be chair of a small community group by a committee largely of women. I was a bit surprised and asked why. One influential woman who could easily have done the job said 'Because the chair has to deal with the local council, who are all men, and we don't want to have to put up with their patronising attitude.' So the system reproduces itself.
Getting back to the play, again I'm struck by the way that the men who prize women so highly (as prizes!) describe themselves as 'womanish' when they think they're being weak. (Troilus in I:i and Hector at the beginning of II:ii).
Perhaps Cassandra's 'mad' outburst was necessary to get a hearing at all. She wasn't invited to the 'reasonable' discourse of the men! Once again, Hector takes her seriously, but no-one else does. It seems women are allowed to be fearful because that's their 'nature' - so men (who don't allow themselves to be - or at least be seen to be - fearful) can ignore the women's views - they're just being women.
One final point: III:i clears up the question of whether Helen was willing or not. She seems perfectly content with being there with Paris. But this leaves a nasty taste of a different kind, as she doesn't seem the least concerned that both Trojans and Greeks are killing each other because of her.

reply | delete | flag *
message 96: by Gabriel Jan 09, 2017 11:42AM
Gabriel | 71 comments PS to my last: straight after writing it I came to this terrific bit, which I think confirms - but adds to - the polarising of (female) fear and (male) reason:
Troilus: Fears make devils of cherubins; they never see truly
Cressida: Blind fear, that seeing reason leads, finds safer footing than blind reason stumbling without fear; to fear the worst oft cures the worst.
And what follows - Cressida far more complex than Troilus. A new level of Beatrice and Benedick?


message 6: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2728 comments Mod
reply | delete | flag *
message 97: by Candy Jan 09, 2017 12:08PM
Candy Minx | 1423 comments
Mod
ooh....interesting.

I am also very interested in your experience being the chair lead by a committee of women. Oh yes. Cassandra's curse is all womens curse.

It really is. It's annoying LOL

Meanwhile...it's not just about perpetuating the problem in the case of your committee....look atttv commercials A woman might be using a product, she might even say how much she likes it...but almost always there is a voiceover of a man seeing and describing the product.

People...both men and women...listen to men. they believe them listen to them trust them...and marketers...and committees know this. If you want together something done, pushed through then get a man.

We still live in a patriarchy. And patriarchies aren't good for either women, or men.

reply | edit | delete | flag *
message 98: by Steve Jan 09, 2017 12:29PM
Steve Evans (SteveEvansofPahiatua) | 39 commentsCandy wrote: "ooh....interesting.

I am also very interested in your experience being the chair lead by a committee of women. Oh yes. Cassandra's curse is all womens curse.

It really is. It's annoying LOL

Mean..."

Candy what you say is true sez me but we live in a time of transition from patriarchy, beginning in the heart of the beast (western developed societies). These changes have a lot of interesting characteristics that relate to economic efficiency - changes happen when it's a "better" way on the bottom line. This has been shown in a variety of cases. There is a tipping point usually - a smattering of people do something different, then a few more and then some more, all taking rather a long time, then there is a rush. People looking at various technological changes have charted this in those respects (how quickly CDs replaced cassettes and DVDs videotape [and now, streaming hitting DVDs] and have used this to examine how quickly the cashless society may arrive via ATMs, debit cards and credit cards, money cards etc. Similar trends have been seen in fashion.

Of course for the people suffering under any system, it's not much fun to be told things are improving, even if they are. But they are! Despite all the terrible things happening in the world, I reckon that for a person living in the developed "west", this is the best time to be alive ever. Nonetheless, positive change takes place against a backdrop of looming threat. The struggle you are on about, according to me, may appear to be the struggle for power between men and women, and in a small sense it is, but in a larger one is the struggle for the future of our species and even our planet. Big stakes!

Troilus and Cressida really shoots this home, according to me, as it examines the contradictions of patriarchy very acutely, in a setting of its most extreme versions. Hector succumbs to this; only Thersites punctures the futility of the enterprise. I think the popularity of the play in the last century has come from the increasing danger we face through technological advances in warfare.


message 7: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2728 comments Mod
message 99: by Janice(JG) Jan 09, 2017 01:41PM
Janice(JG) George | 13 commentsGabriel wrote: "On the question of Paris 'doing the decent thing' in sticking by Helen, I don't get the feeling that that's what's really driving him, do you? It's more like pride, the unwillingness to be seen to lose and, after all, the fact that he's got her. At the end of this scene Hector seems suddenly to ignore all his own wonderfully well-expressed reflections, also perhaps out of pride and simply not being willing to seem to give in. So it's driven by path dependency: we all thought this was great seven years ago, thousands of people have been pointlessly killed on both sides but what the hell, we're warriors, and we've started so we'll finish..."

I think this is very much the case. More specifically, I think it is their inability to be wrong - to be seen as being wrong - which gets in the way. All of the rest is just different ways of rationalizing to continue the situation so that they don't have to relinquish their pride, give Helen back, and walk away.

This is the sort of behavior that keeps people in wars and conflicts - from nations to the water cooler - to this day. Backing down from a proclaimed position is a real ego slayer, and usually the ego just will not relinquish its hold, even if it means terrible loss.

reply | delete | flag *
message 100: by Thomas Jan 09, 2017 01:48PM
Thomas (Thomas156) | 15 commentsGabriel wrote: "Very interesting to hear about your observations, Candy. I imagine it's pretty much the same here in the UK but I've worked mainly in the community/voluntary/social project area where I think, as y..."
Thank you, Gabriel, for your remark on women being allowed to be fearful because that's their nature - S certainly does not believe that men and women are equal, but that women's nature, women's fearfulness can have a redemptive function. In Richard III one of the murderers kills the Duke of Clarence for the sole reason that he does not wish to be considered "cowardly and womanish", and Lady Macbeth famously fears that Macbeth's "nature" might be "too full of the milk of human kindness", i.e. too womanish, to kill the king.
Coming back to "rape" - I looked the word up in a concordance, and I do not think we can rule out a sexual connotation. Most often Shakespeare uses the term in connection with Lavinia in Titus Andronicus, and in The Rape of Lucrece - two instances where rape is used in the modern sense of sexual violation. Helen may have followed Paris willingly, but nevertheless Paris is boastful of his "fair rape" of Helen, which appears to underline his manly strength.
And yes, I agree: In T&C partriarchy literally deconstructs itself - but I won't anticipate ...
But what do you think of Troius's and Cressida's behaviour in Scene 3.2: Are they really in love with one another? It appears to me that Troilus is more concerned with himself and his "desires" than with Cressida; and Cressida allows herself to be manipulated (literally: 'moved by the hands') by Pandarus ...
Romeo and Juliet, at any rate, speak differently: more passionately, more seriously, more concerned with one another than do Troilus and Cressida.
Love may be higher than reason, as Steve points out, but is there much love lost in T&C? Perhaps the main problem of the Greeks and Trojans is not the absence of reason but the absence of love -

reply | delete | flag *
« previous 1 2 3 next »
back to top
Notify me when people comment *


comment add book/author (some html is ok)


message 8: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 161 comments Thomas wrote: "Coming back to "rape" - I looked the word up in a concordance, and I do not think we can rule out a sexual connotation."

I believed this too, but I think I have changed my mind. Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable says Helen "eloped with Paris and thus brought about the siege and destruction of Troy." I'd have to look more into it, but if she eloped, then by no means could this have been a "rape" in the literal sense. Of course, the way the term is used here, there is a sexual connotation, but not in the sense he "forced her" into sex.


message 9: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 161 comments Shakespeare was sometimes heavy-handed in his use of alliteration. I count 5 "m" sounds in Cassandra's warning:

Add to my clamours! let us pay betimes
A moiety of that mass of moan to come.

The second line also breaks the meter with an eleventh syllable. This helps draw attention to the prophetess.

She reminds me of an Old Testament prophet like Jeremiah. Candy, no one listened to him either. They sawed Isaiah in half. Don't feel bad. It might just be prophets in general.


message 10: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 161 comments As far as characters are concerned I hate Paris. To me, he is a coward. He is the only Trojan with anything to gain here. Yet, we never see him mixing it up in battle. Priam made a valid point:

"You have the honey still, but these the gall; / So to be valiant is no praise at all." (II.ii.152-153)


message 11: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 161 comments Earlier someone broached the topic of this play's classification. I haven't reached the end, but clearly this is a tragedy. I do not think comedy applies. In several of S's tragedies, there is a character for comic relief such a Thersites. He is entertaining though. The funniest line I think is when Ajax threatens to "beat thee into handsomeness" (II.i.12).


message 12: by Jonathan (last edited Jan 23, 2017 02:14AM) (new)

Jonathan Moran | 161 comments Act 2 sets up a dichotomy between brains and brawn. Thersites is one of the characters that at once argues for and represents "brains". He fancies himself wise and finds this as an acceptable reason to rail at Ajax. He soon laments this decision: "Would it were otherwise; that I could beat him, whilst he railed at me" (II.iii).

This is a major theme in this play. On the Greek side, Achilles and Ajax represent young, brute strength, while Nestor and Ulysses represent experienced wisdom. This dichotomy seems to lead to the major conflict among the Greeks. Achilles is not valued enough for his prowess, so he sits out. Yet, he does not value the philosophical ways of Nestor, Ulysses, and company and therefore spends his time imitating them.

So far, the Trojans are portrayed much more favorably. For their part, they at least sat down and talked things out, considering their reasons or lack thereof for continuing to fight. The Greeks seem to be led by their egos.


message 13: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2728 comments Mod
Good point, the economy between s brains and brawn...which I also think mirrors the feeling of reason versus emotions.


back to top