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Group Readings > Troillus and Cressida, Act 3, Sept 7, 2020

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message 1: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2744 comments Mod
Discussion of Act 3 can begin here in this thread....Sept 7....

message 2: by Bobby (new)

Bobby | 59 comments I'm slipping way behind in this discussion, but I'm going to try to catch up. I hope everyone is able to keep up with the reading.

I find my reactions to this play are more related to themes than to specific moments in each act, so I thought it would be useful to pause in Act III and react to the story so far, before moving on to the last two acts.

Two peculiarities about the style have caught my attention so far that to me make it seem very modern in tone:

First, many of the characters seem to have a very laid back, casual attitude toward things. The first scene starts of with Troilus deciding he's not going to the battlefield today because he is not in a good mood. Is that something that is even allowed in real life in the military, or was it ever allowed? Aeneas later shows up looking for Troilus, and from the tone of their conversation you'd think Troilus is a teenager playing hooky from school or a football player missing the pep rally, not a soldier who has gone AWOL. Of course, he's the king's son, so maybe he has privileges that other soldiers don't have.

Cressida's first scene also starts off in a very chatty way, with Cressida's "Who were those went by?" followed by her servant's "Queen Hecuba and Helen." And the women are going to watch the battle, again almost as if they are watching a football game. Later, when Pandaraus asks Cressida about Hector and Helen, she says "Hector was gone, but Helen was not yet up." It all sounds very domestic, as if Hector is leaving for a day at the office.

The first scene between Thersites and Ajax is one of Shakespeare's clown scenes, so it would be expected to have jokes and comic relief, but the vicious insults and physical abuse give it a slapsticky, Three-Stoogeish quality that isn't typically associated with a Trojan War epic. Among the name calling Ajax calls Thersities "thou bitch-wolf's son" (i.e, a son of a bitch), and Thersites calls Patroclus "Achilles' brach" (i.e., Achille's bitch). When someone does speak in high-flown poetry, as Ulysses does in the long speech during the first discussion in the Greek camp, the playwright seems to be making fun of their long-windedness or their effusiveness.

The scene between Pandarus and Paris and Helen is also quite unheroic, with a lot of "nudge, nudge, wink wink" insinuations about what Troilus and Cressida are about to do, and Paris being aksed to make excuses for Troilus at dinner.

The second peculiar thing I notice is the way the scenes either don't go anywhere, or they reach a resolution that is immediately negated. The first scene has Troilus taking off his armor and pleading with Pandarus to arrange a meeting with Cressida, but it ends with Troilus frustrated because Pandarus refuses to cooperate. Troilus then remarks on the futility of the war: "Fools on both sides! Helen must needs be fair, / When with your blood you daily paint her thus. / I cannot fight upon this argument." Immediately Aeneas walks in and after a brief exchange Troilus apologizes for missing the battle and leaves with Aeneas to join the others, negating everything that has just happened in this scene. Later, when the Trojans are having their discussion about whether to continue the war or return Helen to Menelaus, it is Troilus who defends keeping Helen and continuing to fight, the exact opposite of the argument he made in the first scene. Is this a contradiction, or did something make him change his mind?

In the second scene it turns out Pandarus was joking with Troilus, and he spends the whole scene doing what Troilus asked. This time it is Cressida who keeps teasing and resisting, and when Pandarus leaves, she admits that she is in love with Troilus but playing hard to get.

The first scene in Act Two shows Thersites continually frustrating Ajax's attempt to find out what the proclamation says, then as soon as Thersites leaves, Achilles immediately tells Ajax what Thersites has refused to reveal all that time, and that's that.

A third odd thing about this play is the way nobody seems to recognize anyone else even though this war has been going on for seven years. Cressida doesn't recognize Helen and Hecuba in the first scene, nor does she seem to have ever heard of Ajax. Pandarus doesn't recognize Troilus in the parade even though he is specifically looking for him (in that case, though, maybe the armor makes all the soldiers look alike). Aeneas doesn't recognize Agamemnon even though he is speaking directly to him.

All this odd characteristics give this play an anti-romantic, anti-heroic, absurdist, sometimes dreamlike quality that to me makes it seem very modern.

message 3: by Joseph (new)

Joseph (jsaltal) | 1 comments I just finished Act 3.

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