Ferretbrain Presents: The Complete Works of Shakespeare Episode 6 - Troilus and Cressida

by Wardog

Holy Zarquon singing fish.
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We are confused. Again.
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Comments (go to latest)
Arthur B at 04:51 on 2012-09-23
The beginning of the Iliad does in fact involve Achilles lounging around his tent with Patroclus and not contributing and the Greeks being angry about this. (And IIRC you don't actually get to the Trojan Horse in it and it wraps up with the death of Hector.)

It's a really weird text and seems less interested in being a coherent story than the Odyssey is so it's really no surprise that when Shakespeare tries to write fanfic of Chaucer's fanfic of Homer and tries to add more authentic Homeric indolence and carnage you end up with utter nonsense. Especially when two of the actors are doing their best to out-camp each other.
http://scipiosmith.livejournal.com/ at 10:35 on 2012-09-23
It's a really weird text and seems less interested in being a coherent story than the Odyssey is


Hence the multiple authors argument, despite the whole issue being even more pointless than 'Who really wrote Shakespeare' because short of inventing time travel its impossible to ever be certain of an answer.
Daniel F at 03:48 on 2012-09-24
The beginning of the Iliad does in fact involve Achilles lounging around his tent with Patroclus and not contributing and the Greeks being angry about this. (And IIRC you don't actually get to the Trojan Horse in it and it wraps up with the death of Hector.)


Yep. The Iliad is not the story of the Trojan War. It is the story of Achilles. The Horse is mentioned in the Odyssey, though, so the story was known in Homer's time.

Anyway... I found myself trying to sort out the different layers of this story as the play progressed. There's the Homeric layer, the medieval layer, the Shakespearean layer, and then the BBC layer over the top. Greek heroes are occasionally referred to as 'Sir', as if they're Christian knights. Just as in Cymbeline, the theology of the play is essentially Christian with a few pagan names over the top. Apparently Shakespeare did that a lot. When they're debating returning Helen and decide against it due to honour, I'm not sure what their concept of honour is supposed to be. The characters do not come off as identifiably Homeric or medieval or Elizabethan.
http://alula_auburn.livejournal.com/ at 16:58 on 2012-09-26
I love the idea that this is Shakespeare's edgy, slightly AU, Homer/Chaucer fanfic.

We tossed around the speech at the end a lot in my "other Shakespeare" course, and didn't get too much further than "fucking weird." One thing that did occur was sort of related to the idea of this being one of those plays where characters keep thinking they're in the wrong kind of story. (We actually read a Very Serious Article that used the phrase "trope-lighting" and suggested that Cressida is probably the most genre-savvy character in their fucked-up out of genre universe.) But anyway, iirc, Troilus has sort of a gung-ho speech just before the epilogue, and we played a bit with the idea that it's another example of being in the wrong play--it's like he's trying to give a St. Crispin's Day speech to make the audience feel all involved with the warfaring and the last ditch shot at valor and avenging Hector, and than Pandarus is like, "lol no, we aren't heroes, we're dirty whores and SO ARE YOU." So even the audience is temporarily watching the wrong play. Which in a weird way, also is a little Dollhouse/Whedon-y, "we are all complicit," except less obnoxiously so.

But I do like the idea that this play is also permeated by Shakespeare being in a pissy mood.
Ibmiller at 00:46 on 2012-09-27
Just out of curiosity - what is grimdark in relation to this play? I'm quite confused about that. Is it all the rape?
Arthur B at 10:16 on 2012-09-27
I think it's the combination of rape plus war plus cynicism plus "oooh there are no heroes in real life, check out how I have blown your mind you sheeple" that it has in common with GRRM/Abercrombie/Bakker.
Jamie Johnston at 23:33 on 2012-09-27
So it turns out I've seen stage productions of a surprisingly large number of these obscure Shakespeares...

Whatever Charles Grey found in the text that made him play Pandarus as Kenneth Williams sounds like what David Bamber found in the one I saw, 'cause he did it with some pretty high (and rather seedy) camp too.

For me an interesting thing about Troilus and Cressida is that it shows what happens when you take the gods out of the Iliad. Because a lot of what happens in the war sub-plot of the play is pretty close to what happens in Homer, but in Homer it has this kind of melancholy grandeur about it — you get shown how the war is brutal and pointless and bad, but it's brutal and pointless and bad in a way that feels very important and tragic, whereas in Shakespeare the war is brutal and pointless and bad in a way that's pathetic and petty and, as you said, farcical. Which I think is linked to the way the gods work in the Iliad's narrative because they motivate what happens and make it necessary. The gods come out looking petty and ridiculous but their machinations create a system in which the the whole war is necessary and inevitable and beyond the control of the Greeks and Trojans, and where individual Greeks and Trojans do things under divine compulsion and die because the gods decide they must and stuff like that, which somehow elevates those characters. Shakespeare's version exposes what happens without that superstructure, and uses it to show us how squalid and unimpressive the whole business really is. Which the makers of Troy, as a handy comparison, completely failed to understand, so you end up with a film in which you're clearly supposed to find the characters and events heroic and impressive but in fact it's all a bit silly and it's hard to muster much sympathy for anyone.

A controversial position, I know, but there is my case for why Shakespeare is a better dramatist than David Benioff.
Axiomatic at 08:32 on 2012-09-29
Help, my brain keeps reading "Troilus" as "Trollius".
Andy G at 13:39 on 2012-10-21
Ajax kills himself out of shame over killing a flock of sheep. I don't think that bit was in Troy.
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