Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare.
Hamlet, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and All's Well That Ends Well) and published in 1609. It's classed as one of Shakespeare's "problem plays" (as, traditionally, are Measure for Measure and All's Well That Ends Well, both published in 1623): it was labelled as a history play in an early folio, but then it also has elements of both tragedy and comedy. I read it because I'm planning on reading Troilus and Criseyde by Geoffrey Chaucer (1382-86) this month, and for one thing I thought it would be interesting to compare the two, and for another I'm still a little too intimidated by Chaucer's version to happily pick it up and start at present!
|The German translation of Il Filostrato,|
Troilus und Kressida (1884).
|Scenes from The Story of the Trojan War, a tapestry designed by Pasquier Grenier of Tournai (1447-93).|
|Helen of Troy,|
By Evelyn de Morgan
|Troilus and Cressida by J. D. Batten (1901).|
Shakespeare shows the soldiers of the war at odds with themselves: there are no heroes in this, essentially, simply a collection of discontented individuals. It's a cynical and pessimistic play, and not one I particularly enjoyed. In essence, it's about individual relationships within political relationships and reconciling the two, or not as the case may be. Even the story of Troilus and his lover is disappointing - Cressida ultimately betrays Troilus sending him to the depths of despair, but there is no real climax with that story. Ultimately nothing changes: the war that was depressing many of them continues, only with different characters assuming different roles of office.
All that said, I must note that there's almost a modern feel to Troilus and Cressida. It offers a more realist view of war, the philosophical side I should point out, rather than being full of death and glory. As far as action goes, there's really not that much.
Nevertheless, I'm still looking forward to reading Troilus and Criseyde by Geoffrey Chaucer - more so, actually. I'm rather hit and miss with Shakespeare, though re-reading them all and then blogging about them is helping my appreciation. I do enjoy Chaucer a lot more, and reading Shakespeare's play then reading a little around it has demystified the story. I think I'll be starting Chaucer next week and I'm keen to consider the contrasts between the two authors.