Troilus and Cressida

The Problem of Value in Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida

Why, she is a pearl

Whose price hath launched above a thousand ships

And turned crowned kings to merchants. (2.2.81-3)

The world of ShakespeareÃÂÂs Troilus and Cressida does not distinguish decidedly between the Greeks and the Trojans. Though the Greek camp is a makeshift assembly of tents pitched on the shores of Troy, and the Trojan society is the courtly palace of Priam and his sons, both societies value the same ideas and objects: honor in men, and beauty and faithfulness in women, as revealed haphazardly through appearances and acts. The inadequacy of such measures of worth, their failure to be absolute and their failure to be made known, results in the incestuous, inbred world of Troilus and Cressida, where war is conducted as among brothers and sisters: filled with petty rivalries, meaningless, repetitive commerce between camps, and showy tramping back and forth in place of true conflict. Unable to live or act without considerations of value, the cast of Troilus and Cressida create and operate in their own fallen world.

Troilus and Cressida opens immediately in this world of judgment and appraisals. TroilusÃÂÂs mini-blazon in appreciation of Cressida ÃÂ" ÃÂÂHer eyes, her hair, her cheek, her gait, her voiceÃÂ? (1.1.56)...

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