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Shakespeare, the last major writer to tackle their story, calls her Cressida. The tale's psychological realism and tacit equation of the casualties of love with those of war struck deep chords, meanwhile, in the second half of the 20th century and still do at the start of the 21st. Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, once dismissed as a failure, is now accepted as a great work.

Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde was recently adapted for radio, and this year's Edinburgh festival sees the first ever staging of Henryson's The Testament of Cresseid.

A late accretion to the Trojan legend, the Troilus story seems simple enough. Troilus, a son of King Priam, embarks on an affair with Cressida, the daughter of Calchas, a Trojan deserter to the Greek cause. Anxious for the return of Antenor, a Trojan warrior captured by the Greeks, an exchange of prisoners is arranged, during which it is agreed that Cressida should be taken from Troy and handed over to her father.

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The distraught lovers swear constancy, but while Troilus remains true to his vows, Cressida, once in the Greek camp, takes the captain Diomede as a lover. A number of features regularly associated with the story are by no means common to all its versions. There isn't always a go-between to bring the lovers together.

Troilus's death at the hands of Achilles is sometimes not mentioned. Nor do we necessarily discover what happens to Cressida and Diomede, an omission that Henryson was anxious to rectify. Given that much medieval literature strives for cosmic completeness, the story, with its emotional loose ends left untied, strikes us as starkly modern. From the 12th to the 17th century, however, the relationship between Troilus and Cressida was considered both emblematic of a world riven by fortune, mutability and transience, and central to a historical narrative that raised questions about fate and free will.

The story didn't only encapsulate the vagaries of desire, it tackled the nature and meaning of suffering, and the absence of grace for those unable to hear Christ's message. Medieval writers understood the Trojan war to be historical fact, though they also distrusted Homer as a source, preferring instead two shadowy books in Latin from around the 4th century AD.


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Attributed to the Trojan Dares Phrygius and the Greek Dictys Cretensis, both were believed to be translations of lost Greek or Phoenecian originals, and though spurious, were accepted as eye-witness accounts of the war. Dares gives us the first recognisable descriptions of Troilus, Briseida and Diomede. There is as yet no relationship between them, but it is here that we are told about Troilus's youthful beauty, Briseida's slightly imperfect glamour and Diomede's heavy-bodied masculinity.

These traits stick with the protagonists up to Chaucer and beyond. Everyone who was anyone in medieval or Renaissance literature was familiar with this vast, seminal poem, whether in its original French or in one of the numerous translations or adaptations that it spawned. Calchas has left Troy on hearing an oracle of its destruction, and his presence is a constant reminder that the city's fall is irrevocable. Troilus's name, meanwhile, means "little Troy", and Briseida's infidelity with Diomede not only echoes the conflict's origins in Helen's betrayal of Menelaus with Paris, but carries intimations of the greater treachery that will bring about the war's end.

Her exchange for Antenor is a fulcrum around which the whole narrative swings.

Troilus and Cressida the play by William Shakespeare

The title means "Love-struck", and refers not only to Troilo, but to the anonymous, probably autobiographical narrator, who has been dumped by his mistress, and is writing her an extended poem comparing his misery to Troilo's in the hope that he can persuade her to return. Word index: , , , More Expression index: , , , More Phrase index: , , , More Developed by Prompsit Language Engineering for Softissimo.

Join Reverso, it's free and fast! Register Login. These examples may contain rude words based on your search. These examples may contain colloquial words based on your search. Cressida Cressida. Her name was Cressida Baylor. Son nom: Cressida Baylor.


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    Say, did you ever find out who Troylis was and Cressida? La lune brille, une pareille nuit. If taking out Gino Cressida was the reason he returned to New York, then Bobby's done the job he came to do. These plays are being made available by Focus with the permission of the Kittredge heirs.

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