Geoffrey Chaucer's and William Shakespeare's fictional Troys are shadowed and abetted by each poet's experience of London. Both imaginary Troys reduplicate London's public and, especially, private gardens. Shakespeare's city is similarly gossip-filled. Gossip is, in fact, the Trojans' favourite game. Troilus's stewe seems as a place of mounting and almost debilitating erotic excitement, functioning like one of Wilhelm Reich's twentieth-century orgone boxes to feed and stoke desire. Pandarus's 'gear' comprises his own connivance and also the crucial fittings of erotic encounter, bed and chamber: a fusion of place and purpose. The chamber promises to become a privileged erotic arena by fostering privacy even as it protects reputation but it turns out to be a highly permeable line of defence. The chamber is not just a place of solitude but, equally often, a putatively private social space.
In Troilus and Cressida, the major characters revel in all kinds of received wisdom, commonplaces and topical truths. While Cressida chooses to dissemble her passion in a Petrarchan manner, Troilus has already abandoned the dimension of courtliness. The principal actors in the interplay between the faculties of the mind are perception, imagination, memory, reason and passion. In the models current in William Shakespeare's time, imagination, memory and reason reside in different chambers or ventricles of the mind, which are not hermetically sealed against each other. Ulysses' attempts to validate Stoic magnanimity crashes, the cognitive therapy of pride failing to affect the patient's imagination. Stoicism may be a philosophy of coherence, of living in accordance with oneself of the good flow of life, but it is all this by virtue of its also being a philosophy of self-mastery.
Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida and literary defacement
This chapter argues that William Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida participates in a set of traditions with a long history of fierce internal hostility. It outlines some alignments of that prior history and focuses on Shakespeare's contribution to a tradition of literary defacement. The defacements, of both Hecuba and Sinon, evoke in the late medieval British Troy tradition, that of Robert Henryson, who brutally closes down Geoffrey Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde. Shakespeare draws primarily on the sceptical, late medieval ephemera tradition and in particular its vernacular English and Scots examples. The chapter distinguishes the competing traditions of the Trojan War available to Shakespeare: Homer's Iliad; Virgil's Aeneid; Ovid's Heroides, letter 7 and its tradition; and the Galfridian tradition, derived from Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae. The sceptical ephemera tradition is resolutely anti-Homeric, anti-Virgilian and anti-Galfridian.
Absence, silence and lament in Troilus and Criseyde and Troilus and Cressida
This chapter argues that Hecuba is a potent absent presence in the play, and focuses on the effects of her absence, especially on the characterization of Cressida. Troilus and Cressida was probably written very soon after Hamlet, and William Shakespeare was certainly thinking about the Troy story when he was composing Hamlet. The Legend of Good Women specifically cites Troilus and Criseyde in order to declare itself as a palinode to that preceding text. Two absent presences in the play, in addition to Hecuba and implicitly Cressida herself, are the women who wait in the literary afterlives of Ulysses and Aeneas, Penelope and Dido. In the Euripidean tradition Hecuba is not only the catalyst for lamentation among the other Trojan women but is the locus of affect more generally for other participants, mortal and divine, and for readers and audiences.