This chapter argues that Troilus and Cressida's attempted violence upon a prototypical form of historical time is in part an attack on the literary narratives. What the play lays bare is a nefarious temporality that is simultaneously condemned and underpinned, yet ultimately eroded by the relentless literary epochality of the successive Troy narratives. The chapter suggests that the past in William Shakespeare's Trojan War drama is a literary past. Emulation, in Shakespeare's vision, is at the heart of hierarchy, maintaining and exaggerating differences, and thus generating a fundamental social energy within a warlike aristocratic society. It also suggests that it is in the way that the chivalric texts accruing to the Troy narratives and the residual early modern ethos of a mythologized medievalism are relentlessly dismantled in a process of hyper-critique. The chapter focuses on the social and temporal threat that underpinning the masculine honour.
Performing the politics of passion: Troilus and Criseyde and Troilus and Cressida and the literary tradition of love and history
Andrew James Johnston and Russell West-Pavlov
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book treats the emotions in Troilus and Criseyde/Cressida as metatheatrical operators and, as a consequence, as more general metatemporal moderators. It suggests that hope and fear are central in William Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida because the two protagonists are aware of the way their reputations are being forged for eternity. The book scrutinizes a transhistorical regime of conflict-ridden affect. It also suggests that Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida situates itself within an affective temporality which is explicitly textualized. The book traces the genealogy of arrogance from one of the typified sins through to its development into an affective marker of novelty and innovation, finally being configured around the notion of authorship. The book explores the poetological dimension of arrogance in Geoffrey Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde and Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida.
For the last three decades or so, literary studies, especially those dealing with premodern texts, have been dominated by the New Historicist paradigm. This book is a collection of essays explores medieval and early modern Troilus-texts from Chaucer to Shakespeare. The contributions show how medieval and early modern fictions of Troy use love and other emotions as a means of approaching the problem of tradition. The book argues that by emphasizing Troilus's and Cressida's hopes and fears, Shakespeare sets in motion a triangle of narrative, emotion and temporality. It is a spectacle of which tells something about the play but also about the relation between anticipatory emotion and temporality. The sense of multiple literary futures is shaped by Shakespeare's Chaucer, and in particular by Troilus and Criseyde. The book argues that the play's attempted violence upon a prototypical form of historical time is in part an attack on the literary narratives. Criseyde's beauty is described many times. The characters' predilection for sententiousness unfolds gradually. Through Criseyde, Chaucer's Poet displaces authorial humility as arrogance. The Troilus and Criseyde/Cressida saga begins with Boccaccio, who isolates and expands the love affair between Troiolo and Criseida to vent his sexual frustration. The poem appears to be linking an awareness of history and its continuing influence and impact on the present to hermeneutical acts conspicuously gendered female. The main late medieval Troy tradition does two things: it represents ferocious military combat, and also practises ferocious literary combat against other, competing traditions of Troy.