Thursday, May 6, 2010

William Shakespeare- Troilus and Cressida

While Troilus and Cressida is certainly not one of Shakespeare's better known plays, I learned a while ago not to presume that means it's not one of his best. I loved, for instance, the relatively obscure Coriolanus, but I'm not a big fan of the wildly popular King Lear.

Unfortunately, Troilus and Cressida is no Coriolanus.

The title characters are involved in a rather rushed and unimpressive love story while most of the play involves the other Trojans and the Greeks who, instead of an all out war, put all their energies into getting a couple of their guys to fight one another.

If it weren't for the quips and repartee that he does so well, it would have appeared Shakespeare didn't really care about this play. There are no standout characters, the plots struggle to find a foothold, but at least there are witty put downs. Shakespeare never fails at those.

But is that it? Did I miss something? Scouring the Internet for some insight, I came across an essay by Joyce Carol Oates, who would clearly say that yes, I missed something. According to her, I, as a modern reader, should consider this "a contemporary document-- [with] its investigation of numerous infidelities, its criticism of tragic pretensions, [and] above all, its implicit debate between what is essential in human life and what is only existential." Uh. Sure. Or maybe Oates isn't ready to admit that Shakespeare wasn't infallible.

1 comment:

Jodie Robson said...

As I did a course on Shakespeare, I am slightly ashamed to say that I've never got all the way through Troilus and Cressida. I do agree with you about Corialanus, and also about King Lear which is a pretty horrible play, imho. I recommend Christopher Moore's Fool, though, for a more entertaining take on it.