"Cressida and the Folly of Youth" This essay discusses possible answers to the question 'what is Cressida' in Shakespeare's "Troilus and Cressida."

Essay by prestopastaUniversity, Bachelor's March 2002

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The love story between Troilus, the Trojan prince, and the maiden Cressida is only one of the two major plot lines in Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida. However, the actions of Troilus and Cressida seem more poignant because they deal closely with the concept of human values and virtues. Indeed, it seems that the love story between these two provides an overarching metaphor for the second plot line, that of the Trojan War. While the scenes portraying the war are effective in their own right, I find it much more effective to discuss the more accessible story of the lovers. After all, not many have experienced physical war. However, most have experienced war in the emotional sense--in the sense of love. Much of the apparent turmoil between Troilus and Cressida results from Cressida's dissention in V.ii. to the Greek commander Diomedes. Thus, it is fitting to explore who Cressida really is and to uncover the motives for her actions throughout the play.

In common analyses of Troilus and Cressida, Cressida is often portrayed as a whore. In fact, there are several references within the text itself that allude to this interpretation of her personality. It seems to be common knowledge within the Greek army that "any man may sing her, if he can take her cliff" (V.ii.10-11) and that she will, with minimal persuasion, "be secretly open" (V.ii.23). These are obvious sexual references which Thersites uses to reveal the true nature of Diomedes' flighty prize, Cressida. This portrayal of the maiden may seem unmerited until background is given of the affair between Troilus and Cressida, and afterward, between Diomedes and Cressida. The story of the first pair appears to be an innocent pursuit of love, where boy meets girl, boy gets girl, etc. In the first scene of...