Summer Shakespeare III

Bruce A. McMenomy, Ph.D. for Scholars Online
2023: Wednesdays, 1:00-3:00 p.m. Eastern Time
June 14 - Aug. 16

June 14:
Troilus and Cressida

June 21:
Titus Andronicus

June 28:
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Fantasy and Allegory

July 5

July 12:
King John
Outlying Histories

July 19:
Timon of Athens

July 26:
Two Gentlemen of Verona
Villainy and Purity

Aug 2:
Prejudice and Metaphor

August 9:
King Henry VIII
Contemporary Politics

August 16:
Pastoral and Romance

Troilus and Cressida

This is one of the oddest of Shakespeare’s plays, and I have to admit it’s one of the ones I like least. I put it first largely for that reason. Much of it seems rather aimless; there are gratuitously bawdy bits; there’s almost nobody one can admire; and there are long disquisitions about things that seem to lead nowhere, either dramatically or philosophically. But there are people who like it a lot, and you may well be among them. It’s definitely one of those plays that offers more to the second and third view. Some of what it has to say about time is penetrating and rich.

Moreover, for those who have taken Western Literature to Dante (or those who haven’t, but have encountered Homer and/or Vergil in one form or another), it has some allusive interest, inasmuch as it takes a very different view of the Trojan War. It’s a story about a pair of Trojan lovers separated by the vicissitudes of war, and that’s the chief focus of the narrative. It does not primarily concern itself with the outcome of the war, and it does not present a romantic vision of love at all. At the same time, however, the main events of the Iliad are unfolding, more or less in the background — even the deaths of Patroclus and Hector (though presented very differently from what you’ll recall from the Iliad).

Things to consider while reading Troilus and Cressida

Shakespearean drama as a medium for political discourse. You might have seen this in Richard II, King Lear, and Macbeth, among others; how does it work here in a comic context?

Troilus and Cressida and what has come before

Shakespeare’s Sources

Themes that emerge in the play (only a few of the many)

Symmetries in the play

Problems in the play