Troilus and Cressida
- Shakespeare's bitter tragicomedy of war and sex, whichwas probably written in about 1602. The date of the first production isunknown; it has been conjectured that the play may have been writtenfor private performance, possibly at the inns of Court. It was seldomseen before the 20th century. Dryden rewrote Shakespeare's play asTruth Found Too Late (1679), in which Cressida remains faithful.
In 1923 Lilian Baylis produced Troilus and Cressidaat the Old Vic to complete the first-ever staging of all the worksin the First Folio by the same company. (The marathon project hadstarted in 1914). When Luchino Visconti directed an outdoor productionin Florence's Boboli Gardens in 1949, he put half the cast on horseback.Peter Hall and John Barton directed a 1960 Stratford production stagedin a sandpit.
The main sources for the story are Chaucer's Troilus andCriseyde (1385) and Chapman's translation of The Iliad(1598). The play is set during the Greek siege of Troy. Troilus, aTrojan prince, loves Cressida, the daughter of a Trojan priest whohas gone over to the Greeks. When the armies agree to send Cressidato the Greeks in exchange for a Trojan prisoner, she and Troilus vowconstant fidelity. Once in the Greek camp, however, Cressida forgetsTroilus and falls for the handsome Greek hero, Diomedes. Troilus challengesDiomedes in battle but is defeated and killed. Shakespeare's playpresents a cynical picture of both military heroism and romantic love.The anti-heroic tone is set by the foul-mouthed Thersites, who providesa scurrilous commentary on the action.