Troilus and Cressida

Type: 
Tragedy
First Performed: 
1601-02
First Printed: 
1609
"

Those wounds heal ill that men do give themselves;
Omission to do what is necessary
Seals a commission to a blank of danger.

"

Trojan prince Paris abducted Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, and wife to Greek leader Menelaus. This has led to years of unceasing war between Greeks and Trojans. The stalemate causes the Greek leaders to disagree about a course of action, despite Ulysses' attempts to entice the great champion Achilles back to battle by arousing his pride and dislike for rival warrior Ajax.

The Trojans are no more organized and have begun to question the merits of a war fought simply for one woman. Hector does not believe the cause is worthy, but his brother Troilus demands they continue to fight as honor is at stake.

Despite his commitment to war, Troilus is distracted by Cressida, whom he loves. She is a Trojan whose father, Calchas, has defected to the Greek camp. Cressida's uncle Pandarus supports the match and helps the young lovers unite. Their relationship is cut short when Cressida is delivered to the Greek camp in exchange for a captured Trojan general. Her feelings for Troilus are fickle, and she soon takes up with Greek Diomedes.

Hector ignores his sister Cassandra's warnings, goes to battle, and is murdered in a dishonorable way by Achilles, who has returned to battle after the death of his lover. Although Troy is lost, Troilus feels he has little to live for, given the loss of Cressida, and seeks revenge for Hector's death from Achilles.