Let’s Get Literal – Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare

List Item: Read the complete works of Shakespeare
Progress: 10/37

4 years. It’s been over 4 years since I last read a Shakespeare play for this list. I honestly have no idea why it has taken too long for me to get to the next one on this list, other than just having so much else to read on my commute.

Part of the problem has been just what to read, so I’m letting my copy of Shakespeare’s plays take the lead, which lead me to Troilus and Cressida – one of the few plays never to receive a big screen adaptation, as well as being one of the rarely performed ones.

Speaking of problems, Troilus and Cressida is one of a group of three plays that have been classified as a ‘problem play’. Why? Because it straddles the typical definition of what makes a Shakespeare tragedy and a Shakespeare comedy. I mean, if this was written now we’d call it a tragicomedy or a dramedy – which sounds about right.

The nice thing about this being one of the more unusual plays is that I was able to go into this completely cold. So imagine my joy when, upon reading the character list, I found out that this was set during the Trojan War with the likes of Achilles, Cassandra and Agamemnon being featured.

In fact, despite being titular characters, Troilus and Cressida really are a small part of the story that, to be honest, the play probably could have just been called The Trojan War and have them be the side-story to the main plot of the duel of Hector and Achilles. I really enjoyed all the sections with the Greek and Trojan armies, with the exception of Thersites who you just wanted to get an arrow through the neck.

I guess this is just my really appreciating Greek mythology, but this is definitely one of the best Shakespeare plays I have read so far and (thanks to knowing a bit about the subject) the first time I actually get a bunch of the references that he makes. I also like the fact that not all the plot points get resolved at the end because this is not the end of the Trojan War itself. Some people may not like that, but I prefer that to some of the more rushed ‘everyone gets married’ endings that you see in some of his comedies.

Having had a good time reading Troilus and Cressida I am going to start peppering my reading with more of these as a nice change of pace. Plus, it feels kinda cool to be reading a Shakespeare play on the train when next to someone watching a Channel 4 dating show.


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