Troilus and Cressida | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Troilus and Cressida | Act 3, Scene 2 | Summary



Troilus meets with Pandarus outside Cressida's house. Pandarus leaves to fetch her and brings her to Troilus. Pandarus all but pushes them together, and they finally kiss. Troilus swears his love, and Pandarus swears the same for Cressida. Cressida finally confesses she's loved Troilus for many months, but she was concerned he would remain faithful only when she was unavailable, and stray once he won her.

Troilus assures her he is faithful; in fact, he claims when lovers swear their oaths, they will say, "As true as Troilus." Cressida responds in kind, saying if she ever proves false to Troilus, people should say, "As false as Cressid." These act as their vows, and Pandarus declares himself their witness. The lovers leave to spend the night together.


Shakespeare returns to the romantic plot of the play, finally uniting the two lovers with a healthy dose of foreshadowing. Troilus waits for Pandarus to arrive and bring him to Cressida, likening the man to Charon. In Greek mythology Charon ferried the souls of the dead across the river Styx to the underworld. Shakespeare doesn't use a lot of Greek mythological allusion in his play, so it is telling he uses it here in this particular setting. It is a strange comparison to make when Troilus talks about spending the night with the woman he loves. Instead, this dark image foreshadows Cressida's eventual betrayal, Troilus's death, and the fall of Troy. It is a hint at the coming ruination.

The foreshadowing continues once Pandarus leaves to prepare the bedchamber. Troilus seeks to reassure Cressida her fears of his faithlessness are unfounded. He vows he will keep his word to her so future generations of lovers will use his name to swear their love, hence the "As true as Troilus" line. Not to be outdone, Cressida swears if she ever betrays Troilus, future lovers will use her name as a curse. The audience, again aware of the events of the Trojan War—not to mention Boccaccio and Chaucer's poems about the lovers—would understand these promises will be broken and Cressida will betray her lover, adding to the tragedy. Troilus is a car heading for the bridge the audience knows has been washed out.

Cressida's characterization here is important. She appears reticent, hesitant to speak her desires and to reveal how long she's really loved Troilus. She chides herself for giving away her secret. She sounds like a woman guarding her heart for fear of having it broken, or like a fearful woman who sees Troilus as a man standing between her and the enemies she must have because of her father's defection. She's in a vulnerable position and knows it, and she is wise to be concerned about what life would be like for her if she were no longer Troilus's beloved.

Pandarus provides further foreshadowing regarding his own name and position as go-between. He has already been somewhat of an uncomfortable presence in this scene as he inserts himself more obviously into Troilus and Cressida's relationship. He vows if either of the two of them prove untrue, in the future all go-betweens shall be called "panders," a play on his name. Considering the way he is creepily procuring his niece, Cressida, for Troilus, Shakespeare appears to be negatively commenting on such men. Pandarus then ushers the two off to bed to consummate their relationship. Whereas in previous romances, consummation occurs after marriage, in the case of Troilus and Cressida, there is no marriage, no binding contract. The situation reads simply as a night of passion. Though Troilus and Cressida tries to emulate the romance and love of a play like Romeo and Juliet, it only manages a kind of lukewarm lust, a shallow relationship not even warranting the arrangement of a secret marriage. Theirs is not a true love at all, and the relationship is doomed when they are forced to separate.

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