Troilus and Cressida | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Troilus and Cressida | Act 4, Scene 2 | Summary



At dawn Troilus leaves Cressida, while she begs him to stay. Pandarus wakes and smarmily banters with the two of them, stopping only when Aeneas arrives. Aeneas tells Pandarus and Troilus that Cressida is to be exchanged for Antenor, and Paris and Diomedes are on their way to collect her. Troilus leaves with Aeneas to join the party as if he and Aeneas met by chance. Pandarus tells Cressida of her fate, and she vows she will never leave Troilus or Troy.


For someone who ends up being renowned for faithlessness, Cressida is incredibly worried about Troilus's faithfulness to her. Now that she has slept with him, she is worried he has grown tired of her and plans to move on. Again, if the audience views Cressida as seeking a protector, the outcome of her affair with Troilus has much higher stakes for her, hence her worry about his fidelity. Without the benefit of marriage, Cressida is in a precarious position.

However, her concerns are unfounded, and indeed provide contrast in the end when she treats Troilus as she was afraid he would treat her. Depending on how Cressida is interpreted by the actor playing her, she could come off as disingenuous or legitimately concerned for her continued relationship with Troilus. So far, there is nothing in her words to make the audience think she will be anything less than true.

This scene also serves to tie Cressida more closely to Helen. Throughout the play audiences often hear her beauty being compared to Helen's. In what happens next, Cressida is the Trojan version of Helen. She is abducted by the Greeks and taken away to their camp, where she spurns Troilus and latches on to Diomedes. Like Helen, she is a faithless whore—as Diomedes already has called Helen in the previous scene and as Thersites will call Cressida in a later scene.

While they are saying their goodbyes, Pandarus shows up to continue his assault on propriety. He asks invasive questions and offers impertinent, overly familiar remarks. What should be a tragic, momentous event for Troilus and Cressida is reduced to something approaching an embarrassment. Shakespeare again undercuts the romantic subplot as further commentary of the anti-epic nature of this play.

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