Troilus and Cressida | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Troilus and Cressida | Act 4, Scene 4 | Summary

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Summary

Troilus informs Cressida she must go with the Greeks as part of the prisoner exchange, and urges her to be true to him. He tells her he will find a way to visit her in the Greek camp. They exchange love tokens, she giving Troilus a glove and he giving Cressida a sleeve. He warns her the Greeks are cunning and will use their wiles to sway her. He then asks her to be true. She tells him she will be.

Diomedes and the company arrive to receive Cressida. He and Troilus exchange words about her honor and dispensation. Diomedes, Cressida, and Troilus depart separately. Hector's trumpets sound, and Aeneas and Paris hurry off to join Hector on the battlefield.

Analysis

Troilus and Cressida part, but not without exchanging tokens of their love. Troilus asks her to be faithful, which makes her think he doubts her word. This exchange foreshadows her upcoming betrayal when she switches loyalty and gives away his token of love so easily.

When Diomedes and Troilus meet, Shakespeare uses language that can be easily misread for both the amusement of his audience and to further the plot. He tells Diomedes, "I'll give her to thy hand / And by the way possess they what she is. / Entreat her fair," meaning Diomedes should treat her well and with respect. Diomedes, however, deliberately confuses Troilus's meaning and implies through double entendre that Cressida will be used sexually by the Greeks. He says, "The luster in your eye, heaven in your cheek, / Pleads your fair usage," enraging Troilus at the implications. When he threatens to kill Diomedes if he touches Cressida, Diomedes counters by saying he will do what Cressida wants rather than worry about Troilus's admonitions. This notion places the fault for anything that happens squarely in Cressida's hands, something Troilus has evidently been worrying about.

Cressida's characterization is still fairly solid here. She appears to be in love with Troilus. Another failure of the play is in failing to show her to be at all duplicitous in earlier scenes or even conflicted about her true feelings for Troilus. Based on her speeches and responses, she seems to have loved him for a long time, certainly longer than she let him know about. However, in a scene shortly after this one, she throws him over for Diomedes without a second thought. Her character arc is shallow at best.

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