Troilus and Cressida | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic
MLA

Bibliography

Course Hero. "Troilus and Cressida Study Guide." Course Hero. 7 Apr. 2018. Web. 15 Aug. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Troilus-and-Cressida/>.

In text

(Course Hero)

APA

Bibliography

Course Hero. (2018, April 7). Troilus and Cressida Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved August 15, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Troilus-and-Cressida/

In text

(Course Hero, 2018)

Chicago

Bibliography

Course Hero. "Troilus and Cressida Study Guide." April 7, 2018. Accessed August 15, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Troilus-and-Cressida/.

Footnote

Course Hero, "Troilus and Cressida Study Guide," April 7, 2018, accessed August 15, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Troilus-and-Cressida/.

Troilus and Cressida | Act 5, Scene 2 | Summary

Share
Share

Summary

Troilus and Ulysses watch as Diomedes meets with Cressida outside her father's tent. Thersites watches from a different location. Diomedes and Cressida converse, sometimes in whispers, and he reminds her of a promise she made to him. She revokes it and asks him to not tempt her. He asks for a love token, and she brings him the sleeve Troilus gave to her. When she rethinks the gesture and tries to take it back, Diomedes keeps it, asking to whom it belongs. Cressida does not answer him. He tells her he will wear the sleeve on his helmet in battle tomorrow to taunt the man it once belonged to.

Troilus struggles to keep silent as Ulysses urges him to leave before he reveals himself. Thersites comments sharply on the situation. Finally, Cressida agrees to meet Diomedes later. After he leaves, Cressida excuses her behavior while saying goodbye to Troilus. She is swayed by Diomedes's good looks: "The error of our eye directs our mind."

Troilus deals with his heartbreak by claiming this is not his Cressida, but rather Diomedes's Cressida. Realizing she's been unfaithful, he vows to kill Diomedes in battle the next day. Aeneas arrives to bring Troilus back to Troy.

Analysis

With this scene Cressida's fall is complete, and this is the last time the audience hears from her. She appears to flirt with Diomedes, although she acts reluctant to engage with him, even asking him not to tempt her. Still, she agrees rather quickly to be with him. It does seem she has given him some reason to be forward with her, although that scene never appears in the play. Shakespeare relies upon his audience's knowledge of the story of Cressida's infidelity as a kind of shorthand. While this method doesn't damage understanding of events, it does impede Cressida's characterization and makes her total turnaround feel strange and false. If it couldn't survive even a day apart, what she felt for Troilus was not love, but rather lust. Shakespeare, however, has not done the work of letting the audience and readers see that, as he has in previous plays.

Her giving away the sleeve Troilus gave to her as a love token is final proof of her faithlessness. Giving away Troilus's sleeve also argues against her possibly being the victim in this scenario. Cressida is a Trojan woman, the daughter of a traitor, who has been sent into an enemy camp against her will. She's alone with no one to protect her. When she arrives in camp, she is passed around for the generals to kiss—a scene in which she is at first curiously silent. She could be allying herself with Diomedes for protection, paying with the only thing she has available to her: her affection and her body. If that were the case, however, there would surely have been something else she could offer him as a token instead of the sleeve. If she truly cared for Troilus, she could keep that for herself. Shakespeare has her give it up, driving home her infidelity.

Troilus, meanwhile, watches in despair and grieves when he realizes Cressida is not whom she appeared to be when they were together. Here is another development of the theme of appearance versus reality. She betrays him, just as he's feared she would. Ulysses attempts to get him to leave, but having Troilus see Cressida betray him with Diomedes works to the advantage of the cagey Greek. Ulysses has commented in an earlier scene that Troilus is like a young Hector. He wouldn't want two warriors of that caliber on the battlefield. Ulysses, being cunning, suggests Troilus follow Diomedes, suspecting what they'd find. With Troilus heartbroken, it is not out of the question to expect he will not fight—or not fight well—the following day.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about Troilus and Cressida? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!