Troilus and Cressida | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Troilus and Cressida | Act 5, Scene 3 | Summary

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Summary

The following day, Andromache, Hector's wife, pleads with Hector not to go into battle. She's had portentous dreams that warn against his fighting. Cassandra arrives and warns him as well, and then Andromache sends her to fetch King Priam. Hector will not be dissuaded, however. When Troilus arrives, Hector tells him not to fight, but Troilus is likewise determined to go into battle and does not listen.

Cassandra returns with King Priam who also asks Hector not to fight—Andromache, Cassandra, Queen Hecuba, and he have all had ominous dreams. Hector once again refuses and they all leave, except Troilus. Pandarus arrives with a letter from Cressida. Troilus reads it, and then tears it up and leaves with Hector.

Analysis

The foreshadowing of Hector's death and the downfall of Troy is conveyed through Andromache, Cassandra, and Priam's dreams and visions. Shakespeare's audiences would know Achilles and Hector's fight will end in Hector's death, so this scene ramps up the tension in what has been an anticlimactic play so far. Shakespeare has to manufacture tension in different ways with an audience that is so familiar with the story. Sometimes it works, and other times it does not. Here, Hector ignores the warnings, a tragic flaw that the audience expects.

Troilus receives a letter from Cressida, though the audience never finds out what she wrote. Instead, he tears it up, noting while she may say sweet things, her words are simple lies. Her actions do not match her words in yet another development of the theme of appearance versus reality. He has learned he can no longer take what he sees at face value, and he tears up the letter. Cressida is dead to him, as is Pandarus who brought about their meeting.

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