Troilus and Cressida | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Troilus and Cressida | Act 5, Scene 4 | Summary



Thersites insults everyone while he describes the battle. Diomedes appears, followed by Troilus. They fight, continuing offstage. Hector sees Thersites and challenges him to a fight, but Thersites tells Hector he's a coward, and Hector leaves.


Thersites again functions as a Greek chorus, filling the audience in on the action which would have to take place "offstage" because it would be too much to stage a battle of this magnitude in a theater. This technique was common during the Elizabethan period. Playwrights would use a character running in to report on the scene of a great battle without then having to show the action. Shakespeare makes a point of giving Hector another moment of heroism—he challenges Thersites, but does not strike him down or pursue him when Thersites runs away. Hector lets him live rather than going for the easy kill. Compared to Achilles later in the play, he does not behave nearly so honorably with regard to Hector.

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