Troilus and Cressida | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Troilus and Cressida | Act 5, Scene 5 | Summary

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Summary

Diomedes has captured Troilus's horse, and he orders his servant to present the beast to Cressida as a trophy. Agamemnon relates the various battles that the Trojans have won as he despairs of the Greek chances of victory. Nestor enters with the body of Patroclus and sends it to Achilles.

Ulysses arrives to tell the generals Achilles is arming himself for battle after the death of his friend Patroclus. Ajax and Diomedes set off after Troilus. Achilles goes in search of Hector.

Analysis

Shakespeare builds the tension of the final face-off between Achilles and Hector. Audiences know it is the death of Patroclus that finally arouses Achilles to battle, so Shakespeare must include it. In The Iliad Patroclus pretends to be Achilles, dressing in his armor and fighting Hector when Achilles still refuses to do so. Shakespeare couldn't show a pitched battle, so the fight takes place offstage with the body being brought back. Shakespeare plays into audience expectations here, to drive up the intensity as various battles are being fought and reported back. The Greeks are losing most of them.

The other generals provide commentary on the prowess of Hector and his Trojans to increase the tension even more. At the same time Troilus is still—arguably—a major character in this drama, so to keep the tension going with his plot, Shakespeare sends both Ajax and Diomedes after him. This is another way to show Troilus is nearly as powerful as Hector. He gets two lesser enemies, one who nearly defeated Hector and one who is a rival. Shakespeare is moving his players into position for the climax.

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