Troilus and Cressida | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Troilus and Cressida | Act 5, Scene 9 | Summary



Hector strips the armor from the body of the dead Greek he had chased in an earlier scene. He begins to swap out his armor for the Greek's, only to be interrupted by Achilles and his Myrmidons. Unarmed, Hector asks for Achilles to behave nobly, but Achilles orders his men to kill Hector as he watches. The retreat sounds from both armies, and Achilles orders his men to tie Hector's body behind his horse so he can return to camp with it.


As Hector strips out of his armor to take that of the Greek he's fought and killed, his words drive home the theme of appearance versus reality. He says, "Most putrefied core, so fair without," a direct connection to the rotten core hidden by the pleasing facade maintained by a number of the characters of this play. Shortly after, Achilles and his Myrmidons appear, almost as if summoned by Hector's words. Achilles proves himself a brute and the villain of the play, ordering his men to strike down an unarmed and unarmored Hector. He appears cowardly and weak in the face of Hector's past behavior, especially when Hector himself reminds him how to behave honorably in battle. Glory and revenge are more important to Achilles than honor.

In the source material Achilles and Hector did fight fairly, but Shakespeare used creative license to drive home his point about the horror of war. This action is another anticlimax in a string of them—there is no epic battle between two great heroes. Instead, one is struck down while unarmed by a group of men, the slaughter orchestrated by a dishonorable character.

There is an odd, unfinished feeling to the way this play ends. Hector's death should wrap up the political plotline, but it leaves most things unsettled. Troy hasn't fallen, the Trojans haven't surrendered, and the horse the Greeks use to gain entry into the city hasn't even been constructed—or even thought of yet. The play begins in the middle of things and ends in the same way, with no real resolution to the situation. Even Troilus and Cressida's ending is unsatisfying. Diomedes is still alive to presumably carry on his affair with her, and Troilus is unable to do anything about it.

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