Troilus and Cressida | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Troilus and Cressida | Character Analysis



As the play begins, Troilus is deeply in love—or infatuated—with Cressida. He is a capable warrior, often compared to his older brother, Hector, who is the hero of Troy. Throughout the play he is the idealistic lover, trying to believe the best of Cressida but constantly worried she will betray him with another man. His name is synonymous with faithfulness in literature.


Cressida is the daughter of Calchas, a Trojan priest who joined the Greek side of the Trojan War, becoming a traitor to his country. She was left behind in Troy until she was sent to the Greeks in a prisoner exchange for Antenor. Cressida is concerned that Troilus's feelings for her are not true, and therefore, she hides her own true feelings from him until her uncle, Pandarus, finally brings them together. Once she arrives in the Greek camp, she gives herself to the Greek warrior Diomedes instead of remaining loyal to Troilus.


Pandarus is an older man who becomes Cressida's guardian after her father defects to the Greek side. He uses his connection to her to help facilitate a relationship between Troilus and Cressida. His behavior toward his niece is questionable and, at times, nearly lecherous. He delivers messages between the two lovers, seeming to push his niece in Troilus's direction. His name is a derivative of pander, which means "to act as a procurer or pimp."


Hector is heir to the throne of Troy and the Trojans' greatest warrior. He is the most noble and honorable of all of the warriors—Greek or Trojan—in the play, espousing more heroic values that match up with his portrayal in the source material. He functions as the voice of reason in his family's arguments over whether or not to return Helen, and he treats his adversaries with respect and honor. He, too, wants glory and fame like most of the other characters, but he comes the closest to upholding heroic ideals.


The greatest warrior in the Greek army, Achilles refuses to fight against the Trojans at the beginning of the play for unknown reasons. Despite his heroic reputation, Achilles is actually prideful, spoiled, and unpleasant. His lack of discipline and refusal to follow the orders of his commanders has a negative effect on the army's morale. He behaves sneakily and without honor, and functions as Shakespeare's illustration of what an epic hero is not.

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