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Monday, May 16, 2016

Troilus and Cressida

It's an odd play, even more of a "problem" than "Measure for Measure." If it weren't written four hundred years ago, one could safely file it under absurdism or postmodernism. Troilus and Cressida defies any conventional classification.

Just when I thought I knew Shakespeare, sort of, I realize I don't. Not at all.

It's a vicious takedown of the heroic and romantic mythologies. He is saying that, the truth of heroism is jealousy and stupidity, and the truth of romantic love is inconstancy and self-interest. It's unusually obscene and sexually explicit. It's roiling with a rage underneath all the bawdy jokes. It's unlike any other Shakespearean play, although the sneering view on war here could have come out of Falstaff's mouth.

How do the two strands of plot connect with each other? One is how two unwilling warriors, Achilles and Hector, finally come to a deadly confrontation. The other is a cynical revision of Romeo and Juliet. I don't know, but I feel in my gut that they do connect in some way.

Come to think of it, it's kind of funny how Shakespeare approached the classics, compared with, say, T. S. Eliot. Good ol' Willie obviously didn't worship the classics as the grandiose foundation of English literature. Rather, he trampled and shat all over the lofty ideals and glory. What a guy.

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