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Repetition and revision in Shakespeare's tragic love plays.

Whatever else it might be, Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida is an engagement with traditional literary patterns of tragic love, wherein star-crossed lovers resist fate and pursue their romance against the backdrop of war or civil strife. (1) But it is a very unusual intervention. There is little solace to be drawn from the plight of the lovers in Shakespeare's redaction of the medieval myth. (2) Shakespeare's version presents an unheroic war of dubious merit, in which the supposedly noble heroes are limned in unflattering terms and the love plot is divested of any of the romantic charm which might have offset the tragedy of war. (3) The chronic deflation of epic tropes and romantic love in this play has led to much discussion about what is regarded as Shakespeare's perplexing use of Troilus and Criseyde as a source, with M. C. Bradbrook (for example) suggesting that '[c]ompression and inversion direct Shakespeare's use of Chaucer': (4)
   the clear inversion of every idealistic feeling save those of
   Troilus is so relentless that a "mirror image" emerges. As
   Shakespeare shows them, Pandarus and Cressid distort Chaucer's two
   subtlest creations, for neither, in their Chaucerian form, is to be
   found in Il Filostrato or any of the earlier accounts; it was
   precisely to the most original parts of Chaucer that Shakespeare
   turned for his bitterest refashioning. (5)

Shakespeare's radically different take on the Trojan love story has even, until relatively recently, prevented critical acceptance of Chaucer's poem as his source: 'the facts are the same but the interpretations are at variance', Thompson observes, and '[i]t is the complete contrast in tone which makes the two works so different in their final effect and which has obscured the relation between them'. (6) For all its ostensible similarities in plot and character, Shakespeare's play represents a significant departure from its Chaucerian predecessor, despite the fact that, as Kenneth Palmer notes in his edition, 'Chaucer's poem must have been Shakespeare's chief source for the love story'. (7)

Critics frequently explain Shakespeare's radically different and darker representation of the lovers as a consequence of the characters' historical receptions after Chaucer, especially as refracted through Henryson. Kenneth Muir appeals to 'the hardening of opinion towards Cressida in the intervening two hundred years', and Hyder E. Rollins assumes Shakespeare's obligation to portray the characters 'as time and tradition had fixed them'. (8) Milowicki and Wilson's more recent article attempts to explain the generic instability of Troilus and Cressida in terms of its conformity to Menippean satire. (9) They note that the play's problems 'are several, both textual and linguistic, and all contribute to the uncertainties that surround the play's identity (its conventions, form, class, and, in a word, discourse)'; and they express their concern that '[m]uch of this [stylistic] dissonance has been ignored in criticism or else much flattened out in an effort to derive (some) thematic unity from the play's diversity'. (10) Whilst I applaud the endeavour to preserve and emphasize the stylistic dissonance in the play--since this approach does justice to the play's immense complexity and ambiguity--I would like to offer an alternative (and, I believe, more appealing) explanation for Shakespeare's striking departure from his acclaimed source, even whilst sharing Milowicki and Wilson's conclusion that Troilus and Cressida 'demonstrates that Shakespeare was adventurous and, in the modern sense, experimental'. (11)

Some six years before Troilus and Cressida (1602), Shakespeare had already made a contribution to the tragic love tradition with Romeo and Juliet (1596)--a textual precedent which has yet to be considered in any sustained, scholarly manner. (12) Given Shakespeare's now generally acknowledged use of Chaucer for Troilus and Cressida, and Thompson's argument for Troilus and Criseyde as 'a subsidiary source' for the whole play of Romeo and Juliet, it is a priori possible that Shakespeare's transformation of Chaucer's tender romance into a play that is unremittingly cynical (Troilus and Cressida) might have been guided by Shakespeare's consciousness of having already stressed the importance of love in his own earlier work (Romeo and Juliet). (13) Accordingly, I wish to reconsider the precise nature of the relationship between Shakespeare's 'tragic love' plays and their common source. (14) It would not be altogether too bold to suggest that Troilus and Cressida is Shakespeare's rewriting of Romeo and Juliet--and it is with this speculative premise in mind that I wish to revisit Shakespeare's tragic love plays.

Almost thirty years after Ann Thompson's landmark study of Shakespeare's use of Chaucer, relatively little has been added to our knowledge of the relationship between these two writers. E. Talbot Donaldson found Thompson's argument for Chaucer as a subsidiary source for Romeo and Juliet 'a case that I do not think could be improved on, though it might well be lengthened'. (15) Donaldson's own 1985 monograph on the two authors represents the only substantial contribution to the field since Thompson's book. (16) Yet despite the critical silence, the issue of Shakespeare's repeated use of Chaucer needs to be reconsidered if we are to appreciate the dramatic reasons for his unusual treatment of the Trojan love story. In her analysis of Romeo and Juliet, Thompson isolates several key features of the play which she believes demonstrate Chaucerian influence, chief amongst which are: the role of Fortune, the hero's illusion of hope, the 'image of love as a dangerous voyage', and the Pandarus / Nurse figure. (17) Taking Thompson's findings as my point of departure, I wish to trace these topoi or motifs through Romeo and Juliet to Troilus and Cressida in order to determine the extent to which Shakespeare can be seen to have engaged with his previous experiment with tragic love when he was writing his 'high tragedies'.

I. Fortune

Romeo and Juliet is an anomaly amongst Shakespearean tragedies on account of the striking prominence it accords to the role of Fortune. Noting that 'too much depends on accident', Kenneth Muir describes the play as 'immature' for Shakespeare, distinguishing Romeo and Juliet from Shakespeare's other tragedies on the grounds that on this occasion 'Shakespeare was writing a tragedy of fortune, the only kind his story allowed'. (18) Thompson concurs with Muir's discriminating judgement:
   It has often been remarked that Romeo and Juliet is untypical of
   Shakespearean tragedy on the general grounds that it does not set
   up strong causal relationships between the nature of its central
   characters and the nature of the events which befall them. In other
   words it has been seen as a tragedy of external fate (or sheer bad
   luck) rather than a tragedy of character, and for some critics this
   has been a proof of its inferiority. (19)

The 'star-crossed lovers' are identified from the very outset of the play on the basis of 'their death-marked love' (Prologue 6, 9). The younger Shakespeare seems to have been attempting to present lovers whose tragedy is clearly fated, but whose demise is purposeful ('bury[ing] their parents' strife', 8). As Barbara Heliodora de Almeida observes, '[i]n Romeo and Juliet there is a sense of tragic waste compensated by the achievement of peace between Montagues and Capulets'. (20)

Subsequent criticism has heavily qualified such assertions that love reigns triumphant in Verona: to what extent can the 'ancient grudge' (Prologue 3) have been buried if the warring households lose their only heirs (and thus the only possibility of meaningful, continued peace) in the supposed burying of their strife? (21) Tellingly, the Capulets and Montagues speak the language of commodity exchange, not of reconciliation, in their discussion of their children's commemorative monument. Of the play and its lovers, Jill L. Levenson writes:
   In the coda to their deaths [the play] qualifies their achievement.
   Their fathers celebrate the marriage with equally valuable
   gold-plated figures; Capulet regards the lovers as "[p]oor
   sacrifices of our enmity" (5.3.304). A melancholy spectacle, the
   tragedy brings "[a] glooming peace" (l.305)--hardly new in
   Verona--but no signs of lasting change. (22)

But irrespective of how successful current scholarship deems the lovers' achievement to have actually been, the fact remains that the play's tragic action is predicated on the poignantly fated nature of the lovers' end. (23) As in Chaucer, where the narrator unambiguously appeals to the motif of 'Fortune's wheel' in such phrases as 'ffro wo to wele, and after out of ioye' (I.4) and 'Troilus unsely [i.e. unfortunate] aventure' (I.35), the emphasis is clearly on the role of fate in the tragedy, rather than on the agency of the individual. Like the Chaucerian lovers who were 'born in corsed constellacioun' (IV.745), Shakespeare's 'star-crossed lovers' are tragically deprived of the opportunity to flourish in their love. Thompson makes the comparison lucidly:
   Romeo and Juliet is very close to this medieval conception of
   tragedy whose 'central truth is that Fortune knows nothing of human
   deserving'. ... Not surprisingly, Chaucer's Troilus is cited as an
   outstanding example of this genre: the exalted vision of the hero
   at the end of the poem has the effect of taking us beyond the
   immediate disaster to a deeper understanding of life. In a similar
   way, the catastrophe that overtakes Romeo and Juliet leads directly
   to the recreation of order and love in a disordered society. (24)

But whereas in Romeo and Juliet, as in Chaucer, the fate topos is tragic and poignant, in Troilus and Cressida the characters reluctantly go through the motions with a self-conscious, heightened awareness of their inability to move outside the prescribed roles that Fortune and literary tradition have allocated to them. The sense of artifice is accentuated, and the deprivation of agency becomes frustrating and limiting rather than full of tragic potential. In the Trojan council scene (2.2), Hector convincingly advocates the return of Helen as the best course of action, but concludes his argument with an unexpected rhetorical back-flip:
   If Helen then be wife to Sparta's king,
   As it is known she is, these moral laws
   Of nature and of nations speak aloud
   To have her back returned. Thus to persist
   In doing wrong extenuates not wrong,
   But makes it much more heavy. Hector's opinion
   Is this in way of truth; yet, ne'ertheless,
   My sprightly brethren, I propend to you
   In resolution to keep Helen still,
   For 'tis a cause that hath no mean dependence
   Upon our joint and several dignities.


Shakespeare can create an intelligent, believable character capable of assessing the state of affairs and pronouncing a cogent, sensible judgement on matters, but despite the fact that all reason dictates that Helen should be returned, Shakespeare's Hector is bound by the restrictions of the legend of which he is a part. Helen's fate is concluded; no amount of logic or reason can make the Trojans of Shakespeare's play return the merry Greek to her husband. Hector's conclusion must run counter to his reasoning, for his reasoning leads to an un-fated, and therefore impossible, outcome. Shakespeare's characters strain against the grain of fate in such a way as to generate something bordering on ridicule, not pathos.

When Shakespeare's Trojans attempt to defy fate, they fare very badly (in terms of audience sympathy) in contrast to Juliet's resilient 'I will not marry yet' (3.5.121), or Romeo's stirring declaration, 'Then I deny you stars!' (5.1.24). Cressida's attempt at defiance, 'O you immortal gods, I will not go' (4.2.90), degenerates into pathetic histrionics which are further enfeebled by Pandarus's unintentionally patronizing interjection:

Cressida: O you gods divine, Make Cressid's name the very crown of falsehood If ever she leave Troilus. Time, force, and death Do to this body what extremes you can, But the strong base and building of my love Is as the very centre of the earth Drawing all things to it. I'll go in and weep--

Pandarus: Do, do.

Cressida: --Tear my bright hair, and scratch my praised cheeks, Crack my clear voice with sobs and break my heart With sounding Troilus. I will not go from Troy.


Bereft of the genuine emotional charge that Juliet's promised resistance possessed (on account of its plausibility), and clearly failing to persuade anyone, even Pandarus, of her agency, Cressida's hysterical behaviour becomes the hollow gesticulations of the impotent. This is the playwright who later presented an unaccommodated Lear raging against his daughters in futility, unable to name '[t]he terrors of the earth' with which he would curse them, and powerless to prevent his ejection into the storm. (25) Cressida swears more performance than she is able, vowing to succeed in her resistance when the audience--familiar with the Troy legend and armed with every reason to doubt her--knows her opposition is insurmountable. Less than two scenes later, Diomedes exploits his diplomatic immunity to insinuate that he will use Cressida according to his lust as soon as he is hence from Troy (4.4.128-47). (26) Romeo and Juliet could never have lived happily ever after, born as they were into warring households, yet they could at least elope and temporarily satisfy their love; the characters of Troilus and Cressida, seemingly bereft of any free will, are bound to repeat history perpetually, and the playwright's ostentatiously self-conscious handling of the fate topos compounds their wretchedness without inducing sympathy.

I am suggesting that the ends to which fate is used differ significantly from Romeo and Juliet to Troilus and Cressida, and that this is a deliberate alteration. Hence when Juliet, having just learnt Romeo's identity and thus her own fate, bemoans her fortune with the observation, 'Prodigious birth of love it is to me / That I must love a loathed enemy' (1.4.253-54), she emphasizes the pathos of her lamentable situation, her only love ironically springing from her only hate. By contrast, when Shakespeare endows his Trojan characters with a metatheatrical knowledge of their legacies--'As true as Troilus', 'As false as Cressid' (3.2.180, 194)--which is tantamount to learning their own fates, he undermines the pathos of the lovers' imminent separation by revealing that the partner whom Troilus is about to lose is (anachronistically) the 'sluttish' fallen woman from the end of the play (4.5.62), not the 'fair Cressid' with whom Troilus was originally infatuated (1.1.28). When Shakespeare's characters speak prophetically of their future critical reception, it is more than merely a proclamation of constancy: it is a metatheatrical moment which intimates the playwright's knowledge of the story before the legendary events described have actually been enacted on stage. Pandarus declares that if the lovers prove false, then 'let all constant men be Troiluses, all false women Cressids, and all brokers-between Pandars' (3.2.200-02); but if the lovers prove untrue, Pandarus should urge us to remember all inconstant men as Troiluses, not 'all constant men'. We 'cannot help being aware of the end from Shakespeare's use of the cliches', and this undercuts our enjoyment of the lovers' first encounter. (27) Romeo and Juliet's love is just as limited by externalities as that of Troilus and Cressida, but Shakespeare's less intrusive and less bathetic handling of Fortune in the earlier play has a different dramatic effect on audience sympathy than his subsequent attempt to call attention to the role of fate, an accentuation which ends in farce.

These self-reflexive moments in Troilus and Cressida are indicative of a different use of the fate topos. It is as if, knowing that the love-story ends tragically, and knowing that his audience knows this, Shakespeare sees no possibility that the lovers ever shared a genuine and poignant romance; it was at best delusion and wilful self-deception. Cressida is doomed to betray Troilus before Shakespeare's play even begins, hence Shakespeare's characters can barely muster the energy to perform their sham romance. The fact that the lovers' parting takes place before they know that Cressida must be exchanged may explain why it is less emotional than the comparable alba scenes in Chaucer or Romeo and Juliet, but there is no escaping the lack of warmth and tenderness in this scene: Donaldson refers to 'Troilus' aborted alba' as 'one of the briefest and most reluctant ever spoken', and Troilus's laconic replies in acknowledgement of Cressida's imminent exchange (4.4) intimate a nonchalance which is highly unusual for a tragic lover. (28) This heightened awareness of their plight impedes the lovers' romance to the point that Troilus, resigned to his fate, dispenses with self-interest and induces his undesired destiny: in the context of Troilus's warning to the departing Cressida ('The Grecian youths are full of quality', 4.4.75-81), Stephen J. Lynch suggests that '[i]n his enthusiasm to prove himself "most right," [Troilus] seems almost willing to have [Cressida] prove false. Not only does he permit the exchange, but he also virtually tempts her to falsehood'. (29) Pushed to its exaggerated extreme, complete and slavish adherence to the imposed limitations of Fortune degenerates into debacle on stage: what was heart-rending and pitiful in Romeo and Juliet becomes contrived and restrictive to the point of absurdity in Troilus and Cressida. Shakespeare's handling of fate in Troilus and Cressida appropriates the logical premises of a reductio ad absurdum argument, deriving a ridiculous outcome from the natural distortion of the tragic facet of Romeo and Juliet: Fortune. When placed alongside Shakespeare's character-based 'high' tragedies like Hamlet, medieval tragedies of Fortune do not appear to have held the same purchase on the playwright's sympathy.

II. The Hero's Illusion of Hope

Citing J. W. Hales as the first to note the parallel between 'the illusion of hope experienced by Troilus waiting for Criseyde on the walls of Troy towards the end of the poem and the similar experience of Romeo in Mantua at V.i of the play', Thompson observes of this tragic irony:
   [t]his is by no means a conventional element in such a story and
   there is nothing like it in Brooke. In Chaucer, Troilus is
   combating the implied scepticism of Pandarus over whether Criseyde
   will keep her word to return by telling him of a strange sense of
   comfort he feels.... Similarly in the play we already know that
   events have taken a fairly desperate turn for Romeo.... Before
   his servant arrives, Romeo, like Troilus, is wondering at the
   strange sense of comfort he is experiencing. (30)

The generic sequence is (in my estimation): speculation over the heroine's state; the hero's illusion of hope that all will end well; a letter (or promise of a letter) that should offer reassurance but does not; and the hero's conclusion that his situation has become hopeless. (31) There are no verbal parallels, as Thompson notes, but there is 'a strong similarity of situation and thought'. (32) Thus Romeo craves word of Juliet's position; his 'dreams presage some joyful news at hand' (5.1.2); he expects letters from the Friar (but Balthazar has none); and he concludes that Balthazar's report of Juliet's death is accurate. The analogous passage in Troilus and Cressida represents a complete departure from its predecessors, and includes what is perhaps Shakespeare's most drastic modification of his source texts. In Shakespeare's play, Troilus persuades Ulysses to help him observe his lover, and Cressida's betrayal is actually witnessed firsthand by Troilus (5.2). There is no such direct evidence of betrayal in Chaucer; the ocular proof offered in this scene is entirely of Shakespeare's devising. (33) Chaucer's Troilus waits anxiously for word from Criseyde in the Greek camp, until one night he dreams that a wild boar kisses his Criseyde. It is divine revelation of Criseyde's betrayal, and it fully convinces Troilus that '[s]he ellis-where hath now here herte apayed [satisfied]' (V.1249). He still loves her; Pandarus assures him he is misinterpreting his dream, and urges him to write to Criseyde. 'The reversals from belief to disbelief, hope to despair, experienced by Troilus in this book', writes Thompson, 'are compressed by Shakespeare into a single unambiguous moment of great dramatic effect'. (34) Whereas the gradual realization of Criseyde's infidelity dawns on Troilus by degrees in Chaucer, the compression of Cressida's lapse into the single moment in Shakespeare's scene instantly disabuses Troilus of his notion of Cressida's fidelity, spectacularly precluding any possibility of illusory hope. There cannot be any tragic irony here, for Shakespeare's Troilus has conclusive proof of betrayal, and Shakespeare does not allow Cressida the chance to redeem herself by granting her any further appearances in the play.

At the end of the next scene (5.3), Pandarus enters with a letter from Cressida. With respect to the Troy legend, this incident happens only in Chaucer. (35) Troilus responds to Pandarus's question about the letter's contents by observing the discrepancy between Cressida's words and the reality of her situation as he has just seen it:
   Words, words, mere words, no matter from the heart.
   Th'effect doth operate another way.
   My love with words and errors still she feeds,
   But edifies another with her deeds.


In Chaucer, we get to read the letter itself (V.1590-1631). It reveals that Criseyde is scared and cannot meet Troilus again (as he has willed her), fearing to tell him why not, lest the letter be intercepted. (36) Chaucer's Troilus lacks the verification of betrayal that Shakespeare's Troilus has witnessed, and thus Chaucer's hero cannot believe Criseyde's infidelity. The truth of Criseyde's new lover only slowly dawns on him:
   This Troilus this letter thoughte al straunge,
   Whan he it saugh and sorwfullich he sighte;
   Hym thoughte it lik a kalendes of change.


The narrator explains that because Troilus is in love, he is reluctant to believe the truth; but he eventually understands. (37) Only after Troilus reads the letter and is saddened by the news is his grief compounded by seeing Diomedes sporting Criseyde's brooch on his collar (Troilus then swears to make Diomedes' 'sides blede' (V.1705)): the evidence of betrayal follows the letter. (38) Shakespeare's Troilus has already been prompted to bloody revenge by witnessing his beloved's transgressions firsthand; subsequently, the false letter merely adds insult to injury (the fact of its very inclusion, superfluous as it is, suggests adherence to the sequence outlined above). Thus in Troilus and Cressida, Troilus proactively seeks out Cressida to learn her situation, gains ocular proof of betrayal which eliminates the prospect of illusory hope, receives a letter that further enrages him, and concludes that Cressida is 'false, false, false!' (5.2.177). The events conform to the generic pattern, but Shakespeare's substitution of the extraordinary, unprecedented betrayal scene for the illusion of hope contributes to the bleak atmosphere of the play, in which events are so clearly fated that there is not even any tragic irony to cling to for sustenance.

III. The Lover as Sailor

A courtly-love image of frequent recourse for both Shakespeare's Romeo and Chaucer's Troilus is that of 'love as a dangerous voyage', incorporating the motif of the tempest-tossed ship at sea. (39) Thompson identifies at least three instances of the metaphor in Chaucer's poem, ranging from a general description of 'the state of love itself (as opposed to any particular crisis)' to a self-conscious narratorial meditation in Book II's proem and 'Troilus's desperate song to his absent lady, given us by Chaucer immediately before he relates the actual betrayal'. (40) Common to all these passages is the tension between steering and being buffeted by the tempest, of free will versus determinism; the vulnerability of the emotionally invested lover to the perils of fate is evoked rhetorically through figures of ominatio ('Towards my deth, in winde I stere and saile', (Chaucer V.641)). As Joseph A. Longo notes, 'in Chaucer, consonant with medieval philosophical assumptions, the boat image is often allied with that of Fortune, and man is depicted as helpless'. (41) In Romeo and Juliet, there is an even stronger sense that the lover is passive and at the whim of external forces:

Romeo: [...] he that hath the steerage of my course Direct my suit.


Romeo: Come, bitter conduct, come, unsavoury guide, Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on The dashing rocks thy sea-sick weary bark.


Not only is Romeo passive and 'acted upon' in these images, but the speeches each occur 'just before a critical moment in his career', namely his first encounter with Juliet and his suicide. (42)

The 'nautical conceit' that Romeo uses has 'an important niche among Petrarchan conventions', as Levenson notes: 'the boat at sea without a sense of direction represents the lover who feels confusion and dislocation'. (43) But it is a very particular instance of the 'love's voyage' metaphor in Romeo and Juliet that I find most noteworthy, one that imposes 'a new twist' on the typical Petrarchan conceit. (44) It occurs in the balcony scene, in a speech delivered by Romeo to Juliet:
   I am no pilot, yet wert thou as far
   As that vast shore washed with the farthest sea,
   I should adventure for such merchandise.


On this specific occasion, 'the non-pilot turns into a merchant-adventurer, his distant mistress a precious commodity'. (45) But if this 'twist' of the Petrarchan topos is Shakespeare's innovation, it is significant that the image also occurs in Troilus and Cressida, as this repetition would suggest a specific engagement with Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare's Troilus declares:
   Tell me Apollo, for thy Daphne's love,
   What Cressid is, what Pandar, and what we:
   Her bed is India, there she lies, a pearl;
   Between our Ilium and where she resides
   Let it be called the wild and wand'ring flood,
   Ourself the merchant and this sailing Pandar
   Our doubtful hope, our convoy and our bark.


In the context of establishing Shakespeare's debt to Chaucer in Troilus and Cressida, Longo notes that 'Shakespeare's Troilus employs a metaphor similar to Chaucer's hero-boat imagery, albeit with mercantile connotations'. (46) However, Longo's ascription of literary debt to Chaucer overlooks the plausible debt to Romeo and Juliet. (47) That the hero in Troilus and Cressida is a merchant figure (and the heroine is prized for her exotic value) is significant, for it seems to me that a deliberate refinement of Romeo and Juliet's innovative use of the Petrarchan hero-boat imagery is at play here, and its significance should not be underestimated, given the fact that the image is representative of the underlying logic of Troilus and Cressida as a whole. (48)

In the Trojan council scene, Troilus repeats the pearl/merchant metaphor in the context of Helen's worth:
          she is a pearl

   Whose price hath launched above a thousand ships
   And turned crowned kings to merchants.


As Anthony B. Dawson notes, 'Troilus' image is mercantile--it is Helen's price, not her beauty, which launches the ships'. (49) Noting the echo of Doctor Faustus ('Is this the face that launched a thousand ships?'), Bruster observes that 'Troilus ... substitutes "price" for "face": ascribed worth replaces essential value, a shift, again, mirrored in the action of the play generally'. (50) When considering the possibility of returning Helen to Greece, Troilus had already earlier likened her to a commodity: 'We turn not back the silks upon the merchant / When we have soiled them' (2.2.69-70). (51) Love is commodified and objectified into units of transaction in the Trojan world, at the expense of individual identity and agency. That this mercantilism is degrading to the propriety of love is evident from Troilus's emphasis on the reduction of 'kings to merchants' (which 'clearly announces the commercial degeneration of monarchs'), yet the fact that he identifies himself, a lover, with the role of merchant ('Ourself the merchant', 1.1.97) suggests the acceptability of this paradigm for thinking about romance in the world of this play. (52)

A further point of differentiation lies in the fact that the emphasis in Troilus and Cressida falls on the attainment or exchange of goods, not on the hardships of the voyage. (53) Love, in the context of the Trojan War, is necessarily a function of exchange: the war itself is predicated on the exchange of crucial players (Helen and Cressida) in a game of love which is orchestrated by military might, not by romantic desire. Cressida is subject to such severe authority that there is '[n]o remedy' (4.4.54) to prevent her pawn-like exchange for Antenor; Juliet could at least resist through elopement and suicide. (54) The apparatus of the Trojan state, like that of the patriarchal Capulet family, invests its energies in strategy and cold calculations, but it succeeds where Juliet's father fails, and this sense of the primacy of war rather than love permeates the play's every thought. Accordingly, when Troilus wishes to communicate his sense of being adrift on the ocean of love, he avails himself of a war metaphor: 'Why should I war without the walls of Troy / That find such cruel battle here within?' (1.1.2-3). Dawson notes that this 'image of love as an internal battle is a common one and marks Troilus out as in some respects a traditional courtly lover', but the difference between Romeo's and Troilus's courtly-love images speaks volumes about the differing concerns of Shakespeare's plays. (55) Tellingly, when the sailor metaphor is used in Troilus and Cressida, unlike in Romeo and Juliet, the image does not forebode the hero's death. The reason Shakespeare's Troilus 'fails to die' and 'never achieves the status of metonym for fallen Troy, as he does in kindlier sources' may just be that Romeo and Juliet had earlier achieved the status of metonym for the death of their families' feud, and to repeat the device would be to lessen its effect. (56) No one dies for love in Shakespeare's Troy. (57)

IV. The Nurse/Pandarus

A final aspect of Thompson's Romeo and Juliet analysis that I wish to extend to Troilus and Cressida is the role of the comic go-between, the Nurse and Pandarus. Thompson observes that both Chaucer and Shakespeare (in Romeo and Juliet)
   protect their central theme from ridicule by the bold device of
   including within the work itself a controlled element of comedy to
   deflect our laughter. Chaucer stops us from laughing at the
   idealistic attitudes of Troilus and Criseyde by providing the
   down-to-earth attitude of Pandarus as a contrast, and it is
   arguable that Shakespeare does a very similar thing with Juliet's
   Nurse. (58)

Mehl concurs, finding the 'similar use of comedy' in the two works to be 'the most substantial link between the two love-tragedies and, perhaps, the most striking instance of Chaucer's influence on Shakespeare'. (59) Beyond the general infusion of comic elements in the tragic theme (something which Shakespeare was by no means alone in utilizing, although he did, like Chaucer, excel in it), there are some particular episodes that are noteworthy, most obviously the delivery of news and the offering of advice. Thompson identifies 'at least two scenes [in Romeo and Juliet] which indicate specific borrowing or reminiscence' from Chaucer: (60)
   The extended and exasperating delay on the part of the Nurse in
   passing on vital news to Juliet in II.v has a general similarity to
   the long preamble Pandarus gives to the announcement of Troilus's
   love when he visits Criseyde at the beginning of Chaucer's Book ii
   (a comparable point structurally), but there is a closer parallel
   in the exhibition of what Professor Bullough calls the Nurse's
   "weathercock dishonesty" in III.v, which is very like the advice
   Pandarus gives to Troilus when they hear that Criseyde is to be
   exchanged for Antenor. (61)

The structural point, in which the comic figure delays the delivery of vital news by inordinate lengths (to the vexation of the lover), finds a bathetic inflexion in Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida. Mid-way through the climactic battle scenes of the fifth Act, Pandarus seeks Troilus with word from Cressida in the form of the letter already discussed above (5.3.97). In Chaucer, there is no mention of Pandarus being the bearer of the letter; however, his allocation of this role in Shakespeare is somewhat analogous to the Nurse's delivery of news to Juliet. But where the Nurse possesses the desired knowledge and prolongs the period of Juliet's ignorance by craftily blaming her 'aching bones' and citing the need for rest (2.4.62), Shakespeare's enfeebled Pandarus is himself ignorant of the letter's contents and is left asking 'What says she there?' (5.3.105-06), lamenting for its own sake 'an ache in my bones' (and we know what that ache signifies) whilst Troilus, unheeding, reads the letter (5.3.104). I would not necessarily want to suggest that Shakespeare had the Nurse's scene in front of him as he wrote this scene with Pandarus, but I do wish to emphasize the relative emasculation of the go-between's role in the latter play, and consequently observe that the Trojan lovers are less dependent on this figure beyond the initial facilitation of their meeting.

The lovers' greater independence from (and ultimate rejection of) the go-between character becomes clearer in Thompson's second example, that of the Nurse's and Pandarus's advice to the bereaved lover:
   On being assured that her Nurse is sincere [Juliet] immediately
   begins to deceive her former confidante, pretending to fall in with
   her opinion but calling her "most wicked fiend" when she has gone.
   The formerly comic character has become "ancient damnation" and has
   lost much of the audience's sympathy too. Pandarus fares better as
   he is shown not to be speaking from the heart. (62)

The Nurse has just advised Juliet to take her 'second match' in Paris (3.5.222) and, upon her departure, she is cursed by Juliet: 'Go, counsellor; / Thou and my bosom henceforth shall be twain' (3.5.239-40). Chaucer's Pandarus is not rejected, as Thompson notes when she says that he 'fares better'. Accordingly, Shakespeare's Pandarus seems to have been modelled more closely on the Nurse than on Chaucer's creation, given Troilus's emphatic rejection of him: 'Hence broker-lackey! Ignomy and shame / Pursue thy life and live aye with thy name' (5.11.33-34). Furthermore, if we accept Gary Taylor's recommendation to adopt F's printing, (63) then like Juliet rejecting her Nurse after the failed consolation, Troilus immediately rejects the go-between (Pandarus) after the delivery of the uncomforting letter. (64) But even if we do not adopt Taylor's amendment, Troilus's rejection of Pandarus--and unlike Juliet, Troilus rejects the go-between directly, and thus more forcefully--can still be seen as having a greater affinity with Romeo and Juliet than with Chaucer. Shakespeare's Pandarus is 'certainly a more simply comic figure than he is in Troilus and Criseyde', and as such, he (like the Nurse) must ultimately be dispensed with given Shakespeare's shift in register from the comic to the predominantly tragic. (65) It seems, then, that the figure of the Nurse, most probably developed through both Arthur Brooke's and Shakespeare's familiarity with Chaucer's Pandarus, in turn contributed to the model for Shakespeare's Pandarus. (66)

In her compelling account of the play as 'a sustained meditation on the parasitism of texts', Elizabeth Freund engages Harold Bloom's anxiety of influence theory to suggest that pace Bloom, Shakespeare did have to contend with his precursors when they were of the ilk of Chaucer and Homer: (67)
   To dramatize yet again the all too familiar classics, and to
   plunder the relics of one's strongest literary forebears; to invoke
   the parental ghosts of Homer and Chaucer and then to travesty the
   prestigious modes of epic, tragedy, and romance is clearly to
   solicit a searing test of the writer's independent poetic powers,
   and to hazard a self-stigmatizing exhibition of the etiolated
   quality of these powers. Troilus and Cressida is probably
   Shakespeare's most daring experiment in defensive
   self-presentation, and perhaps his noblest failure. (68)

As I hope I have shown, Freund's proposition can be extended even further, to cover the influence of Shakespeare's own earlier work on his subsequent writing: I have argued that in writing Troilus and Cressida, Shakespeare not only had to contend with having previously used Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde as a model for Romeo and Juliet (as Thompson and others have ably demonstrated), but in addition he had to work within the penumbra cast by his own earlier excursion into the realm of tragic love. As every student of early modern drama knows, when Shakespeare began experimenting with a particular genre--first history, then comedy, tragedy, and romance--he tended to play with all the various possibilities that that genre contained, apparently moving on to a different theme only when he had had his fill and exhausted the creative potential of his latest project. At the time that he was writing his 'high tragedies', then, it seems only natural that he should revisit his earlier, more experimental tragedy (Romeo and Juliet) and approach it from a different angle.

Tracing the development of Thompson's 'Chaucerian moments' in Romeo and Juliet to Troilus and Cressida, we see that discernible revision has occurred. More than a straightforward 'mirror-effect' or direct inversion of the earlier material, the appropriation of Chaucerian motifs from Romeo and Juliet appears to be meaningful and considered, and at times quite subtle rather than purely reactionary. All of the evidence suggests a desire to build upon and experiment with the germs of thought lying latent in the earlier work, though not necessarily a desire to 'improve' or perfect them. Accordingly, aspects of the later play are decidedly bold in their testing of limits (the radically exaggerated extension of Fortune's role), markedly more cynical than one might expect in a love story (the persistently mercantile inflexion of courtly-love motifs), startlingly unsubtle to the point of insensitivity (the presentation of Cressida's betrayal), and disappointingly pathetic (the debased role of the go-between). I see no compelling reason to assert that Shakespeare was refining his previous work; the comparison implies only that he was deliberately engaging with it, both to avoid undue repetition and to test out alternative directions which he had not previously explored. The resultant play is a deliberate departure from Romeo and Juliet (or what we might think of as Shakespeare's conscious labouring under the anxiety of his own influence) and consequently a substantial distortion of Troilus and Criseyde. The uncertainty of its original reception, and the apparent confusion over where to place it in the 1623 Folio--it was eventually placed between the Histories and the Tragedies, rather than immediately after Romeo and Juliet, as originally planned--are testament to its perplexingly experimental nature. If critics today remain confounded by this 'problem play', perhaps we can conclude that it is because Shakespeare was intentionally penning a radically experimental departure--not only from literary tradition, as is commonly acknowledged, but also from his own previous work.

School of Culture and Communication

The University of Melbourne

(1) I would like to thank Jill L. Levenson for her generosity in reading drafts of this paper and offering insightful criticisms; Jonathan Gil Harris for suggesting improvements to strengthen the section on mercantile imagery; and Stephanie Trigg for introducing me to Troilus and Criseyde in an Honours seminar, and encouraging my interest in Shakespeare's adaptation of Chaucer.

The term 'patterns of tragic love' is Ann Thompson's (Shakespeare's Chaucer: A Study in Literary Origins (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1978), p. 95). All citations from Chaucer refer to B. A. Windeatt's edition, Geoffrey Chaucer: Troilus & Criseyde, A new edition of 'The Book of Troilus' (London: Longman, 1984). The Romeo and Juliet citations are from Jill L. Levenson's Oxford edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), and the Troilus and Cressida quotes are from Anthony B. Dawson's New Cambridge edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

(2) Critics generally agree that Shakespeare drew on Caxton, Lydgate, and Chaucer for the plot of Troilus and Criseyde; see Geoffrey Bullough, Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, vol. VI: Other Classical Plays (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1966).

(3) Douglas Cole explains this peculiarity in terms of Shakespeare's 'anti-mythic method', according to which 'Shakespeare works his material against the heroic or romantic grain, but always allows the grain to show through, thereby maintaining a constant and perplexing contrast between idealized conceptions of love and war and their roots in baser and more absurd motivation' ('Myth and Anti-Myth: The Case of Troilus and Cressida', Shakespeare Quarterly, 31 (1980), pp. 76-84 (p. 77)). Cole's thesis attempts to transcend analysis of any specific source like Chaucer: 'It is not merely a question of the manipulation of sources which may or may not be known to the audience; it is rather a direct challenge to the assumptions and associations underlying the familiar myth' (p. 78).

(4) M. C. Bradbrook, 'What Shakespeare Did to Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde', Shakespeare Quarterly, 9 (1958), 311-19 (p. 313).

(5) Bradbrook, 'What Shakespeare Did', p. 314.

(6) Thompson, Shakespeare's Chaucer, p. 149. Thompson has also noted that 'Shakespeare's "technique" in Troilus and Cressida is unusual in the light of the rest of the canon', and has observed that '[t]here is more detachment than we ever find elsewhere' (pp. 161-62).

(7) Kenneth Palmer, ed., Troilus and Cressida, Arden Shakespeare: Second Series (London: Routledge, 1982), p. 23.

(8) Both Muir and Rollins quoted in Kris Davis-Brown, 'Shakespeare's Use of Chaucer in "Troilus and Cressida": "That the Will Is Infinite, and the Execution Confined"', South Central Review, 5.2 (1988), 15-34 (p. 15). I concur with Davis-Brown, who rightly resists such 'insensitive readings of the play' which assume the lovers 'to be no more than types' (p. 15). Thompson observes that '[c]ritics like W. W. Lawrence and H. E. Rollins had accepted Chaucer's influence and explained the change in tone in terms of social conditions (love outside marriage being no longer acceptable) and popular tradition' (Thompson, Shakespeare's Chaucer, p. 112).

(9) 'Undermining traditional literary structures, Menippean satire ... inevitably explores, then expands conventional generic boundaries, sometimes even approaching subversion' (Edward J. Milowicki and R. Rawdon Wilson, 'A Measure for Menippean Discourse: The Example of Shakespeare', Poetics Today, 23 (2002), 291-326 (p. 293).

(10) Milowicki and Wilson, 'A Measure for Menippean Discourse', p. 297.

(11) Milowicki and Wilson, 'A Measure for Menippean Discourse', p. 319.

(12) For simplicity, I have taken the dates of both these plays from Alfred Harbage's Annals of English Drama, 975-1700 (rev. S. Schoenbaum; 3rd edn rev. Sylvia Stoler Wagonheim) (London: Routledge, 1989).

(13) Thompson, Shakespeare's Chaucer, p. 59. Although Shakespeare's source for Romeo and Juliet was Arthur Brooke's narrative poem Romeus and Juliet (1562), Brooke was himself writing under the influence of Chaucer. (For Brooke's use of Chaucer see Thompson and Donaldson: 'When Arthur Brooke was writing The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet in 1562 he must have noticed similarities between the narrative he was working on and Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde, for he drew upon the latter to amplify his source in Boaistuau, as J. J. Munro was the first to demonstrate' (Thompson, Shakespeare's Chaucer, p. 95); 'Brooke was familiar with Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde' (E. Talbot Donaldson, The Swan at the Well: Shakespeare Reading Chaucer (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), p. 123).

Dieter Mehl comes closest to anticipating my argument in the abstract when he notes in an undeveloped line of thought (about Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida and Chaucer's text): 'The other and more important reason for the difference between the two versions seems to me the fact that Shakespeare had already used crucial themes and dramatic situations from Chaucer's poem in Romeo and Juliet, particularly the close relationship between comedy of intrigue and tragedy of Fortune. There are, at any rate, a number of likely reasons why Shakespeare could hardly have been tempted to treat the story in the same spirit as Troilus and Criseyde or Romeo and Juliet' ('Chaucerian Comedy and Shakespearean Tragedy', Deutsche Shakespeare-Gesellschaft West Jahrbuch, (1984), 111-27 (pp. 123-24).

(14) I am of course aware of the need to avoid neglecting the large body of criticism that has understood Troilus and Cressida's engagement of its intertexts in more historically capacious ways than my specific focus on Chaucer. Heather James, for example, addresses the play's 'self-conscious mishandling of the Troy legend's cultural ambition' in terms of the Elizabethan's 'own diseased body politic', and argues that the 'historical stimuli' prompting Shakespeare to compose his Trojan play as he did were the failed Essex rebellion and the publication of Chapman's Homer (Shakespeare's Troy: Drama, Politics, and the Translation of Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 97, p. 2). Alternatively, David Hillman notes that '[i]n Troilus and Cressida the twin ideals of heroism-in-war and idolism-in-love are exploded', offering his own explanation in gastric terms ('The Gastric Epic: Troilus and Cressida', Shakespeare Quarterly, 48 (1997), 295-313). But heeding the unique concerns associated with adopting a previously used model (a governing structure, an overarching dictator of form) has a purpose independent of comprehending the nuances and subtleties of engagements with the plethora of Troy-themed intertexts which I agree provided Shakespeare with a wealth of specific details.

(15) E. Talbot Donaldson (review author), 'Shakespeare's Chaucer: A Study in Literary Origins', Renaissance Quarterly, 33 (1980), 284-86 (p. 285).

(16) See Donaldson, The Swan at the Well.

(17) Thompson, Shakespeare's Chaucer, p. 106; for the relevant discussion of Romeo and Juliet, see pp. 94-110.

(18) Kenneth Muir, The Sources of Shakespeare's Plays (London: Methuen, 1977), p. 40.

(19) Thompson, Shakespeare's Chaucer, p. 96.

(20) Barbara Heliodora C. de M. F. de Almeida, 'Troilus and Cressida: Romantic Love Revisited', Shakespeare Quarterly, 15 (1964), 327-32 (p. 330).

(21) Dieter Mehl writes: '[t]he belated reconciliation of the parents and the promised monument have at least a faint air of futile sterility and, like the lovers' suicide, hardly justify the confident assertion of many critics that "Death has no final power over the lovers"'; and he reminds us that "'Woe' is the last word, and no genuine relief is offered by marble, gilded monument and powerful rhyme' ('Chaucerian Comedy', pp. 114, 122).

(22) Levenson, ed., The Oxford Romeo and Juliet, p. 42.

(23) This is, of course, somewhat of a simplification; as Jill L. Levenson reminds me (personal correspondence), Shakespeare infused the original narrative with so much comic material and irony that fate, too, seems to be more complicated than a mere determinant of events.

(24) Thompson, Shakespeare's Chaucer, p. 97.

(25) Shakespeare, King Lear, ed. R. A. Foakes, Arden Shakespeare: Third Series (London: Thomson Learning, 2002 reprint), 2.2.471.

(26) In Chaucer, by contrast, Criseyde learns of her fate through gossip halfway through Book IV, but the exchange does not eventuate until the start of Book V.

(27) Thompson, Shakespeare's Chaucer, p. 130. Chaucer, by contrast, 'does not remind us of the end of the story here, but finishes his Book with a joyful eulogy of love as if nothing were going to go wrong' (Thompson, p. 130).

(28) Donaldson, The Swan at the Well, p. 98. Although the specific comparison, often made, between the alba scenes in Romeo and Juliet and Troilus and Cressida is instructive in appreciating the differences between the two plays, I do not include an analysis of them here, since Thompson does not find Chaucerian influence in the alba scene of Romeo and Juliet: 'J. W. Hales did claim direct influence of Chaucer on Shakespeare's scene depicting the parting of the lovers at dawn (III.v.), but the resemblance seems to me a very general one. It is certainly an instance of the medieval "aubade" tradition in Shakespeare but there are no unusual touches which would link these two particular examples and nothing that Shakespeare could not have found in Brooke, who is, as I have said, using Chaucer here himself' (Thompson, Shakespeare's Chaucer, p. 104).

(29) Stephen J. Lynch, 'The Idealism of Shakespeare's Troilus', South Atlantic Review, 51 (1986), pp. 19-29 (p. 24). Lynch further comments on Troilus's 'rather unusual advice [to Cressida]: urging her to "be not tempted" (4.4.91), while assuring her that she will be tempted, and that she has good reason to be tempted' (pp. 24-25).

(30) Thompson, Shakespeare's Chaucer, pp. 104-05.

(31) Thompson does not comment on the role of the putatively reassuring missive, but it seems to me an integral component of the sequence.

(32) Thompson, Shakespeare's Chaucer, p. 105.

(33) Shakespeare 'created the eavesdropping scene in which Troilus watches the seduction of his mistress and her betrayal of his trust, while his just passion is itself cynically mocked by the base Thersites ...' (Bullough, Narrative and Dramatic Sources, p. 106).

(34) Thompson, Shakespeare's Chaucer, p. 141.

(35) Thompson, Shakespeare's Chaucer, p. 146.

(36) But whi, lest that this letter founden were, No mencioun ne make I now for feere. (V.1602-03)

(37) That Troilus wel vnderstod that she Nas nought so kynde as that hire oughte be; And fynaly he woot now, out of doute, That al is lost that he hath ben aboute. (V.1642-45)

(38) fful sodeynly his herte gan to colde As he that on the coler fond with-inne A broche that he Criseyde 3af that morwe That she from Troie moste nedes twynne, In remembraunce of hym and of his sorwe. (V.1659-63).

(39) Thompson, Shakespeare's Chaucer, p. 106.

(40) Thompson, Shakespeare's Chaucer, p. 108, referring to Chaucer I.416-18, II.1-7, and V.638-44.

(41) Joseph A. Longo, 'Apropos the Love Plot in Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde and Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida', Cahiers Elisabethains, 11 (April 1977), 1-15 (p. 13n).

(42) Thompson, Shakespeare's Chaucer, p. 106.

(43) Jill L. Levenson, 'The Definition of Love', Shakespeare Studies, 15 (1982), 21-36 (p. 25).

(44) Levenson, ed., The Oxford Romeo and Juliet, 2.1.127n.

(45) Levenson, ed., The Oxford Romeo and Juliet, 2.1.127n.

(46) Longo, 'Apropos the Love Plot', p. 3.

(47) Douglas Bruster has noted, as I do, that 'Romeo, Shakespeare's young lover of the nineties, anticipates Troilus' conceit' (Drama and the Market in the Age of Shakespeare (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 104). Thompson cautiously suggests that 'Shakespeare may be recalling the powerful versions of this in Chaucer which I have already mentioned in connection with Romeo and Juliet' (Shakespeare's Chaucer, pp. 118-19), but does not consider the possibility that in Troilus Shakespeare was recycling the specific version of the motif as he had fashioned it in Romeo. Longo similarly concludes 'I can only infer that Shakespeare was indebted to Chaucer for this pattern' ('Apropos the Love Plot', p. 5), without considering that Romeo could be the source of the imagery in Troilus. For readings of the mercantile imagery of Troilus see (for example) James, Shakespeare's Troy, p. 104; Lars Engle, Shakespearean Pragmatism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), pp. 147-63; and Bruster, Drama and the Market, pp. 97-117.

(48) Bruster, for example, has noted that this 'Petrarchan imagery predicts an analogy repeated in the drama': 'Troilus labels himself a merchant, Cressida the goal and reward of trade. This move reflects something occurring in the play generally: love and war become commercial endeavors, and relations--social, political, and personal--take place on the material plane' (Bruster, Drama and the Market, p. 103).

(49) Dawson, ed., New Cambridge Troilus and Cressida, 2.2.81-2n. See also C. C. Barfoot, for his explication of the 'treachery of trading' in Troilus's metaphor of the Indian pearl, especially with respect to the 'pun on the homophones "sail" and "sale," and the structurally more incisive near-homophone "selling", "this sailing/selling Pandar" (1.1.103)' ('Troilus and Cressida: "Praise us as we are tasted"', Shakespeare Quarterly, 39 (1988), 45-57 (p. 47).

(50) Bruster, Drama and the Market, p. 104.

(51) Bruster writes: '[T]he laws of the marketplace govern commodity, and so demand her retention' (Drama and the Market, p. 105).

(52) Barfoot, 'Troilus and Cressida', p. 51. I cannot agree with Paul Yachnin, who seems to regard Troilus's mercantile metaphor as somehow noble: 'Like the merchant in Matthew, Troilus suggests, the Trojans were willing to risk everything they owned for what they decided was a higher good; they would now betray themselves by reneging on the implicit contract into which they chose to enter' ('"The Perfection of Ten": Populuxe Art and Artisanal Value in Troilus and Cressida', Shakespeare Quarterly, 56 (2005), 306-27 (p. 326). The degradation of 'kings to merchants' seems too obvious to ignore, in my view; Yachnin's analysis is unduly sympathetic to Troilus.

(53) The notable exception is Nestor's speech at 1.3.31-54, which discriminates between 'valour's show' and 'valour's worth', arguing that 'many shallow bauble boats dare sail' when the sea is smooth, but when it is rough they either flee to shore or become Neptune's victims. However, Nestor's speech pertains to war, not love, with its description of the 'storms of fortune'.

(54) In a passage which examines Cressida's 'moral self-condemnation' in the betrayal scene (5.2), Hugh Grady serves as Cressida's apologist, finding value in her ostensibly reprobate behaviour precisely by 'dissent[ing] from the crushing judgements of Thersites, Ulysses, and Troilus--and so many critics' (Shakespeare's Universal Wolf (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), p. 82). Interestingly, from the perspective of this paper's argument about Shakespeare's repeated use of the same model for his tragic love plays, Grady defends Cressida by favourably emphasizing the disjunction between her character and the expectations established by Juliet, whom Grady identifies as Cressida's precursor. He suggests that audiences typically feel that the 'imputed mix of hurt, betrayal, and self-interest on [Cressida's] part fails to fulfil the yearnings for high romance and solemn vows that Shakespeare had so unforgettably established in Romeo and Juliet' and that 'most audiences will condemn Cressida's confusion compared with Juliet's passionate, decisive, and deadly actions to keep true to her own vows', but concludes that Cressida's behaviour represents 'a lonely and confused sanity in this world so remarkably out of joint', and is thus praiseworthy (Grady, p. 82).

(55) Dawson, ed., New Cambridge Troilus and Cressida, 1.1.2-3n.

(56) James, Shakespeare's Troy, p. 95.

(57) I am of course aware that a growing body of new economic criticism of Troilus and Cressida attempts to account for the distortion of Chaucerian material in the play by appealing to Shakespeare's jaundiced view of commercial exchange. Douglas Bruster, for one, finds in the ubiquitous mercantile imagery of the play a metatheatrical protest against 'an economic system that apparently distorts human relationships and actively encourages the lapses in morality once ascribed to the machinations of abstract sins and commodities', and Lars Engle argues (according to Hugh Grady's summation) that 'the play is a key "thought-experiment" for understanding market dynamics in the realm of cultural values' (Bruster, Drama and the Market, p. 117; Grady, p. 85, n. 38). Jonathan Gil Harris attempts to explicate Shakespeare's distortions in Troilus and Cressida through appeal to the concept of 'valuation', which he associates with literary marketplaces (Sick Economies: Drama, Mercantilism, and Disease in Shakespeare's England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004)). Hugh Grady's study of Troilus and Cressida argues that Shakespeare's experimental drama 'contains a pronounced negating, critical dimension, signalled by the bleak emotionality of the reified world disclosed in the play'. Hence instead of 'search[ing] for value judgements amidst the apparent nihilism' of the play, Grady argues that critics ought to understand Troilus and Cressida as 'approaching the problem of value through a strategy of negation' (Shakespeare's Universal Wolf, p. 60, n. 4 and p. 60; see also p. 94 for Grady's conclusion).

Each of these critics attempts to account for Shakespeare's use of the Troy myth by explaining the influence of a developing cynicism on Shakespeare's part toward the newly emergent concept of the marketplace as a central institution in early modern society. Their observations about Shakespeare's growing pessimism are erudite, to be sure, but their contribution to the present study is strictly limited, in that they fail to supply a satisfactory answer to the problem of why this cynical view of mercantilism led to a darkly ironic rewriting of scenes and motifs which derive specifically from Romeo and Juliet and its Chaucerian borrowings (which Thompson has ably identified), rather than from Chaucer directly. In the flurry of critical attention directed towards the mercantile imagery of the play, it should not be forgotten that there are also literary origins for this mercantilism: in Romeo and Juliet.

(58) Thompson, Shakespeare's Chaucer, p. 100.

(59) Mehl, 'Chaucerian Comedy', p. 114.

(60) Thompson, Shakespeare's Chaucer, p. 100.

(61) Thompson, Shakespeare's Chaucer, pp. 100-01.

(62) Thompson, Shakespeare's Chaucer, p. 101. Dieter Mehl supplements and consolidates Thompson's claim for Chaucerian debt: 'Perhaps the clearest parallel is the advice of Pandarus and the Nurse to accept the new situation. Chaucer's Pandarus, the narrator tells us, only offers this impossible suggestion to say something; he does not care what nonsense he proposes as long as he can cheer up his friend. Brooke probably remembered this incident when he made the Nurse advise Juliet to marry Paris. Shakespeare takes it up with characteristic gusto and makes the opportunist Nurse praise Paris at the expense of Romeo and Juliet violently denounce her as "ancient damnation". I do not wish to deny that this would have been possible without Chaucer's help, but the spirit and the thematic relevance of the clash of attitudes is much nearer to Chaucer than to Brooke' ('Chaucerian Comedy', pp. 121-22).

(63) i.e., as he does in his Oxford edition, unlike Dawson and most modern editors, who take F as Shakespeare's original and therefore inferior version, revised in Q.

(64) See Gary Taylor, 'Troilus and Cressida: Bibliography, Performance and Interpretation', Shakespeare Studies, 15 (1982), 99-136. In his New Cambridge edition of the play, Dawson expounds the commonly accepted editorial view that 'Q, based on a carefully recopied MS. (probably by Shakespeare himself), thus rightly lacks the doubled passages' (New Cambridge Troilus and Cressida, p. 241). He then explains that Taylor 'turned the consensus upside down, arguing that F derives from the promptbook, and Q from foul papers' (p. 241). Taylor dispenses with Pandarus's epilogue, and allocates the lines immediately preceding it in most modern editions (which follow Q) so that they directly follow Pandarus's delivery of the letter in (5.3) (see Gary Taylor and Stanley Wells, eds, William Shakespeare, The Complete Works (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986)).

(65) Mehl, 'Chaucerian Comedy', p. 125.

(66) See Mehl on the Pandarus-Nurse influence: 'The part of the Nurse, in all earlier versions of the story, is only that of a neutral go-between. Her garrulous outburst, tormenting Juliet with irrelevant gossip when all she wants to hear is Romeus' message, was added by Brooke, and this might well have been suggested by Pandarus, who exasperates Troilus by his flippancy and teases Criseyde with knowing innuendos' ('Chaucerian Comedy', p. 112).

(67) Elizabeth Freund, '"Ariachne's Broken Woof": The Rhetoric of Citation in Troilus and Cressida', in Patricia Parker and Geoffrey Hartman, eds, Shakespeare and the Question of Theory (New York: Methuen, 1985), pp. 19-36 (p. 34). For his exclusion of Shakespeare from the theory of influence on the grounds that 'Shakespeare's prime precursor was Marlowe, a poet very much smaller than his inheritor' and that Shakespeare demonstrated an 'absolute absorption of the precursor', see Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997 reprint), p. 11. In Troilus and Cressida, Shakespeare was possibly enacting a self-conscious clinamen (poetic misreading) or tessera (completion and antithesis) of Romeo and Juliet (see Bloom, pp. 19-45, 49-73).

(68) Freund, '"Ariachne's Broken Woof"', p. 35.
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Author:McInnis, David
Article Type:Critical essay
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Date:Jul 1, 2008
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