Troilus and Cressida Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


Troilus and Cressida: Characters

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Achilles is considered the greatest of the Greek warriors. However, in this play, he shows none of his greatness but all of his pettiness and pride. He refuses out of pride to join the battle, and seems to regard himself as superior to the other Greeks. He and his friend Patroclus laze around in their tent making fun of the Greek leaders. Eventually Achilles is drawn into the battle after his friend Patroclus is killed. He vows to kill Hector but does so not in an honorable fashion in single combat  but when Hector is unarmed and defenseless. He then abuses the corpse by tying it to the tail of his horse and dragging it across the battlefield.



Aeneas is one of the Trojan commanders.



Agamemnon is the leader of the Greek army and the elder brother of Menelaus. He convenes the meeting of the Greek leaders in Act 1, and accepts Ulysses’ view of the situation. Agamemnon usually cuts a more dignified figure than some of the Greeks, and he is also desperate to bring Achilles back into the war.



Ajax is a Greek warrior. He is also half-Trojan, since his mother was Priam’s sister. He is strong and a good fighter, although not as good as Achilles and certainly not as intelligent. He has more brawn than brains. Ajax is also rather full of himself, while claiming to despise arrogance. Nestor thinks he is full of self-regard. Easily conned into believing the false praise the Greeks heap on him, he is willing to face Hector in single combat.



Alexander is Cressida’s servant.



Andromache is Hector's wife. The day Hector is killed, she warns him that she has had a premonition about his fate, but he does not listen to her and sends her away.



Antenor is a Trojan commander. He is captured by the Greeks but then exchanged for Cressida.



Calchas is a Trojan priest, the father of Cressida. He defected to the Greeks at some point before the play begins.



Cassandra is the daughter of King Priam. She is also a prophetess who warns of Hector’s death and Troy’s destruction, but no one takes any notice of her. Troilus says she is mad.



Cressida is a young Trojan woman, the daughter of Calchas and niece of Pandarus. She becomes romantically involved with Troilus, with Pandarus helping them to get together. Although she says she loves Troilus, she also seems quite worldly wise, at least in the sphere of romantic relationships. She seems to know the ways of men and how the game of love is played. She is somewhat manipulative in her responses to Troilus. After she is exchanged for the Trojan warrior Antenor, she soon betrays Troilus and allowsDiomedes to seduce her, thus showing that she is fickle and superficial in her affections.



Deiphobus is one of the sons of Priam.



Diomedes is a Greek commander who loses no time in seducing Cressida after she arrives at the Greek camp and he is appointed to guard her.



Hector is one of King Priam’s sons, and is the greatest of the Trojan warriors. In the great council of the Trojan warriors, he argues that the war should be ended by giving up Helen, but later in the meeting he changes his mind, declaring that continuing the war is a matter of honor. Hector is portrayed in a more flattering light than most of the other characters on both sides of the conflict. He shows dignity and chivalry, and even his enemies the Greeks respect him.



Helen is the wife of Menelaus. She eloped with Paris, and this was the event that led to the Trojan War. She appears in only one scene and is not presented as an impressive figure.



Helenus is one of Priam’s sons.



Margarelon is a bastard son of Priam who encounters Thersites on the battlefield.



Menelaus is a Greek commander who is also king of Sparta. He is the younger brother of Agamemnon. It is Menelaus who is married to Helen, whose elopement with Paris precipitated the Trojan War. Menelaus is often mocked as a cuckold in this play, and he plays little part in the action.



Nestor is a Greek commander. He is older than the others.  



Pandarus is Cressida’s uncle. He is very keen for Troilus and Cressida to get together and acts as a go-between for them. He appears to relish his task and is well aware that he is arranging a sexual liaison. He likes to engage in bawdy talk with Troilus and even identifies himself as a bawd in his final speech. (A bawd today is a woman who keeps a house of prostitution, but in Shakespeare’s time the word was used more generally to describe a lewd person of either sex.)



Paris is one of King Priam’s sons. He stole Helen from Menelaus and so precipitated  the Trojan War.



Patroclusis a Greek warrior and friend of Achilles. They share a tent and seem always to be together. Some interpreters suggest that Patroclus is Achilles’ lover, but there is little in Shakespeare’s text to support this. Patroclus entertains Achilles by doing wicked impersonations of the Greek leaders. He is eventually killed in battle, which prompts Achilles to reenter the war in order to seek revenge.


King Priam

King Priam of Troy has several sons engaged in the war, including Hector and Troilus. In Act 2, scene 2, he presides over the discussion with the Trojan leaders about whether they should give Helen up. Later, at the urgings of Andromache and Cassandra, he urges Hector not to fight because of bad omens for that day.



Thersites is a Greek whose main occupation seems to be insulting all the main characters, using vulgar and degrading language. He is supposed to serve Ajax, but when Ajax is abusive toward him, he gives back, at least verbally, as good as he gets. Thersites takes an extremely cynical view of love and war, and provides an ironic commentary on many of the play’s events.



Troilus is one of the sons of Priam, the younger brother of Hector and Paris. He falls passionately in love with Cressida but loses her when she is exchanged for a captured Trojan, Antenor. When he discovers Cressida has been unfaithful to him, he is devastated. He swears to have revenge on Diomedes, and he distinguishes himself in battle, although he does not manage to kill Diomedes.



Ulysses is one of the Greek commanders. He is the craftiest, most cunning of the Greek leaders. He hold no ideals other than the practical ones of getting the outcome he wants and deems most important for the Greek cause. He is a shrewd military and political strategist and is able to pinpoint where the Greeks are going wrong in their long quest to destroy Troy. He comes up with a scheme for goading Achilles back into the conflict, for example. He also has a low opinion of Cressida, although he appears to respect Troilus. 


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