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 Troilus and Cressida Study Guide (Choose to Continue)

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Troilus and Cressida: Metaphors

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Disease

In keeping with the cynical mood of the play regarding war and love, imagery of disease is common. It is as if there is something foul about the whole situation in this struggle between the Greeks and the Trojans.

 

Much of this type of imagery is uttered by Thersites. To Thersites, almost everything is corrupt in some way. Here he is talking to Patroclus and saying that since Patroclus, in his opinion, is Achilles’ “masculine whore” the following might be expected to assail him:

 

Now, the rotten diseases of the south, the guts-griping, ruptures, catarrhs,
loads o' gravel i' the back, lethargies, cold palsies, raw eyes, dirt-rotten livers, wheezing lungs, bladders full of imposthume, sciaticas, limekilns i' the palm, incurable bone-ache, and the rivelled fee-simple of the tetter, take and take
again such preposterous discoveries!

(Act 3, scene 1, lines 16-23)

 

Thersites uses imagery connected to venereal disease on more than one occasion (act 2, scene 3, lines 18-21, and act 5, scene 3, line 94 [“A burning devil take them”] for example).

 

Ulysses, too,in the council scene (act 1, scene 3) make use of imagery of sickness to describe the Greeks’ condition, likening it to a fever. Even the lover Troilus, when he speaks of his love for Cressida, uses a curious image suggestive of disease: “Pour’st in the open ulcer of my heart / Her eyes, her hair, her cheek, her gait, her voice” (act 1, scene 1, lines 53-54). For Troilus being in love is like being gashed by a knife (lines 62-63). 




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